Beginner Video Lighting Tutorial

For those of you that are just beginning as a vlogger, or other type of videographer, here are helpful video lighting tips and recommendations of how to set up video lights.

A video lighting tutorial will help for any kind of camera, too. Videographers using smartphones, point and shoot (P&S) cameras, or entry level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can all benefit from a video lighting tutorial.

Basic Video Lighting

Video can be recorded under many different lighting conditions including sunlight and ambient indoor lighting. Creative camera and subject placement can make up for many issues encountered with natural light. 

In order to have greater control over your video lighting, you will need to either supplement or replace the available light. This is accomplished with reflectors, screens, backgrounds, and video lights. Since it’s video, any artificial lights used should be continuous lights. 

In my continuous light kits, I prefer the LED and CFL options over quartz or incandescent bulbs. They emit color-balanced light without producing too much heat. LEDs and CFLs also tend to be more energy efficient and are generally budget-friendly. 

One, Two, or Three Lights

Depending on the specific style of video or vlog you are filming, you can use just one light or a combination of lights. When using 2 or more lights, it’s usually best to set one of the lights as the main light or key light.  

The key light is what provides the majority of illumination for the scene. A second light at lower power or a reflector can be used as a fill light. Fill light fills in the shadows caused by the key light. You can choose how much contrast to have in the video lighting by raising or lowering the power of the fill light.

Most of the special lighting techniques can be done with two lights. A third light can be added as a background light, a hair light, or a rim light. This third light is sometimes filtered to a different color than the primary lights for added interest. 

The video lighting tutorial from Primal Video is a good primer. Check it out above. 

Let’s discuss some ideas for continuous lights to use as video lighting for several different styles of videography.

On Location / On Camera 

A small, battery powered LED light is perfect for when you’re shooting video on location. If it’s small enough, you can actually mount it on the camera itself. The LitraPro LED light from Litra is just such a light. 

The battery life of this small lamp is good for up to 90 minutes, and it has variable power plus adjustable color temperature to help you blend the light with ambient lighting. The CRI of ths tiny light is 95, meaning it has a very natural appearance in finished videos. 

Mounting this light on your camera is a valid option when shooting on location with a single light. Other options for light placement are light stands or an action mount such as the OctoPad. You could put one light on camera and another off to a side for creating portrait lighting effects.

Small Studio Video Lighting

If you have access to AC power outlets, a two light kit with CFL bulbs is a very versatile and budget friendly choice. An example of this type of video lighting kit is the RPS Studio 2 Light Octagonal Softbox Kit.

This kit can be used in your home, office, studio, or on location provided you can plug in to power. The soft boxes provide an excellent diffused quality to the light. Using up to four CFL bulbs per lamp, you can get a ton of light out of this kit.  

It’s portable enough to go on location as needed. The soft boxes fold up like umbrellas and the entire kit fits in the supplied carrying case. Having two equal lights with power adjustment, you can use several of the lighting methods for portraits and products. The CFLs are daylight balanced and cool operating.