Incorporating Graphics Into Your Video

The Best Video Lighting Techniques

In Blogging, Video by Brian Town

When you start setting up for a video shoot, what’s the very first thing you always do? Do you:

A) Turn on your camera
B) Set up your tripod
C) Check out the lighting on set and figure out what additional lighting you need

If you didn’t answer C (the answer is always C, right?), you might need a crash course in the best video lighting techniques (and why lighting is so important)!

A poorly lit video is just as bad as a video with bad audio. Just as footage loses a lot of quality if you can’t hear what’s going on, it loses quality when there is too much or too little light. You don’t want your shot to look grainy as a result of low light, and you don’t want those pesky hotspots either! So, just what are the best video lighting techniques? For the sake of easier explanation, let’s pretend you’re shooting an interview.

Find Your Shot First

When you arrive on location, have your subject stand or sit where you are going to want them for the interview. Move yourself and your camera around until you find a spot where they aren’t directly under overhead lighting (unless you can turn it off), and where there isn’t too much or too little natural lighting.

Hard Light, Or Soft?

The choice between hard and soft lighting depends entirely upon the mood you are trying to capture with your video. Hard light is much more dramatic, making it better for things like documentaries, while soft lighting is is much less dramatic and straightforward. If you are capturing something along the lines of a testimonial you will probably want to use soft lighting. We love Wistia, so I’m just going to borrow these great examples to visually explain this concept:

Video Lighting Techniques

Video Lighting Techniques






Positioning Your Lights

Once you’ve decided on a shot, turned off any distracting overhead lights, and chosen either hard or soft light, you’ll need to actually start setting up some lights. This is the fun part! You can create so many different looks and moods with your lighting. Once again, for the sake of explanation, I am going to outline the most commonly used, and most effective, interview lighting technique: three point lighting.

Three point lighting is exactly what it sounds like… three lights in three different positions:

  1. The Key Light is the main light, having the biggest impact on your shot. Your key light should be placed on one side (it doesn’t matter which side) of your camera, lighting one side of the scene and casting a bit of a shadow on the other.
  2. The Fill Light fills in those shadows created by the key light. It’s a bit softer than the key light, which is accomplished by placing it on the opposite side of your camera and a bit further back.
  3. The Back Light is positioned behind your subject, to create some space between them and whatever background you chose. You don’t want it to be too bright, otherwise you will get a halo around their head.

Three Point Lighting

Watch Out For Hotspots!

With three point lighting, or any lighting technique for that matter, you want to be careful of hotspots. By using additional lighting you are ensuring that your shot will have enough light, but then you need to be cautious of introducing too much light into different parts of your scene. Too much light can create bright white or yellow spots on peoples’ faces, halos around their heads, or glares on objects in the scene. Taking steps such as making sure your lights aren’t pointed straight at your subject, turning them down a bit, or using filters can all help eliminate hotspots.

Now you know how to beautifully light an interview, so go out and try it! If you would like more in-depth information or advice on different methods of lighting, please fill out the form below.

– Alli Myers