First impressions are everything when it comes to live streaming, and the correct lighting can make a huge difference for improving overall video quality.
Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than simply directing a couple of brightly lit bulbs in your general direction. And although you may want to cut costs, your stream may suffer if you don’t get it right.
The most successful streamers use professional lighting in their setups, which include tools such as; soft boxes, ring lights, or even LED panels to achieve their natural light.
These products are able reduce dark shadows by casting light over a large surface area, and are ideal for illuminating green screens.
Below we will provide you with all the basic information to help get you up to speed.
What is soft light?
Soft boxes, Ring lights or LEDs?
How to get good lighting for streaming?
How to set up “Three point lighting”?
Lighting a Green Screen.
Soft light or hard light?
There are two different light sources you need to be aware of; soft light and hard light.
What is soft light?
Soft light is a type of light that has very few hard shadows and tends to “wrap” around objects . Although it is still bright, this spread of lighting is much more even. It best resembles being outside on a cloudy day.
What is hard light?
Hard light is the opposite. This type of light is considered a “point light source” that can be strongly focused towards a spot. Hard light will create strong shadows behind a subject, and instead resembles being outside on a sunny day.
The hardness or softness of light depends on two major factors:
- The distance – The closer the light source, the softer It becomes.
- The size of the light source -- The larger the source, the softer it becomes.
The angle will also affect the size due to the concentration of light in a particular area. The larger the angle, the softer the light source.
What light to use for streaming?
Soft light is the best type of lighting for streaming. It will do a much better job at lighting up an area around you to reduce the shadows, and consequently cast a light that is more flattering on camera. Professional products that create soft light are; soft boxes, ring lights or LED panels.
All of these products are commonly used in photography and film making, so you know they are going to get the job done.
How are they different?
Soft boxes are often larger in size and use bulbs instead of LEDs. They create diffused light by bouncing light of a second surface known as an umbrella reflector. The umbrella reflector is enclosed around the bulb and lined with a metallic fabric surface.
Ring lights are narrow in depth, and usually use LEDs. The circular ring-like shape allows you to position your camera in the center so that it’s facing towards you. The color temperature is also controllable on some devices.
LED panels consist of multiple LED’s spread over a large surface area. They work in a very similar way to ring lights but often have removable diffuser color filters.
What’s better a soft box a ring light?
A ring light is a bit more direct, while the soft box will do a better job of spreading light throughout the entire work space. Choosing between them will mostly depend on how much room you have in your studio.
A soft box does have some other advantages that might come in useful for your needs. They will do a much better job at lighting up a green screen; if you decide to go down that route, and you can use them with bounce boards to spread light evenly around the room.
Soft boxes do also have their own disadvantages. Other than taking up a lot more space, the standard bulbs can get much hotter than LED’s, so having good ventilation in your room is another thing to be aware of. No one wants to be melting away when they’re live streaming on camera!
(The Neewer soft box below does also have an option to come with LED bulb’s).
Overall, If you have the space, we suggest you go with a soft box. If not, then go for the ring lights or LED panels.
What is the best light for streaming?
1. Neewer Bi-Color Dimmable LED Softbox Lighting Kit
The Neewer Bi-Color Soft box is a premium kit for streamers who are looking for affordable quality. The lights in this soft box are LED-based, so you can adjust the brightness from 1% to 100%, and run them from rechargeable batteries.
The versatile 45W LED bulbs can change between two color temperatures ranging from pure white light (daylight) and warm light. At a click of a button you will be able to define the clarity of saturation and get stunning lighting for your streaming.
The kit includes an adjustable aluminum frame that is fully adjustable and can lock into place. The simple set-up design means you’ll be up and running in just a few minutes!
2. Julius Studio Lighting Photography SoftBox
The Julius Studio Soft box kit is currently one of the best budget lighting options in the market. You can choose between packs of 2’s, 3’s, or you can even buy them individually. The kit includes everything you need to own for professional lighting, and even comes with a heavy duty carry bag.
The large 20″ X 28″ reflectors will help you to remove the shadow, minimize light loss, and maximize the light spread. The 85w florescent spiral bulbs are able to save up to 80% of energy but that doesn’t make them lack any quality. They are also included in the kit.
It has three height-adjustable leg stages and a sturdy base so you can customize the height as you prefer. Once you have this pack, your lighting problems are virtually solved. It’s a great investment for any streamer who is looking to grow.
3. Neewer Ring Light Kit
The Neewer 18″ 55W, 5500K ring light kit is a must-have for anyone who prefers the slim design of a ring light instead of a soft box. The outer shell contains 240 individual LED’s. Not only will they create an even spread of natural lighting, but also produce astonishing brightness.
It has a dimmable range of 1%-100% so you can fully control the clarity of the image. Unfortunately the color temperature is not quite as easily adjustable, and instead includes two plastic color filters (orange and white) that you have to manually change yourself.
This ring light has a built-in camera mount which might be a deal breaker for anyone wanting to record with a DSLR or a Mirrorless camera. The mount will safely position your camera inside the center of the ring to light up your face from the front.
4. Ubeesize Ring light
The 8″ Ubeesize Ring light has three separate color modes (white, warm white, and warm yellow). You might be wondering if these little budget selfie ring lights are powerful enough to light up a webcam background and I can assure you they are owning two myself.
They’re perfect for lighting up a small area a few feet away from you, and will manage this fine on the lowest light setting. However if you have a larger area, they are not big enough to properly light a medium size room or a green screen.
These lights include an extendable tripod stand that you can alter as you want, and easily rotate over a 180 degrees. To summarize; they are light in weight, robust, and if you are only lighting up a small area you might be surprised with just how well they work.
Do I need a soft box or ring light for streaming?
Soft boxes and right lights are the most common methods used by streamers; however, another alternative is using LED panels. Most LED’s are spot-focused lights, but you can also find them in large dimmable panels that dissipate light over a wider area.
If you don’t have any at home, you may want to invest in these:
1. The Elgato Key Light
The Elgato Key Light is an LED lamp that has been built specifically for streaming. Unlike conventional studio lighting that can clutter up your setup, it comes with a long extendable pole-mount that sits flush against the wall, and you can simply clamp it to your desk.
The 2800-lumen output was designed to keep heat low and prevent you from sweating in the heat of the action. It’s made with a opal glass face to create glare-free diffusion, and contains 160 premium LED’s that you can you can dim down to a subtle glow.
The color temperature range is also fully adjustable. All adjustments to the lighting brightness or temperature can be made on hand via the smartphone controlled center app. This means you can sit back and control your streams lighting surroundings at a click of a button!
Although it’s a bit more expensive than the soft boxes -- if you do have the money, this would be an awesome investment.
2. Neewer Dimmable 5600K Light Pannel (2 Pack)
For a cheaper alternative, Neewer manufacture their own LED light Panel kit. The “2 Pack” package includes everything you need to get started, including the tripod stand and extended USB cables.
The dimmable 5600k light panel has more than enough power needed to light up small to medium size setups. It is 180 degree adjustable making it easy to find a suitable shooting angle. You can easily extend the tripod when positioned on the floor, or even unfold it when high up on the desk.
In comparison to the Elgato Key Light, these lights are a bit more limited in terms of adjustable functions. To change the color temperature you have to manually swap out the four color filter sleeves, and the dimmable range only goes from 10 percent to 100.
If that doesn’t bother you, then all in all -- this lighting will be perfect for anyone looking to build a streaming setup on a budget.
How do I get good lighting for streaming?
The “Three point lighting” technique is the standard method used for lighting up a subject. It involves using three main lights; the key light, fill light and a back light. This versatile technique produces an adequate amount of light for streaming, and forms the basis of most professional lighting setups.
This is the primary light source. It is the most direct and has the strongest influence on the scene. The key light is placed either side of the camera and is used to illuminate the subject at an angle.
This is the secondary light source. Its job is to cancel out the shadows created by the key light. The fill light is less powerful than the key light and is placed on the opposite side of the subject.
You can use a back light to light the subject from behind. Instead of providing direct lighting (like the key and fill), its purpose is to add subtle highlights and definition to the scene. The back light is often placed higher than the subject and at an angle.
If you have a fourth light, an additional light up can be used to illuminate the rest of the background .
How to set up 3 point lighting for streaming?
As you can see in the diagram above, setting up the lights around you is a fairly simple process.
You can use either any of the lighting methods mentioned (soft box, ring light, or LED panels), in the position of the fill/ key lights.
Ideally you would have a third light for the background too. If you don’t, then you might be able to save some money by using a desktop lamp with a diffusing cover on top.
If your lighting is too strong, a good way to remedy this is by increasing the angle, or by bouncing the light off from a white surface such a wall or curtains to diffuse it even more.
How do I light a green screen for streaming?
A perfect spread of even lighting is key for an effective green screen. To achieve this position two soft boxes towards the green screen at angles, (a key light and fill light). Then, enclose the camera with an additional ring light from the front to light the subject.
This method should remove any shadows from your background and the streamer. It’s important to have the background brightly lit as shadows will cause dark, patchy “distorted” effects to show up on your chroma key software.
Another tip is to make sure the light source is not too close to the green screen or pointed directly at it. This will cause the green light to reflect back at you, and prevent you from having a nice consistent outline around your body.
We hope you found this post on streaming lighting useful:
Click here for a list of streaming essentials to get you started on Twitch!