Best Lighting for YouTube Videos (Simple & CHEAP Video Lighting!)

Lighting is a critical element of any video. But it’s not as hard as most people think! By focussing on a few key areas you can easily create an awesome video lighting setup.

Whether you’re looking for a more professional YouTube studio lighting setup or something you can quickly set up at home, this guide will provide some great cheap lighting options for you.

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In this complete YouTube video lighting tutorial, we’ll share the BEST lighting for YouTube videos – for beginners! You’ll learn how to professionally light your videos on a budget. 

Here’s exactly what we’ll cover: 

Make sure you hang around until the end to hear our top lighting tips that will help you create quality content consistently. Plus we’ll share the exact YouTube lighting setup we use for our YouTube videos here at Primal Video. 

Before we get started, there are two key things you need to remember when lighting your video content. 

#1 Lighting Is Creative

It’s an art. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. You can dramatically change the look and feel of your entire video with lighting. So take on board what we’re showing you in this guide and then get creative using these different elements. 

Getting the right YouTube video lighting is a creative process

#2 Light The Presenter First

Focus on lighting yourself or the subject of your video first. Don’t worry about the background or what’s going on behind you. The priority is making sure your viewers are focused on you and the content you’re delivering. Then if you’ve got extra time or lights, that’s when you can look at the background lighting. 

Always light the presenter or subject of the video first, then the background lighting second

Now we’re going to take you through a few different lighting setups. You don’t need to stress if you don’t have fancy lights – there are great solutions for you too. 

Let’s get started. 

Lighting Videos With No Lights

This is what our YouTube filming studio looks like with no lights on. The light you see coming through is from a big window on the side of the room. 

Looking for the best cheap lighting for YouTube videos? Start with natural lighting – it’s free! 

So if you don’t have any lights, a great place to start is by sitting in front of a window. 

This is what it looks like when Justin faces the window with NO extra lights. Sure, it is pretty dark in the background but we can address that later if we want to. So far Justin is well lit, separated from the background and viewers are able to easily focus on him and the content. 

This is a great place to start with your studio lighting setup 

This is a great reminder to use what you already have access to. You don’t need to buy the latest and greatest lighting gear. There’s a very good chance you’ve already got enough right now to get started. Then you can upgrade as and when you need to down the track.

You can get great results using natural lighting and any lights that you have laying around (lamps, desk lights, etc.) to light up your face or the subject of your video. 

But even adding one additional background light could change the shot completely. For example, putting on the ceiling lights can be a great way to light up the background. The main light is still coming from the window but then the background will be more visible. 

Lighting Videos With Ceiling Lights

Depending on the room you’re filming in, the ceiling lights can improve your lighting or they can make it really difficult for you to film. This is all based on where the lights are positioned and where you’re going to be sitting or standing. 

If you place yourself directly below a ceiling light, it’s going to create horrible shadows. You might get dark shadows under your eyes and hotspots on your forehead. It usually won’t look great. 

If your ceiling lights aren’t creating a good video lighting setup, just turn them off 

So if your ideal filming location is underneath a ceiling light, we’d recommend positioning yourself away from the light so it’s lighting you up more evenly from the front instead of top down. Or you can always turn them off and use a different lighting option. 

Lighting Videos With One Light

Say you’ve got access to one light. Where should you put it and what will it look like?

For this example, we’re a big fan of using LED light panels. The one we’re using here is the Raleno LED Video Light (Small) which usually sells for around $42.

We love this Raleno light because it’s not too big, has a built-in battery life and it goes pretty bright! Best of all, it has a built-in diffuser. This means it throws a nice soft light which is what you want when you’re lighting up your face. 

This is an awesome option if you want cheap video lighting

You definitely don’t want this type of light to be at full brightness. You also don’t want it to be down low – this will create a horror movie effect. 

The ideal positioning is just above eye level. And if you want to have a neutral, even light with not too many shadows, make sure it’s near your camera or the direction you’re looking. 

If you want to have a more dramatic effect like something you’d see in films and documentaries, you can move the lighting to the side a bit to create some more shadows. 

Try and position your light above eye level and near the camera

PRO TIP: If you have a light that doesn’t have a built-in diffuser, you can dull the harshness by putting a pillow case or even some baking paper over the light. Or you can turn the brightness right up and bounce the light off the ceiling onto your face. 

Once you’re happy with the positioning of the light, you can put it on a light stand and out of your camera shot. 

Lighting Videos With Two Lights

If you’ve got two lights, there are two main options depending on the look you’re after. 

The first option is to use one to light yourself up and the other to light up the rest of your scene. 

If you have 2 lights to use in your video lighting setup, use one primary and one fill light

The second option is to light yourself up using both lights. 

This second option allows you to fill in some of those darker areas that the first light has left. You can have the main light on one side and the secondary light to the other side so those shadows are countered. Just make sure you dial down the brightness of the secondary light so it’s not very bright. 

This is a standard two-light setup: both lights in front of you, at about eye-level but at different light intensity levels. For our secondary light we’re using a Raleno LED Video Light (Big).

Keep your primary and fill light at different brightness levels 

Once you’ve set the position of your lights, you can put them on light stands so you don’t need to adjust them the next time you go to film.

You can also add in a background light if you want to dial in the look and feel of your video. 

Lighting Videos With Three Lights

A three light setup is something that’s really popular in films and documentaries – usually called a three point lighting setup. It’s similar to the two light setup we achieved using light panels. Here it is:

  1. Primary Light
  2. Fill light 
  3. Back light 

The back light creates some outline and depth in the shot by lighting up the subject from behind. 

You don’t need to have the light in the shot but you would typically have it up a bit higher than the subject using a light stand. 

Adding a back light will provide more cinematic lighting to your videos

You can see on Justin that it creates a glow-effect around the outline of his body. This helps separate him from the background. 

Now let’s dive into our top YouTube lighting tips. 

Top YouTube Lighting Tips

#1 Match The Color Temperature 

You really want to try and keep the color temperature the same on any lights that you’re using in your scene, especially the ones that are lighting you up. 

If they don’t match, you can get some really weird colors happening especially in skin tones. This can be pretty difficult to fix during the editing process so it’s best just to avoid it happening in the first place. 

#2 Keep Your Lights Above Eye Level

We already mentioned this earlier, but this tip becomes even more important if you’re wearing glasses. 

If your lights are at eye level, the light will reflect off your glasses and directly back to the camera lens. 

This can be avoided if the lights are up much higher. Then the light will reflect and bounce down so it won’t be visible in your shot. 

So always try to make sure your lights are positioned up high and off to the side to help remove any distracting reflections. Again, this can easily be achieved using light stands.

A quick rundown of the different studio lighting setup options

Our YouTube Studio Lighting Setup

This is our current YouTube lighting setup: 

  • Natural light (coming from the window)
  • Primary light with a big diffuser (this does a great job not just of lighting up Justin but also of lighting up the background because of its massive diffuser)
  • Ceiling lights (we fitted out the studio with Philips Hue Smart Light Globes which allows us to control the brightness and color of each individual light)
  • Lamp (adds a bit more color and depth to the scene without being too overpowering or distracting)

Even though there aren’t many shadows coming from the primary light thanks to the diffuser, the natural light from the window counters any shadows created by the primary light. 

Because we have the window on one side and the primary light on the other side, there are no dark shadows

This means we don’t need to have a dedicated second light as we’ve harnessed that natural light.

The smart bulbs used in the ceiling lights are definitely not something you need but it’s awesome to have that extra level of control. 

It gives us the ability to turn off the front ceiling lights so they’re not creating any weird shadows. They’re also full RGB lights so we can change them to be any color. This allows us to really dial in the feel of a video just by adjusting the color of the lighting. 

This is what our lighting setup for YouTube videos looks like in the Primal Video studio 

The lamp is a great way to make the background of the shot look more interesting without taking over any of the other lighting. 

So there you have it, our complete YouTube lighting tutorial. 

Don’t forget – the focus is on lighting yourself up. Then you can play around with the background lighting afterwards, because it’s definitely not as important. 

You don’t need to complicate this. Hopefully now you can understand the different types of lighting you can achieve really simply. 

Now that you’ve got your lighting sorted, find out why Justin uses a $15 microphone.

Recommended Gear & Resources

Check out an up-to-date list of all the gear, software & tools we use and recommend right now at Primal Video on our resources page here!

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