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How to Set Up 3-Point Lighting for Your Live Videos

We’ve been doing some Facebook Live videos for our client utilizing Switcher Studio and absolutely loving the multi-video streaming platform. One area that I wanted to improve on was our lighting, though. I’m a bit of a video newbie when it comes to these strategies, so I’ll continue to update these notes based on feedback and testing. I’m learning a ton from the professionals around me as well – some of which I’m sharing here! There’s also a ton of great resources online.

We have 16-foot ceilings in our studio with incredibly bright LED flood lighting on the ceiling. It results in terrible shadows (pointing directly down)… so I consulted with our videographer, AJ of Ablog Cinema, to come up with an affordable, portable solution.

AJ taught me about 3-point lighting and I was stunned at just how wrong I was about lighting. I always thought the best solution would be an LED light mounted on the camera pointing directly at whomever we were interviewing. Wrong. The problem with a light directly in front of the subject is that it actually washes out the facial dimensions rather than complimenting them.

What is 3-Point Lighting?

The goal of the 3-point lighting is to highlight and accent the dimensions of the subject(s) on video. By placing the lights strategically around the subject, each source illuminates a separate dimension of the subject and creates a video with greater height, width, and depth… all while eliminating unsightly shadows.

Three-point lighting is the most commonly used technique for providing great lighting in videos.

The Three Lights in 3-Point Lighting Are:

3-Point Video Lighting Diagram
  1. Key Light – this is the primary light and is typically located on the right or left of the camera, 45° from it, pointing 45° down on the subject. The use of a diffuser is necessary if the shadows are too hard. If you’re outdoors in bright light, you can use the sun as your key light.
  2. Fill Light – the fill light shines on the subject but from a side angle to lessen the shadow produced by the key light. It’s typically diffused and about half the brightness of the key light. If your light is too bright and producing more shadowing, you can use a reflector to soften the light – pointing the fill light at the reflector and reflecting the diffused light on the subject.
  3. Back Light – also known as the rim, hair, or shoulder light, this light shines on the subject from behind, distinguishing the subject from the background. Some people use it to the side to enhance the hair (known as the kicker). Many videographers use a monolight that’s directly focused instead of a highly diffused overhead.

Be sure to leave some distance between your subject and the background so that your viewers focus on you rather than your surroundings.

How to Set Up 3-Point Lighting

Here’s a fantastic, informative video on how to properly set up 3-point lighting.

Recommended Lighting, Color Temperature, and Diffusers

At the recommendation of my videographer, I purchased the ultra-portable Aputure Amaran LED lights and 3 of the frost diffuser kits. The lights can be powered directly with two battery packs or plugged in with the accompanying power supply. We even purchased wheels so we could easily roll them around the office as needed.

Aputure Amaran LED Lighting Kit

These lights provide the ability to adjust the color temperature. One of the mistakes many new videographers make is that they mix color temperatures. If you are in a lit room, you may wish to shut off any lights in there to avoid a color temperature clash. We set close our blinds, turn off the overhead lights, and set our LED lights to 5600K to provide a cool temperature.

Aputure Frost Diffuser

We’re also going to be installing some overhead soft video studio lighting above our podcasting table so that we can do live shots of our podcast via Facebook Live and YouTube Live. It’s a bit of a construction job as we have to build a supporting frame that as well.

Aputure Amaran LED lights Frost Diffuser Kits

Disclosure: We’re utilizing our affiliate links in this post.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and CEO of DK New Media. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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