Do I Need a Light?
Updated: Jul 28, 2021
I get asked this question all the time in our 1-day videography courses.
And to be honest, I used only natural light for a long time when I started making videos.
But if you're looking to instantly make your videos look more professional – a light is your best friend.
But it doesn't have to be complicated.
Lights used to be one of the more expensive items of gear.
But now LED panels have made it incredibly cheap and convenient.
You might have heard of 3-point lighting? In a perfect world you might have the time, money and space for such a system.
But honestly... you just don't need it.
Having just one light as your key light (your primary and direct source of light) will make a huge impact on your video.
For my own work I only use one LED panel to light my interviews. It allows me to illuminate my subject and make them pop from the background. Like in the diagram, the key light should be directed from an angle rather than the front. This creates some shadow and gives it a more cinematic feel, rather than a flat look.
Here's a great example:
Source: Cinema Mastery Lighting Secrets
It makes a huge difference, right?
So in a nut shell, lights will enable you to:
Create depth in your shot by separating your subject from the background.
Make your shot more cinematic with shadows
Combat unflattering lighting conditions.
Now, what lights should you buy?
Like I said, LED panels have drastically changed the game.
They're the future of lights.
And from my own experience, the 'Neewer' LED panels on Amazon are absolutely fantastic value for money. They're incredibly robust and I always recommend them to our students.
Here's the deal:
LED light ($93)
These are amazing. The best thing is that they're 'bi-colour,' meaning you can adjust the light from cold (white) to warm (yellow). They're also super easy to use and great quality.
Light stand ($37)
You'll need one of these to put your light on.
Batteries ($53) – optional
Optional because you can plug the light into the wall – but being battery powered opens up a world of creative opportunities. You can literally be in the middle of field and use your light. It's also possible to get really experimental with the LED panels whilst off the stand. I'd highly, highly recommend them for the convenience.
Double pack with everything included ($300)
What's better than one light? Two!
Particularly if you're trying to make a studio, as you'll need a second light for your background. It can also act as your 'fill light' from the 3-point lighting system.
The combo pack is even better value for money and includes the stands & batteries.
If there's one problem with LED panels, it's that they can be slightly harsh on your subject.
To help diffuse the light, you can put a softbox over your LED panel. It still won't be as flattering as a professional light ($1000+), but it can certainly make a difference.
So there you have it.
Lighting does not need to be complicated.