The Ultimate Lighting Guide for Webcam Models
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I really wish I would have started with the perfect equipment instead of having to upgrade so many times. But guess what? 10 years ago there was practically no information online about how to get a good quality live stream -- or how to create amateur content that doesn't look so...amateur.
To get the most out of your camera, you need to have good lighting. The camera can only do so much. With a good lighting setup, you can clear up blur, noise, harsh shadows, even skin tone, and get the fastest performance from your gear.
Lighting Equipment Features
When shopping for new equipment you want to keep in mind how long it's going to last, how much use you will get out of it, and whether or not it's going to make things easier for you.
This can be really useful for creators who want to quickly change their lighting
All of my lights are controllable with my phone via apps
Pro Tip: Make sure you are buying from a reliable brand that isn't going to disappear any time soon. This is one of those times where I will highly recommend you buy the more expensive option. When off-brand companies fail they often abandon all updates and customer support.
Color Temperature/Brightness Control
Being able to change how bright and what color tone your lights are will allow you to adapt in different situations. This additional control is a worthwhile investment if you move, travel, or want more creative options.
Some lights are designed to be used with rechargeable battery packs as an alternative to a wall plug. This can be a great option for quick or temporary setups. I don't recommend using batteries during live streams because you will be annoyed when your lights go out and you don't have another battery charged.
The creative lighting options are endless with RGB capable lighting. My LED panels have a knob on the back for selecting the hue or I can use the app on my phone.
Types of Lighting Equipment
Here are some of the most common types of lighting equipment used in live streaming setups.
My very first setup used umbrella lighting and I was never happy with it. The lighting was too harsh with no way to adjust it. Most umbrella lights do not have temperature or brightness control.
Eventually, I graduated to a softbox setup. Two soft boxes pointed towards my face. One on the left and one on the right. The third softbox was craned over the top of me to highlight my hair and eliminate some of the shadows.
The problem, again, was that the softboxes were too bulky. Most of us are working from home out of spare bedrooms and we can use all the space we can get.
I made a crucial mistake with my first ring light purchase. I didn't check to see if they had temperature and brightness control. I was stuck with an expensive piece of equipment that wasn't giving me the results I wanted.
Pro Tip: The budget option ring lights are not as adjustable or bright as the professional gear. Budget options are typically powered by USB cables, but they're great for creating content with your phone.
These have two knobs on the back. One is for brightness and the other is for temperature. I love how small they are and they don't heat up the room as much as others.
Lighting Mount Solutions
Keep in mind the height of your lighting. You don't want it too far or below you might get harsh shadows. You want it at the same height as your face. Some people prefer to work from the floor, others like to sit, and some like to stand. What is your preference and what height would be good for your lighting setup?
Pro Tip: Take note of your favorite angles and positions. Optimize your lighting so that it is even when your face in those angles and positions. If they're completely different heights or you change setups often, you will want to consider lighting mounts that give you the most flexibility.
A budget-friendly option for your lighting mount needs. I don't like floor tripods because of how much space the legs need in order to be stable. If you try to crunch them up smaller they'll probably fall over and break a bunch of stuff. (lesson learned)
You can find a variety of desktop tripods online. Once you've figured out the optimal placement for your lights you can start to compare tripods. Keep in mind the maximum and minimum height capabilities, angle adjustment options, and how much space they will take up on your surface. Make sure you are buying something that you can't easily knock over (especially if it will be top-heavy) or you will damage your equipment.
You can get really creative with your setups if you know about different mounting options. C Clamp mounts were a great solution for me because I was no longer knocking over tripods.
Pro Tip: Always check the width of the surface you want to mount them to. Be aware that if you clamp something too heavy or tight you could risk damaging the surface of the item you are clamping to. Verify the amount of weight that it can hold.
Mounting your lights to the wall can free up floor space and reduce the risk of damaging your equipment. If you get an adjustable bracket you have the option to easily change your lighting
while you change angles.
Pro Tip: These should only be mounted into the studs of your house. If you don't mount into a stud you risk destroying your drywall and having equipment fall on you. Safety first!
Attachments and Adapters
So you've found the perfect stand, but you can't attach it to your light? Inspect the lights and see what kind of attachment options you can find. Typically, there are some industry-standard screw holes or stud options on the equipment itself. Try searching some of the following terms to get an idea of what adapters are out there.
What defines balanced lighting?
If you're going for a specific creative style of lighting then this section isn't for you. This section is for those seeking well-balanced lighting.
Personally, I don't like harsh shadows in my cam space because it gives creepy-basement-with-hanging-interrogation-light-vibes. I want the space to feel cozy and inviting, both for myself and my viewers.
Harsh shadows are created when the lighting in the room isn't even. You can get uneven lighting if you have all of your light sources in one concentrated area. To correct this problem you will need to spread them out so that light hits you from every direction.
Our goal is to get soft indirect lighting from multiple angles. If you have a light on maximum brightness, pointed directly at yourself, this is going to create those harsh shadows we don't want.
Pro Tip: Point lights upward or towards the wall instead to bounce the light off of the surface and diffuse it.
Getting the correct color for your streams and content creation is probably one of the hardest parts of lighting. Probably because it's multiple things that are connected aside from just lighting. You will need to take into consideration the white balance settings on your camera and in OBS. Also, consider the difference in color balance between monitors.
Another thing to keep in mind is that mixing different lighting temperatures is hard to correct. If you have warm and cool-toned lighting in the same room it will be hard to get the settings correct on your camera or in OBS. It's easier to work with lighting that's all in the same temperature range.
Pro Tip: It's nearly impossible to get the PERFECT color balance because everyone has different viewing devices with different settings. Focus on what color tone makes you feel good about yourself.
Brightness and Overexposure
Having your lights too bright and too close is also going to create harsh shadows. We want to turn the brightness down, move our lights further away, and/or diffuse the light. Do you ever notice a bright concentrated shiny spot? That's called "blowing out the highlights". You should be able to see details in the brightest areas of the screen just like I mentioned in regards to the darkest parts and shadows.
Positioning Your Lights
Standard three-point lighting setups are a great place to start. You will have two lights facing towards you and a light in the back to help illuminate the room.
Pro Tip: If your camera seems to be focusing on the back light you may need to dim the back light or adjust your camera's iso settings. Automatic iso will continuously adjust, but if you have good lighting AND you are not moving the camera then it's probably safe to turn off.
Is the three-point system not working for you? Lighting can get more complicated depending on the size of your room and what kind of furniture you're using. For example, if you stream from a desk you might notice a lack of light below the desk's surface.
This creates specific problems for adult content creators because we want our genitals to be seen in high quality! Put a small dimmable LED panel below the desk. It doesn't need to be very bright at all. This will help with under-the-chin shadows and get everything nice and bright down there.
Uh oh! Did that cause another issue? I noticed when I did this that I had too much light coming from below and not enough from the top. So I turned on the overhead light in my room.
Pro Tip: This is where you need to start paying attention to color balance again. If your overhead lights are a different temperature from the others you might be straying from the ideal balance that you want. Remember, stay in the same color temperature range for all of your lights if you want the easiest setup possible.
You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars to have good lighting. You can easily use what
you already have available by following some of the tips mentioned above.
Keep the bulbs the same color temperature
Diffuse the light - You can use sheets, printer paper, and t-shirts as long as you are safe and not putting them directly over the light bulbs
Set up your lights in the standard three-point formation
My very first lighting setup was created with two cheap lamps from IKEA. I actually LOVED this setup and have tried to mimic the beautiful well-balanced lighting with more expensive equipment for years!
I hope you could find some useful information in this lighting guide. If you need any help with your setup please feel free to reach out with your questions.