How to Get Good Lighting for YouTube Videos (2023)

In this article, we’re going to talk about How to Get Good Lighting for YouTube Videos.

There’s a video revolution happening online. An estimated 84 percent of communications will be visual by the end of this year more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic will be video. (85% in the US).

Why is that? There are two equally important reasons:

  1. We’re visual creatures by nature. From the minute we open our eyes we’re taking in images of our surroundings. 90 percent of the information transmitted to the brain is visual

We learn faster and better when we see images and video – our brains process visual content 60,000 times faster than text.

  1. Technology advances. When the Internet first came on the scene it was mainly text because they did not yet have the bandwidth to publish and stream video. Now that we have the bandwidth, video content is attracting viewers by leaps and bounds.

The best way to participate in this explosion of interest in video content is to start a YouTube Channel.

You can do it as an individual – many people have garnered a large following and made a living doing this – or you can make videos for a product or a product or brand. Either way, the quality of your videos will impact whether you attract an audience.

After picking up the Best Camera for YouTube and the best microphone for clear audio for your YouTube videos, next move is to create videos properly and professionally, in which lighting plays a very important role.

One of the biggest factors in making a great YouTube video is how you use lighting. Lighting creates the mood and style of your videos. Of course, you need great content, but without good lighting, even the best content may not get results.

How to Get Good Lighting for YouTube Videos

The actual meaning of the word photography is writing with light.

Photo light

A video is just moving photography. So what you communicate will depend on how you use the light to set the mood and convey your message.

So let’s get right to it – what kind of lighting do you need?

Control the Lighting Environment

Natural light can be useful if you don’t have a full video light set up, or if you are shooting in an outside location. Use the window or natural light source and balance it with another light on the other side.

If you have space where you always record your videos, create a set up that will work every time no matter what the outside light is like. If there are a lot of windows in the room you may want to cover them so that you can control the lighting.

When you have large windows, the outside light will be a major factor – if it’s bright sunlight when you start and then it becomes cloudy, your light source dims and everything you set up changes mid video.

Either choose a room with minimal outside light or cover the windows with dark drapes so you have a uniform light in the room. Then you can set up your lights exactly how you want them.

Light and Shadow

When you have a source of light from one direction it will cast a shadow. So if you record your video near a window (a source of natural light) the side of your face nearest the window will be lit well, but the other will be in shadow. Not a good look.

Portrait of influential british ichthyologist p. humphry greenwood
Portrait of influential British Ichthyologist P. Humphry Greenwood (1927-1995), photographed 30 Sep 1968 at his bench in the Fish Section, British Museum (Natural History), London.

The purpose of lighting your YouTube videos correctly is so that everything and everyone in the video looks exactly how you want them to look. When you use only one light placed directly from the camera angle you can get a very flat look.

For best results with your YouTube videos, you want a natural-looking light with depth and separation. To get this effect you will need more than one light source so that you get light and shadows where you want them.

Setting up your lights

When you are starting out you may want to begin with one light. If you do that, the best light to get is a ring light because it gives light from both sides and evens out the shadows. The light is placed with the camera and you shoot through the ring.

Neewer ring light kit
Neewer Ring Light Kit:18″/48cm Outer 55W 5500K Dimmable LED Ring Light, Light Stand, Carrying Bag for Camera, Smartphone, YouTube, Self-Portrait Shooting

Diva ring light super nova
Diva Ring Light Super Nova 18″ Dimmable w/ 6′ Stand – Professional Studio Lighting Kit for YouTube, Facebook Live, Twitch, Photography, and Beauty Blogging

The Three Light YouTube Video Lighting System

YouTube recommends the classic three-light setup: the key light, the fill light, and the backlight. It’s not hard to do and doesn’t need to cost a lot. There are inexpensive and easy ways to do this.

Yt video 3 lights

The Key Light

This is the main source of light so it should be the brightest of your lights. This is easy to do with the LED lights available today.

You can decide which side of your face to light with the key light. Place it about three feet from you to one side. Keep it close to the person or object you’re filming, but outside of the frame of the camera.

Placing the light close to the camera you get a flatter lighting effect. Move it further away for more dramatic shadows.

You can play around with the height of the key light for different effects. A higher key light position will cast a shadow on the neck and underside of the chin.

A lower position fills in eye sockets and minimizes the size of nose and chin shadows. Remember that the lower you place the light, the longer the shadow it casts behind the subject.

The Fill Light

Once you have the key light in the place you will immediately see that the other side of the face is in shadow. This is why you need to fill light.

This is a softer light placed on the opposite side to remove the shadows created by the key light. Keep it close to the camera so that you don’t create more shadows.

The placement and brightness of these two lights is the most important part of a basic lighting setup.

Check out this useful interactive tool that shows you exactly how your lights will affect the subject of your video.

How your lights will affect the subject of your video

Back Light

You use the backlight to separate the person or object being videoed from the background. Without a backlight, the background looks flat and uninteresting and you tend to fade into the background.

What you want is for the background to have some depth and definition and yet still be distinctly separate, so that you “pop” as the presenter.

Your backlight can either be placed directly behind you, so it lights only your head and shoulders, or you can place it opposite the key light for a more dramatic effect.

Watch this video for a demonstration of how these lights work together.

How back lights work together

Youtube Video Lighting Filters

Now that you have the lights set up, it’s time to decide on the mood you want for your video. You do this with the brightness of the lights and by using filters.

Choose an LED light that has a dimmer and several filters. Some ring lights come with a diffuser to put over the ring.

The hardness or softness of light effects mood dramatically. The more diffused the light is, the softer and smoother it will look. And remember that light intensity depends on the distance of height form the subject – the closer it is the harder it will be.

Video Lighting Equipment

The size of the area where you make your videos will play a part in what lights you choose. You can use either LED lights or softbox lights. LED lights are small, light and easily portable. Softbox lights are bigger but they create a softer, more natural light.


LED Lights: $25 – $45

Small LED lights are inexpensive and easily portable. You can use them on your camera or on a tripod to make the three-light setup.

You can find LED lights with dimmers and filters to create the softer, more natural look. You will need to buy stands for the lights and it’s always wise to have extra batteries.

Tolifo photo studio 176 led ultra bright dimmable on camera video light
TOLIFO Photo Studio 176 LED Ultra Bright Dimmable On Camera Video Light

Yongnuo yn300 air led camera video light with adjustable color temperature
YONGNUO YN300 Air LED Camera Video Light with Adjustable Color Temperature

Not as bright as the Tolifo but it has a diffuser on it, which is great for lighting a person on camera.

Neewer 160 led cn 160 dimmable ultra high power panel
NEEWER 160 LED CN-160 Dimmable Ultra High Power Panel Digital Camera / Camcorder Video Light

You can also get a set of three lights with stands, batteries, and charger. It comes with a white diffuser to soften the harsh light and a carrying bag that makes it easy to carry and store the light and accessories.

Light and accessories


LED lighting has become one of the most cost-effective options available to YouTube video creators.

It can get very hot in a studio when you have conventional lights. LEDs run cool, so you won’t be sweating after a short stint in front of the camera.

Another plus is that the cool nature of LED lights means you can use them in tight places where it would be dangerous to put a traditional light.

And there is no need to wait for your lights to cool down once you’re done. You can just pack up and move on to your next task.

LED lights save you money because they use less electricity. LED’s convert 80 percent of the energy they use into the light and use less than half the power of a single 300w tungsten bulb.

LEDs last for years, so you’re not buying new bulbs regularly and you’re not putting old bulbs in the trash. LEDs easy on your budget and they’re environmentally friendly.


A softbox light creates an even and diffused light that reduces harsh shadows. This is done by transmitting the light through some scattering material, or by reflecting light off a second surface. Most softbox lights come with between one and five light globes.

It’s best to purchase one with five globes so you can dim it by switching on only two or three of the globes, depending on the light intensity you need for a shoot.

A softbox light sells on Amazon for around $70. They come with the stand, the softbox, and the globes. You can buy a set of three together, which works out a bit more economical.

One advantage of the LED light is that you can use the dimmer to turn the intensity up or down without having to go to the Softbox and switch bulbs on or off. So you can get the exact lighting effect you want while watching the camera.

The Value of Lighting your YouTube Videos

The YouTube audience continues to grow year after year. In May of 2018 YouTube announced that they had 1.8 billion monthly logged in users. [6] And they’re growing almost twice as fast as Facebook.

You’re making YouTube videos to reach a portion of that audience, but you’re competing with 81 percent of businesses who also use video as a marketing tool – up from 63% in 2017.

It’s not enough to make mediocre videos anymore. To stand out from the crowd you need to make remarkable videos.

So not only do you need great content, the visual quality of the video is just as important. Even with outstanding content, if your videos are dark and flat they won’t communicate well. Good lighting is what delivers quality content.

YouTube suggests that you use lighting to create a specific style and mood that will engage your audience. Good lighting helps you communicate your ideas and connect with your audience in an emotional way, which will grow your subscribers.

Follow these lighting tips, invest a small amount of money and set up your video recording space with the perfect lights.

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