Lighting – a Key to Great Video

Shooting video in the office environment is difficult because of the shadows cast on the subject by the overhead lighting. Even a room brightly lit by sunshine isn’t a good option, as the light volume changes throughout the day.  So what do you do to get the great video that you desire? Turn off the overhead lights, close the blinds and bring in your own lighting.

Overhead lighting – If you must shoot under overhead lighting, experiment with positioning your subject in various locations. Often adjusting them a foot or two can make a difference. The last thing you want is shadows under their eyes.

Natural lighting – If you must shoot in a room that has no blinds, natural lighting can be eliminated. Cover the windows with a background screen or by taping a black plastic sheeting over them. Just remove them as soon as you are finished. You don’t want someone reporting there is a hostage situation at your location.


There are three goals that you should try to accomplish:

  1. Make your guest or subject look as flattering as possible
  2. Kill all shadows by adjusting the lighting angles
  3. Make your guest comfortable. Once the lighting is set, turn it off until the shooting begins. Hot lights cause perspiration to flow. No one wants a wet guest or the distraction of a guest towel drying during the shoot.

Look at the stage from all angles when setting up the lighting. This will let you know if any area is in need of supplemental lighting.  Arranging lighting gets easier with experience. The more you do it, the less time it will take you.

Light Placement

When you are shooting at the subject head on, place a light stand on either side of the camera, angled inwards. The height of the lights should be just above their eye line, so it isn’t directly in their eyes. Never light from under the subject lest they take on a ghoulish appearance.

I used to shoot musical acts where if glasses were involved, they were sunglasses. However, in the business world you will have your share of guests who wear glasses that reflect lighting. To minimize glare, you will need to play with the front lighting. Try moving the lights slightly wider or higher. Also try to slide the glasses lower on the subjects nose to change the reflective angle.

Back Lighting

To minimize shadows behind the subject, place a light about waist high pointed at the back drop. Position this light directly behind the subject. If there is not enough room behind, try positioning a light off to the sides and angled inwards. Adjust to correct any shadows.

Back Drop

If you are in this to shoot multiple videos, I highly recommend dressing up your stage with a solid color, seamless backdrop. Savage Universal manufactures all types of backdrops. This includes rolls of non-reflective paper that comes in many colors, widths and heights. You can find this at any high quality photography store, Amazon or by simply Googling it.

Light Source

The larger the light source, the softer the light. The softer the light, the more flattering the result. Using fluorescent bulbs definitely generates a softer light than LED lighting. Diffusion material can create a softer lighting atmosphere. You can buy it by the roll or you can buy diffusion socks that actually are made to fit right over your lights. You can soften lighting by reflecting it off of white poster board, a fold up reflector, or some even a white board.

Lighting Equipment

Selecting the type of lighting you need has much to do with the camera you chose to shoot your video with. SLR digital cameras performs exceptionally well in lower light situations. So LED and fluorescent lights that are much cooler for your guests and won’t glare in their eyes. They are also cheaper to purchase and to operate. Videocams require more light, so LED is necessary. However, they are hotter, more blinding and glaring.

Ring Lights produce a brilliant, soft lighting that completely removes shadows from your guests faces. However, it isn’t well suited for those who wear uncoated glasses. Then there is Skylux Lights which generate 1,000 watts of incandescent light. This powerful light source should be tempered with diffusion techniques, as it will cause more shadows. Another is the versatile LED light wand, which is soft, flattering and runs off battery power.

As you explore purchasing lighting for your studio, you will see that lights come in all shapes and sizes, with various features, and prices.  If you are starting small with a limited budget, you could go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and pick up a pair of LED work flood lights on stands for about $90. Every trip or call to shop for lighting, learn by asking question of the salesman there.

Extra Information Sources on Lighting

Read Our Previous Installments

How to Select the Right Microphone for Video Recording

How to Select the Right Camcorder Part Three

Selecting Video Editing Software

Thinking About Adding Video Content?

Using a Digital SLR Camera for Video

Setting Up a Video Studio – Part 2


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    Gerry Nason Written by:

    Gerry Nason is a Senior Content Copywriter for HiP B2B. He also has extensive experience with generating high quality executive leads. Gerry worked for six years as the Producer & Director of a weekly music show, appearing on cable access TV in New England. During those six years, In Tune won 18 awards for video excellence.

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