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Home Lighting Solutions for Video

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  • Roland Boyden
  • |
  • April 28, 2020
  • Roland has been at PhillyCAM as Access Facilitator since 2018 and has worked in public access in some form or other for the past 14 years.

With so many of us making videos from home right now, it's brought up the question of how we can create better, more dynamic lighting without having to leave the house. Whether that's just for better Zoom calls with coworkers, or for your TV show, videos and livestreams, there are several strategies you can try.

 

WINDOWS: First the free ones. Even those of us that actually got our stimulus check aren't looking to spend any extra money right now. So for free options, there's no better source of light than a bank of windows during the day (provided they're in front of you). Just be careful of things like beams of direct sunlight that can be overly harsh, or colored drapes that (even when open) can create strange tints on your skin. Click here for a video on how to get the most out of window light.

BOUNCE: Windows are all well and good, but what if your apartment doesn't have a good location for you to sit directly facing them? Try using a trick even the biggest Hollywood movies employ constantly: bouncing light. All you'll need is something relatively large and white/off-white. This could be a blanket, a sheet, a piece of foamcore, a big throw pillow... you get the idea. Now position it so that the light from your windows is reflecting off it and onto you. This can be a good way to fill out the other side of your face if you sit with a window off to one side to help keep you from looking like you're in a Martin Scorsese movie while you're talking to your family on Zoom.

LIGHTS AROUND THE HOUSE: There's no reason light sources you already have can't work. A desk lamp just out of frame in front of you, overhead lights, even camping lanterns and flashlights can all be rigged up to help light you. Bear in mind that softer light is generally more pleasing than hard light, so if you're planning on duct-taping a Maglight to a bedpost as your keylight maybe consider shining it through a pillowcase or something like that. Speaking of flashlights, check out the video above for how to make a great DIY beauty dish.

COMPUTER SCREEN LIGHTING: If you're recording from your laptop, especially in dimmer conditions, using the computer screen as the keylight is another option. First, find a plain white background (or a light orange one for warmer tones)--I found mine just searching youtube--and fullscreen it. Then toggle back to Zoom, Streamyard, Quicktime, Photobooth or whatever other program you're using to record/stream, making sure that application window is as small as you can get it so more of that bright color shines through. This technique can actually provide a surprising amount of light.

PURCHASES: So what about if none of these options work? Well, more than ever now there are affordable LED lights that are bright and increasingly color accurate. Click here or scroll to the end to watch this comparison video of LED lights under $50. If you want to go even cheaper consider getting utility work lights like these, or softboxes that take cheap fluorescent bulbs (there are often good deals for kits that include softboxes, bulbs, and light stands).

 

Okay, well there are few thoughts. In the end it's all about experimenting to see what works, and to see what you like personally. In the meantime, stay safe everyone!