So, you’ve got yourself a sweet gaming rig and a Twitch account. You’re all ready to start streaming, right! Technically, yes. But if you want to look like a pro, you’ll need quality lighting.
So, how do you build your lighting setup to get that professional look? Let’s walk through the process, starting with the basics.
Streaming Lighting Basics
The first thing to understand about video lighting is that there are actually different types of lighting. This means you’ll have to go a little bit further than just a simple desk lamp. The good news is that most if this equipment is relatively affordable, so you’ll still have money left for that next DLC.
A “key light” is just another name for the main light that does the bulk of the work. Most of these lights clamp onto your desk and are designed to sit just behind and above your camera. However, some other models, called “ring lights”, actually surround your camera. The ones we’ll be looking at today are either tripod-mounted or clamp mounted.
The problem with using a key light all by itself is that it’s going to create unwanted highlights and shadows. A fill light is the solution to this. Your fill light typically goes off to the side or down lower, to balance out these shadows.
It should be the same color temperature as your key light – we’ll talk about that in a second. But it should be less bright, so as not to overpower the effect of the key light.
We won’t be looking at tripods or other options today, but it’s important to point out that you can pay a few extra bucks for an even more professional look. One popular option is to use softboxes, the big, box-shaped lights you’ll see in professional photography studios. The downside of a softbox is that it takes up a lot of space, so we won’t be looking at any of them today.
Streaming Lighting Advanced Tips
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. For example, where should you position your lights? And how do you light up your background? Let’s take a closer look, so you can make a better decision when choosing your lights.
Loop lighting is the most popular lighting setup for beginners, since it’s simple to set up and relatively affordable. In this setup, you position the key light just higher than your eye level, and just to one side of your camera. You position a single fill light slightly below your eye level and off to the other side. If you’re looking for a quick and dirty setup that still looks stream-worthy, this is your best bet.
3-point lighting is the type of setup you’ll see most commonly in photographer studios. As the name implies, it involves the use of 3 lights. However, it also requires significantly more space than loop lighting.
You position the key light at a 45-degree angle to the camera, off to one side. You position the fill light at an opposing 45-degree angle off to the other side. The third light is called the backlight, and you position it 180 degrees from the fill light. By placing this third light behind you, you’re creating contours, drawing attention to you and away from the background.
Whether or not you want to use a backlight is going to depend on your background. In a backlit setup, there’s an additional light that shines behind you, illuminating your background. If you want to show off your game collection or special edition collectibles, go for it! If you’re streaming in your messy bedroom, you should probably avoid it.
One area where backlighting is very beneficial is if you’re using a green screen. A backlight will ensure that the green screen is evenly lit. This can help prevent glitches and green screen pop-in.
Lighting Color Temperature
When you’re choosing and setting up your lights, it’s important to consider the color temperature of the lighting. Color temperature simply refers to the exact hue of the light. For example, some lights have an orange or yellow hue, others are bright white, and others have a blue cast.
To measure color temperature, we use a scale called Degrees Kelvin (K). This has nothing to do with the temperature measurement you learned about in high school physics. Instead, it measures how “cool” or “warm” the light is, in a scale that runs from the low hundreds up to 10000.
A light with a Kelvin rating of 3000 or less is going to have an orange hue. Meanwhile, a blue light is going to be on the other end of the scale, from 6000 on up. Lights that fall between 3000 and 6000K are a more neutral white. Generally, you’re going to want a light that falls somewhere in this range.
Don’t Forget to Adjust Your Webcam!
Regardless of your lighting setup, you’re probably going to want to adjust your camera’s settings. Not only will this massively improve the quality of your video, it’s also totally free. Before you tweak your settings, make sure to set up the lights you’re actually going to be using. Turn your monitor on, as well, since it also produces light!
Next, you’ll need to access your webcam settings. Depending on your webcam, you’ll either have a dedicated software package, or you’ll need to use your streaming software. Turn off anything that has the word “auto” in it. Auto-exposure, auto-gain, auto-white balance, and so forth won’t get you the optimal image. Now you can manually adjust these settings so your picture looks exactly the way you want it to.
Unless you’re already a video expert, this is going to take some trial and error to get right. One thing you’re almost certainly going to want to do is turn the exposure time way down, since automatic settings tend to be far too high. Similarly, you’ll want to turn down the white balance. Because your monitor gives off blue light, too much white balance is going to give you a pasty, zombie-like appearance.
Best Budget Light For Streaming: Emart 60 LED
If you want to get started for cheap, the Emart 60 LED is a great way to go. With this kit, you get not one, but two LED lights, so you’re ready to go with both a key light and a fill light. Both lights are adjustable to either 3300 or 5500K, so you can adjust somewhat for different color scenarios. That said, there’s no variable adjustment, so you can’t set the temperature anywhere between these numbers.
The 60 LED lights don’t produce a very broad beam, so they’ll need to be close in order to be effective. On the other hand, they’re tripod-mounted, so you can position them right on your desk. And they’re very bright, so you won’t have any significant issues with your lights being too dim.
The tripod mounts feature easy-to-use pivots, so it’s easy to get the exact angle you want. In addition, the height is adjustable, so it’s easy to position the lights at different heights. Be careful, though; the tripod feet don’t have any rubber feet, so they might scratch your desk if you don’t put them on a mat.
In addition to the lights themselves, you also get a set of eight gels, four for each light. These come in white, blue, red, and orange. The most useful is the white gel, which simply dims the light. Use this one on your fill light, and you’ll be good to go.
Best Value Light For Streaming: Neewer Super Slim
The Neewer Super Slim is an excellent choice if you want to get the most bang for your buck. It comes at a reasonable price, but still provides plenty of value.
If you want to plug the Super Slim into your wall outlet, like 99% of streamers will do, then you’re set! But the Super Slim can also be battery operated, which makes it a great choice for travel. So if you want to stream from a friend’s house, you won’t have to worry about power.
If you go with the battery option then may need to charge the battery every few hours depending on usage. Then again, it supports having two batteries at once, which you can buy as a set in 2200mAh or 6600mAh so you have to deal with swapping all the time. A USB charger also comes with the kit, so you can easily charge the batteries.
The light itself has a fully adjustable temperature range, anywhere from 3200 to 5600K, and the brightness is also adjustable. This makes the Super Slim highly versatile, suitable for a wide variety of setups. On the back of the light, you’ll find a small LCD screen with a pair of adjustment dials. In addition to the color temperature and brightness, the screen also displays your current battery level.
The tripod mount itself is very well designed and can pivot 180 degrees. You won’t have any issue adjusting the light properly. Use it as a key light or a fill light. The choice is up to you.
Best Premium Light For Streaming: Elgato Key Light
So, you want the best streaming light, and you’re not concerned about spending a few extra bucks? In that case, the Elgato Key Light is a fantastic choice. As its name implies, it’s designed primarily as a key light, and it clamps directly to the back of your desk. The stand is adjustable, so it’s suitable for use with just about any battlestation.
Indeed, when it comes to the Elgato Key Light, adjustability is the name of the game. You can adjust the color temperature from 2900 to 7000K, the widest range of any light on our list. In addition, you can adjust the lumens, up to an incredibly bright maximum of 2,800 lumens.
The light itself has a slim design, with no control patterns to clutter up the design. And the solid aluminum frame gives you the best durability of any light we’ve looked at. If you’re streaming on the go, you can throw it in a backpack and not have to worry about it getting easily smashed.
So, with no control panel, how do you adjust your light settings? This is a Corsair product, so as you might expect, there’s an app for that. Connect the light to your WiFi network, and adjust all of the settings from your PC or smartphone. Alternatively, if you own a Stream Deck, the Elgato Key Light is compatible.
You also won’t have any issues with power. The light uses a standard AC cord, so you plug it right into your wall outlet. To wrap it all up, you get Corsair’s 2-year replacement warranty. Not bad!