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Guide to Lighting for Streaming Video 101

While the world has been at home, it’s been fun to connect online using YouTube, Twitch, Zoom, Facebook, Skype, and other video streaming services, hasn’t it? When I say “fun,” I mean not really all that that fun when you have minimal equipment and support. The bandwidth glitches, video quality issues, and the variety of camera malfunctions cause us all no small amount of irritation. Not to worry, I’m here to talk about something purely vain and totally under your control—how you are lit.

High-quality video allows you to be choosy when it comes to lighting, so we will assume the lowest bandwidth and lowest quality camera since Internet connectivity is so volatile, especially when everyone is at home and jamming up cable and Wi-Fi right now.

Framing is Your Friend

First, much of lighting definitely depends on where you are in relation to the camera and how much of the frame you need to light. There are a few things to consider.

  • First, raise your camera so it’s slightly above your nose line. Lighting works best when you’re not also attempting to light up your nose and see all your under-chins (I fully understand the “quarantine 15”).
  • Next, don’t let your camera lure you too close, even if it has a fairly wide lens. Leave about 2-3′ between you and the camera and give the frame some room around your head.
  • Unless you have something in your background that you need to place on camera to the side, like a talk-show graphic box or your cat, there’s no reason to be off-center. Center shots are easier to light.
  • If you are doing a full-body shot, give yourself room on top, bottom, and sides, depending on how much moving you’re going to do. Environments that are evenly lit from above are best for the wide frames.

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