Setting up the lighting for your home office, a webinar, or other virtual presentation involves choosing your lights, choosing their location, and testing various combinations to enable you to give the best presentation possible.

Prepare for the shoot by first by checking out your location ahead of time. Consider the natural lighting first –  but be aware that natural lighting can change in an instant. The best shooting environment is one in which you have as much control over the lighting as possible. Webcams automatically adjust to the brightest source of light – if that light is behind you, you’re no longer the focus. Avoid being backlit by making sure you’re facing toward, not away from, a window or another light source.

The lights you choose can range from a simple desk lamp to a complete videographer’s system – your needs and budget will dictate these choices. On-camera lights mount atop the camera, and work best if a diffuser is used. Large shaded lamps can provide soft lighting when placed out of camera range.

There are a number of lighting options available, again, often dictated by your budget. Clamp lights are versatile and can be mounted in a variety of ways, but they lack dimming control and produce a hard light. To counteract this, use some type of diffusion material to help spread the light evenly. Diffusion materials can be purchased, or even made from tracing paper sheets, wax paper, light curtain fabric, or nylon material. You can also bounce the light off a surface like a wall, ceiling, or reflector to create soft light. In the mid-range budget, sets of studio lights can be purchased for about $100-$500 US. They commonly include fluorescent lights and effective diffusion material. They may also include light stands for quick set-up and greater control. Higher price range video lighting kits can feature such items as full range dimmers, wireless control, ability to change color quickly, better diffusion, and stronger output. They may be available for rent.

Once you have decided upon your lighting, start to experiment with the classic 3 point lighting setup. This configuration includes:

  • The key light – the brightest of the three and primary lighting of your subject;
  • The fill light  – which eliminates shadows caused by the key light; and,
  • The backlight – which separates your subject from the background to create depth and prevent a flat looking shot.