Easy Lighting Techniques To Enhance Your Videos

Not all lighting techniques are affordable or practical for beginners who are just getting started in video. Do a search online and you'll see inexpensive lighting kits start around $100. Lighting kits professional videographers use can range in the several thousands of dollars.

Also, even the least expensive lighting equipment requires some training to correctly set-up. To use lighting equipment effectively, you'll need to learn about three-point lighting. You'll need to learn how to set up various light stands, boom stands and softboxes. When purchasing your first light kit, you'll also need  to know the difference between halogen lighting, fluorescent lighting and LED lighting. 

While these video lighting concepts are not difficult learn, they might seem overwhelming at first. As a beginner, you might want to start off with learning some basic lighting techniques that will improve the visual quality of your videos right away. These techniques will help you build a solid foundation in learning about lighting, which you'll appreciate once you take the plunge and invest in your first lighting kit.

Here are our top 3 easy-to-master, free lighting techniques you can start using on your next video project ...

Lighting Technique #1: Know Your Video Camera's Capabilities

You can give your videos a more professional look simply by familiarizing yourself with your camera's lighting options. Most new cameras have a built-in "auto mode" that automatically interprets the lighting conditions for your scene and makes the appropriate setting adjustments for you. The auto mode function will attempt to compensate for those times when you're shooting in low light or very bright light.

However, there are times when you might want to override your camera's automatic mode and manually adjust the settings. You might decide to  use manual mode if you feel the camera's automatic settings have not compensated correctly for your specific lighting conditions. Or, you might choose the manual mode in order to achieve a particular look or effect for your footage. 

In these cases, you would select the manual exposure option on your camera. If the problem is backlighting (i.e., there is a bright light source behind your subject making your subject appear too dark or underexposed), you can try adjusting the camera's exposure to compensate for the backlighting. If your subject is overexposed (i.e., your subject appears too bright), then you can adjust your camera's exposure setting in manual mode to compensate for this as well.

Another function you might decide to set manually is the white balance. White balance helps you accurately reproduce colors under different lighting conditions. You might have seen video where there seems to be a bluish undertone or color flatness in certain scenes. This is an example of where the camera's white balance is off.

If you experience this with your videos, find the white balance option on your camera and follow your camera's instructions for setting it manually. You might be amazed at the color vibrancy that you can achieve simply by ensuring the white balance is correct.

Your camera might also come with options to compensate for shooting in special lighting conditions, such as recording fireworks, night scenes, low light scenes or sunny beach scenes. These lighting options should be simple to set on your camera and you can always set the camera back to automatic mode if you prefer.

The important thing is that you familiarize yourself with your camera's built-in lighting features that can enhance the visual quality of your videos. We suggest you practice with these settings before recording an important occasion. You won't know what your preferences are (or what you might be missing out on) if you don't try a little experimenting first!

Lighting Technique #2: Improve on Existing Light by Using What's Available

This is one of the simplest and most overlooked techniques to improving a video's lighting. If you're filming indoors, turn on overhead lights, lamps and open window shades to let in more natural light. 

Once you've done this, pay particular attention to how your subject is positioned in relation to the sources of light. Experiment with moving lamps closer to your subject, changing to stronger light bulbs if safe or using multiple lamps to get the desired effect. 

Be careful though when dealing with large light sources. For example, if your subject is directly in front of a large window with light streaming in, he may appear as a darkened silhouette. The easiest solution in this case is to switch places with your subject so that your back is to the window and your subject is facing the window. 

Lighting Technique #3: Use Sunlight to Your Advantage

If you're filming outdoors during the daytime, use the sun to your advantage by positioning your subject facing the sun. Keep the brightest light in front of your subject and behind you, the camera operator. 

If it's an especially sunny day and the bright light is causing your subject to squint or is causing a harsh glare or unflattering shadows, you can try moving your subject to shade and seeing if this provides a more even lighting effect. In this case, the subject is still facing the sun while standing in the shade, but the glare is decreased for a more natural look (not to mention a less squinty subject!).

You can also use a simple car windshield reflector to direct sunlight onto your subject. Open up the reflector and angle it to capture the sunlight and bounce it back onto your subject. You'll need to experiment with the right distance and angle until you get the effect you want.

So there you have our top three easy lighting tips you can use right away to improve your videos. At some point you might decide to invest in a light kit, but for now these techniques might be all you need to produce videos that keep your audience happily watching!

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