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Besides story and audio, lighting is one of the most important considerations when making your own videos because it has the most impact for dramatically improving image quality.
Today I’ll show you how to assemble a lighting kit to make you the envy of YouTubers all over. Don’t even think about upgrading your vlogging camera until you have a proper lighting setup!
Photo and Video Lighting Basics
Before jumping in and loading up your Amazon basket, an understanding of lighting basics helps. One of the most popular approaches to lighting talent is with three-point lighting. As the name suggests, this uses three lights at different angles.
YouTuber Kriscoart has a detailed rundown in this video lighting tutorial:
The basics of three-point lighting are:
- Key light: Used to create depth and shadows, this can be considered your main light. It creates a 3D look.
- Fill light: This light fills in some of the shadows, placed on the opposite side of the key light.
- Back light: Positioned behind and above the subject, this light illuminates the hair, and makes them stand out from the background.
Note: Not all of these lights have to be purchased and positioned by you. You can (and should) take full advantage of your environment and natural light!
The Key Light
As this is your main light, the key light is where you should spend the majority of your budget. The Neewer Bi-Color LED panel represents excellent value for money, and it comes with a mains power adaptor, travel bag, and swivel bracket.
This light contains 480 LEDs in white and yellow. You can adjust the balance to simulate sunset or broad daylight, and total brightness adjustment allows you to get the perfect balance.
A light on its own isn’t totally useable just yet, however. You’ll also need a stand to mount your light on. While cheap stands can be purchased for about $20, I recommend you spend a bit of money here.
Cheap stands can be very flimsy. They might not be able to support the weight of any lights you purchase in the future, and you don’t want your light falling onto yourself or any other talent you may be filming. A good stand will easily outlast your lights and probably even your camera.
For that reason, you’ll want to purchase a C-Stand. These stands can be expensive, and heavy, but the ruggedness and stability they provide is well worth the cost.
The Neweer 2-Piece C-stand Set represents excellent value for money compared to other, premium models.
Whether you’re shooting in high winds, unstable ground, or simply lighting overhead at home, you won’t regret investing in high-quality stands. You’ll need the second stand later on for your back light.
Once purchased, make sure you watch this C-stand tutorial from YouTube channel The Slanted Lens:
The Fill Light
Now that your key light is all sorted, it’s time to purchase a fill light. These lights are used to fill any shadows from the opposite side to the key light, but you don’t have to purchase a light!
This may seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out. A 5-in-1 110CM Reflector can be used to bounce existing light instead of generating new light. This saves you time, money, and electricity.
This reflector has five different surfaces, so you can achieve that perfect look. You’ll need a stand for this (or employ a friend to hold it), but fortunately, you don’t need to splash out on another C-stand. Neweer also sells a reflector stand.
A cheap stand is more than adequate for a reflector — they barely weigh anything (just remember not to use it for your real lights).
YouTuber Jared Polin, otherwise known as FROKNOWSPHOTO, has an excellent video tutorial on using a reflector:
The Back Light
The third and final light needed is a back light. This doesn’t need to be big, or expensive, and if you always film at midday by a window, you may not even need one (but you probably should buy one anyway).
The Viltrox L132T is a small but capable video light, with adjustable brightness and color temperature. This light can be considered a bit of a bargain. You’ll need to purchase a power supply, but these can be had for very cheap.
You don’t need any extra stands for this light — one of the dual stands listed above with the key light can be used.
The cool thing about this light is its size. Measuring 13.4 x 4.9 x 1.6 inches, you can easily throw this light into your bag or on top of your camera for quick on location vlogging or filming.
If you want to know more about the specifics of this light, then check out this review by YouTuber Ditch Auto:
If you’ve got the skills, have you considered making your own LED ring light instead?
Now that you have everything you need for your dream three-point lighting rig, there are a few accessories that can come in handy.
First, sandbags. A pack of four studio sandbags may not be the coolest thing to buy, these can be used to weigh down your C-stands for extra stability. You can never be too safe, and you can always use them to peg down your gear when filming outdoors in windy weather.
Next up is a bag. While dedicated C-stand bags cost almost as much as the stands, a simple lighting bag measuring 36 x 9 x 9 inches is more than suitable for all of your other equipment. This sturdy bag leaves plenty of room for future expansion.
All your lights come with mains power adaptors, so don’t forget to pick up a 40-Foot Extension Lead, so you can run power to wherever your lights may be. If you’re going to be filming somewhere without easy access to electricity, you may wish to buy some batteries for your lights. Video lighting notoriously gobble power, so the Sony NP-F970 style batteries (which fit both lights) are an excellent choice.
You get two batteries along with a charger, so it’s not that bad value. Make sure you buy a few sets to keep your running all day!
YouTuber Caleb Pike from DSLR Video Shooter covers everything you need to know about these cool little batteries:
Finally, you’ll want to pick up some metal spring clamps, which cost less than a dollar each. These clamps are super useful. Not only can you use them to tidy up cables, but you can even secure your reflector to a stand in a pinch if you forget your reflector stand.
What Will You Film With Great Video Lighting?
The best part about photo and video lighting is that you don’t have to purchase all this gear at once. Start with the basics and what you have. Shoot near a window or outdoors. Buy a reflector if you’re on a tight budget.
As your skills progress and you make more and more videos, you can slowly purchase more equipment as and when you need it.