video lighting made simple a beginner's guide

Video Lighting made simple: A beginner's guide

You've decided to dive into the world of film and video production. Congratulations! Now it's time to learn about one of the most important parts of capturing great footage: lighting.

Proper lighting can make or break your video. It sets the mood, enhances the visuals, and makes your subject pop on screen. While lighting equipment and techniques can get incredibly complex, for beginners it's best to start simple. In this article, we'll walk you through the basics of lighting for video so you can get started right away.

You'll learn about the three point lighting method, the essential gear you need, and some tips for lighting your subject effectively. Master these fundamentals and you'll be well on your way to becoming a lighting pro in no time. Let's get started!

Types of lighting for video: Hard, soft, and everything in between

When it comes to lighting your video, you have options. Hard light, soft light, and everything in between. What’s the difference?

Hard light creates sharp, defined shadows and highlights. Think of the midday sun or a flashlight. Hard light can be harsh, so it’s best used for a dramatic effect.

Soft light, on the other hand, creates a more even, diffused illumination. Think of an overcast day or light passing through a curtain. Soft light is flattering and ideal for most video applications.

In between hard and soft, you have moderately diffused light. This provides directional lighting with softer shadows. A popular choice is three-point lighting, which uses a key light, fill light, and back light. The key light is your primary light source, while the fill light illuminates the shadowed areas from the key light. The back light adds dimension by highlighting the subject from behind.

You can adjust the hardness or softness through your light source selection and by using tools like umbrellas, soft boxes, and diffusers. The closer and larger the light source is to your subject, the softer the light will be. Moving further away and using a smaller surface area will make the light harder.

With some experimenting, you’ll be lighting your videos like a pro in no time. The key is balancing the type of lighting with your subject and the overall mood you want to achieve. So play around with different setups and have fun with it! The results will speak for themselves.

Positioning your lighting for the perfect shot

The key to great lighting is all about positioning. For the perfect shot, you'll want to place your lights strategically around your subject.

Start with your key light, the main light that will illuminate your subject. Position it at a 45-degree angle to the side of the camera. This angle creates dimension and depth. Place the key light slightly higher than eye level and aim it down at your subject.

Add a fill light on the opposite side of the key light, closer to the lens. The fill light helps reduce shadows created by the key light. Make sure it's not as bright as the key light.

You can also try a back light, positioned behind and above the subject. A back light helps separate the subject from the background.

For close-ups, a third light positioned below the subject pointing up, called an under light, helps minimize shadows under the eyes and chin.

Don't forget about the background. For a clean look, position lights behind the subject to illuminate the background. Make sure the background is a few stops darker than your subject.

By strategically placing several lights around your subject and background, you can achieve a well-rounded, professional look. Experiment with different angles, intensities and types of lights like LED panels, ring lights or practical bulbs. Your video lighting will enhance the quality and polish of any video project.

Lighting equipment must-haves for beginners

To get started with video lighting, there are a few essential pieces of equipment you'll want to invest in. These basics will allow you to create well-lit scenes without breaking the bank.

Three Point Lighting Kit

A basic three point lighting kit is a great starter set and includes:

Key light: Your main light source, placed in front of your subject. It should be the brightest of the three lights.

Fill light: A softer light placed on the opposite side of the key light to fill in shadows. It's usually placed at a 45 degree angle to your subject.

Back light: Placed behind and above the subject to create separation from the background. It adds depth and dimension.

You can find affordable three point lighting kits for about €100 that will work for most beginner video projects. They provide balanced lighting that you can build upon as your skills improve.


Reflectors are an easy, low-cost way to enhance your lighting. They reflect the light from your key and fill lights, making your subject look more evenly lit from multiple angles. A 5-in-1 reflector kit offers gold, silver, white, black, and translucent options to create different lighting effects. Reflector kits can be found for around €30.

Light Stands

Don't have space for permanent studio lighting? Light stands allow you to securely mount your lights and position them as needed for each shoot. Look for air-cushioned light stands that can support the weight of your specific lights. Light stands typically range from €20 to €200.

With these three basics in hand, you'll have a solid foundation in video lighting to build upon. You can then add components like soft boxes, spotlights, floodlights, and diffusers to achieve more advanced effects. But to get started, keep it simple with a three-point lighting kit, reflectors, and light stands.

Understanding color temperature

Color temperature refers to the perceived warmth or coolness of light and is measured in Kelvin (K). Different light sources emit light with varying color temperatures.

Understanding color temperature is crucial for achieving the desired mood and ambiance in your videos. Here are some common color temperature ranges:

  • Warm Light: Ranges from 2,700K to 3,200K. It creates a cozy and intimate atmosphere often used in indoor settings or during sunset.
  • Neutral Light: Around 4,000K. It closely resembles natural daylight and is commonly used for general lighting.
  • Cool Light: Ranges from 5,500K to 6,500K. It emits a bluish tint and is often associated with outdoor scenes or a colder environment.


You now have the basics to get started with lighting your videos. Don’t be intimidated—with some practice, these techniques will become second nature.

Start simple by focusing on lighting your subject well and adding some back light for separation. Then play around with colors and angles to enhance the mood and drama. The key is not to overthink it. Grab your camera, set up a few lights, and start filming. Review and build on what works, learn from what doesn’t. Your lighting skills will strengthen over time. The most important thing is just to start creating. So, grab your lights, experiment, and have fun illuminating your creative vision!

Require assistance with lighting setup for your video projects? We're here to lend a hand!