5 Best Lighting Options for YouTube Videos
There’s just something special about the creative freedom the internet has given us. Content marketplaces like YouTube allow even the most inexperienced creators to get started and grow their audience.
YouTube also attracts long-term professionals and even TV personalities that produce unique YouTube content.
With all the professional competition, you’re probably wondering how content creators working out of home studios build their massive audiences and reputations. The answer, in part, is high-quality lighting.
Think about it. Even phone cameras can take decent quality HD videos nowadays. But, your home video probably doesn’t look much like the polished video content famous YouTubers put out every day. Why? You’re relying on the lighting in your home, while they carefully control their light sources.
Why is lighting so important? Think about how much more detail you can see outside at noon, in full natural light, than you can see in the evening at sunset. Cameras, even the ones designed for low-light settings, aren’t able to capture the same level of detail in low light as our eyes. They need more light to capture an image the way your more sensitive eyes see it.
So, lighting is one of the most important features of any home vlogging studio. Cameras, microphones, and other studio equipment are also important, but quality lighting is one of the biggest differences between novice videos and professional YouTuber success.
Fortunately, good video lighting isn’t rocket science. A little know-how, and the right equipment, and you’ll look just like the pros. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best light sources for YouTube, how each lighting style works, and some tips and tricks for setting up studio space that looks professionally lit.
|Julius Studio Video Light LED 160 Dimmable Ultra High Power Panel|
|Weight: 12 ounces|
|Lighting Style: Softbox|
|Comes with several different color light filters, plays well with natural lighting.|
|Neewer 14-inch Outer 12-inch Inner Dimmable Ring Light Lighting Kit|
|Weight: 8.6 pounds|
|Lighting Style: Ring|
|Moderate size suited to close up and distance vlogging, comes with 2 color filters for better lighting control.|
|Neewer Upgraded800W 5500K Softbox and Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit|
|Weight: 31.4 pounds|
|Lighting Style: Umbrella and Softbox multi-light kit|
|Complements more intense key lights very well, multiple light sources included.|
Types of Lighting
There are four basic lighting types that are great for YouTube and other video and photography content creation. Each have strengths and weaknesses, and many professional studios and YouTubers use a combination of these lighting types.
You can get stellar lighting with each type. Don’t worry if one seems too complicated, or if you don’t think you can afford to get a multi-light setup right away. We’ll also talk about which lighting system is best for a single affordable light source, and why.
In many ways, natural lighting is ideal when it comes to video content creation. It looks the least artificial, for obvious reasons, and is usually a very flattering lighting style.
Videos made using natural light look crisp and clear, but also warm since you’re able to take advantage of the full range of visible light. Shadows under natural light are usually softer. Natural light is also often more camera-friendly, so you’ll have to do less editing and processing work after your shoot.
But, natural light isn’t easy to work with. You need to have a good source of natural light, and shooting your videos outside is rarely a good option. Many YouTubers take advantage of large windows and even skylights in their homes when they use natural light.
It’s also more inconsistent than studio lighting. Even if you only film on sunny days, at exactly noon, and in the same spot, you’ll still have subtle light variations in every video. That cuts the consistency between your videos.
Seasonal differences in natural light may also affect the tone of your video more than you’d like. Winter light is cooler and bluer than summer light. Summer light is slightly warmer, usually yellow, than other seasons. Those differences may not seem that important in your day to day life, but they will impact your appearance on film quite a bit.
So, while natural light is advantageous and free, most content creators don’t use it. Or, if they do, they don’t use it exclusively. A combination of natural and studio light can be achieved, or you can use natural light when it’s best and studio light when the weather or seasons get in the way.
Softboxes and Light Panels
Another option for lighting is Softboxes or light panels. These aren’t the same thing, although they are similar. A softbox diffuses light more evenly, creating a softer overall effect. They also often come with filters in a variety of colors so you have more control over the appearance of your light.
A lightbox is usually brighter and more direct light, creating a crisp look. They are good for providing bright light to your set but can be a little intense. You also usually need more than one lightbox to avoid creating harsh shadows.
Both of these light sources work best when you have more than one. That’s because you need to create even light distribution, or close to even, on your subject. You may also need one or more light sources on your background, or backlighting your subject, to create the desired effect.
Overall, these are consistent light sources, but you will need to play around with placement and light distribution. Taking a little extra time in setting up your light sources will pay off with this style of lighting, but failure to do so can lead to weird shadows and harsh lines.
We’d recommend these to users with some lighting experience, who like spotlights and focusing the eye with light. They require a small amount of technical skill, and a good amount of patience to get right.
Philip Defranco is one Youtuber who uses softbox lights. Jacksepticeye and iJustine also use this style of light. Although, it’s especially common for softbox and lightbox users to use other sources and distributors in addition to their primary light source.
Umbrella lights are especially common in portrait and glamor photography, but they’re a good choice for video formats as well.
Umbrella lights are easy for anyone who knows how to work an umbrella. The light source is pointed at the umbrella, which then directs the light through the room. Distance between the umbrella and the subject determines how much light is focused where.
Fortunately, since these units are fairly lightweight and maneuverable, it’s easy to make adjustments. Usually, you’ll want more than one umbrella light if you’re using them as your primary light source. But, if you’re using a different key light (main source) you may only need one umbrella light to distribute light to the background.
Since they diffuse light evenly through space, umbrella lights tend to have a softer and more natural look compared with other studio lighting. They do create shadows, but the shadows are thin and soft, more like what you’d expect from sunlight than artificial light.
These are a fairly beginner-friendly lighting style, although they aren’t quite the easiest light source popular with YouTubers. That’s because most setups will require 2 or more Umbrella lights, and possibly a softbox or other light source, while other lighting styles may only need one piece of equipment and significantly less setup.
This is one of the easiest lighting options for YouTube videos. Ring lights are bright single-source light options that eliminate the shadows on your face and provide direct and bright lighting for the subject of your video.
They’re also a particularly flattering lighting style, drawing attention to your subject’s eyes, and helping eliminate harsh lines and imperfections by eliminating shadows and light contrast.
Often considered the go-to light source for beauty vloggers and makeup tutorials, this may be the most popular lighting style among big-name YouTubers right now. Casey Neistat includes ring lights in his setup, although he does use other lighting styles as well. Unbox Therapy utilized Ring Lights, as does Markiplier, PewDiePie, and Michelle Phan.
MKBHD, who also uses some of the best camera equipment in the business, uses ring lighting. That should be no surprise given his penchant for clear video with few noticeable shadows.
Other Lighting Accessories
The main other accessories you should consider are reflectors and diffusers.
Reflectors primarily come in white, which reproduces light similar to its source, gold, which adds a warmer tone to your light, and silver, which cools everything off for a crisp wintery look. Most reflector kits will come with some in each of these colors, so you don’t need to pick just one.
For instance, using a silver reflector to direct light going toward your background, and a gold reflector on your subject creates greater visual contrast and will draw viewers’ eyes toward your subject.
Diffusers are usually transparent or whitish, and their primary purpose is to spread light out across a room. They’re a good option for softening spotlights and eliminating some of the harshness of very direct light sources.
You’ll also occasionally see ‘diffusers’ and ‘reflectors’ that are black. These are important pieces of equipment but aren’t properly either diffusers or reflectors. The black coloring is specifically supposed to soak up light and prevent it from spreading to a specific area.
They’re useful for dimming the light around your subject, or creating a darker background, and eliminating unnecessary light. So, while these blockers aren’t serving the same purpose as diffusers and reflectors, they’re still a handy tool to keep around.
Other accessories might include a green screen for background effects, a bright LED spotlight, or even colored background lights. PewDiePie uses colored lights on a white wall to create visual interest, while Philip Defranco uses paper lanterns as a supplemental light source and decoration in one.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with unusual or non-professional light sources. In this, you’re primarily limited by your creativity and ingenuity. While some light will look better on camera than others, alternative light sources can add a spark of individuality to your videos. Being unique, in the world of content creation, is very much a good thing.
Best Lighting for YouTube Videos Comparison Table
|Image||Make and Model||Lighting Style||Price|
|Julius Studio Video Light LED 160 Dimmable Ultra High Power Panel||Softbox||Check Price|
|Aputure AL-528S Amaran 528 Bulb Spot Light||LightBox||Check Price|
|LimoStudio LED Ring Light 18-inch Diameter||Ring Light||Check Price|
|Neewer 14-inch Outer 12-inch Inner Dimmable Ring Light Lighting Kit||Ring Light||Check Price|
|Neewer Upgraded800W 5500K Softbox and Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit||Umbrella and Softbox multi-light kit||Check Price|
Best Lighting for YouTube Videos: Detailed Review
Lighting equipment isn’t high on the list of things most YouTubers discuss when they talk about their setup. So, while a YouTuber’s camera or microphone might be well known, usually the closest we get is the type of lighting they use rather than a specific brand or lighting kit.
So, instead of looking to match your lighting to the lighting of a particular YouTuber, let’s talk about some of the better sets of lighting equipment so that you can create your own unique setup.
Let’s get started.
Editors Rating: 4.6/5
This is a great entry-level light source that can also serve as you develop a larger or more sophisticated lighting setup. This softbox comes with several different light filters, letting you customize the color and feel of your light. It’s also a bargain compared with some light sources, and a great way to get started on a budget.
That said, you will probably need at least two of these, or more if you’re planning to use them as your primary light source and don’t have diffusers and other lighting equipment to complement them.
Relatively bright, soft enough to avoid harsh shadows (let’s not look like villains shall we?), and easy to set up, this is a very beginner-friendly light source.
The kit doesn’t come with any bells and whistles, however, so you may see higher equipment costs as you buy stands, diffusers, and other lighting aids. You won’t necessarily need those extras right out the gate, however, so don’t be too intimidated by the thought of extra accessories.
It’s a battery-operated light source, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Battery power makes this light source more portable, and you can use it to help light sets inside and outside. But, you should also always have an extra set of batteries on hand, otherwise, you might have light failure in the middle of a shoot.
While we primarily recommend this light source as a good option for beginning YouTubers, it’s a good complement to more advanced lighting setups. Once you have other lighting, this softbox is good as a secondary or background light source, or to add some color contrast to your lighting design.
|Battery: Requires either AA batteries or a Lithium Battery|
|Filter: Comes with 4 color filters|
|Color temperature: 5400K (3200k w/filter)|
|Item size: 5 1/4″ x 3 3/4″ x 1 3/4″ (L/W/H mm)|
|Lighting angle: 60 degree|
|Light Intensity: Dimmable, wide range of light intensity for different applications|
|Comes with several different color light filters|
|Portable and easy to set up|
|Diffuses light for less harsh shadows|
|Can be used as a primary light source or to supplement other light|
|Plays well with natural lighting|
|Battery operation lets you take your light outside of typical studio spaces|
|Most studios will need 2-3 of these Softboxes for adequate lighting|
|Battery operation means you need secondary batteries on hand|
|Not as bright or vibrant as higher-end light sources|
This is a solid choice but primarily aimed at beginners rather than experienced vloggers and photographers.
Editors Rating: 4.7/5
Led lighting is generally considered one of the better alternatives to natural light. It can easily be used as a primary light source or as a complement for natural lighting, depending on your shoot location.
The AL-528S is a solid choice when it comes to lightboxes that won’t break the bank. A little more direct and brighter than your typical softbox, this light source can be used on its own (if you’re alright with sharper contrasts) or in combination with other light sources and diffusers.
That said, it doesn’t come with any filters or other adaptors to change how the light looks in your studio space. If you’re not happy with the bright white LED light you’ll need to purchase diffusers and reflectors separately.
However, for most purposes, the bright white light offered by this lightbox is a good fit. It looks almost natural and can be positioned and angled many different ways to achieve different effects.
If you’re looking for something to add consistency to natural light, this may be a little bright, but it’s still an effective option.
At the end of the day we do still recommend using umbrella lighting, diffusers, or Softboxes in combination with this light, but it’ll do on its own in a pinch.
It’s also a fairly affordable light source. Not quite as affordable as our Best Bargain pick, but you won’t have to sell an arm and a leg to afford it either. In fact, you can probably buy a couple of these in place of more expensive LED lightboxes or spotlights and still achieve almost the same effect.
However, this is another battery-operated option. That gives you more location flexibility. Normally we would say that batteries sacrifice reliability in favor of flexibility, but this model also comes with an optional A/C adaptor for use in your home studio.
We think this is a good option for newbies and experienced vloggers, but it’s best complemented by a complete light setup rather than as a standalone piece of equipment.
|Battery: AC adapter or Lithium Batteries, Battery operation includes a battery power indicator|
|Temperature: 528 bulb Daylight Temperature|
|Color Temperature: 5500k|
|Product Weight: 4.4 pounds|
|Dimensions: 10.8 x 4.7 x 9 inches|
|LCD displays: From 10% to 99%|
|Spotted Lighting: 5000 Lumens|
|High quality, bright, white, LED light|
|Can be used in many different settings and angles for different effects|
|Can be used as a spotlight, a primary light source, or background lighting|
|Supplements natural light well|
|Energy-efficient bulbs make batteries last longer|
|Affordable alternative to more expensive LED setups, with similar-looking results|
|Requires Sony specific batteries (not included)|
|No cover on the LED, harsher light quality and harder on your eyes|
Slightly more reliable mid-tier option with a lot of flexibility.
Editors Rating: 4.8/5
The first ring light on our list, this is one of the few pieces of lighting equipment that’s a good standalone piece. If you’re looking to buy one light source to start with, even if you’re planning to add other equipment later, a ring light is a good way to go.
We’ve already talked a decent bit about the advantages of ring lighting, but it’s worth emphasizing for this light, and the next one, that ring lights are some of the most popular lighting equipment for big YouTubers.
This offering from LimoStudio is a reasonably affordable option, especially considering it may be the only lighting you need.
18 inches is a good size since you get a wider distribution of light with the larger offerings, but this light can be purchased smaller. Ring lights also cut down on the additional equipment you need to buy since they’re designed to hold your camera in the middle of the ring. This design cuts down on lighting glare, and completely eliminates the shadows from your face.
If you’re looking to film close to your camera like you would for makeup vlogs, you may want to go with a smaller version since the light from a larger ring is designed to cover a wider area and may wash you out if you get too close.
Light from these is also fairly intense, so you should think about whether you need to bounce the light off a wall, or use a slight angle and a different camera set up to give your eyes a break. Whichever setup you use, ring lights will still be the best standalone lighting for vlogs.
One major advantage of this particular ring light is the ability to change the light temperature to suit the mood of your video and the lighting needs of your set. Since these are designed to illuminate your face, we recommend trying the warmer settings and going from there.
|Smart Phone Holder: Compatible with Any Cellphone (360-degree adjustability)|
|Size: 18” diameter (other sizes available)|
|Type: LED SMD|
|Lighting Temperature: Wide spectrum of lighting temperature, Dimmable|
|Power: Energy efficient|
|Includes: Carry bag for the ring light|
|Bright, professional-quality light|
|Good standalone lighting|
|Designed to highlight your face and eyes|
|Popular with many of the biggest name YouTubers|
|Requires little additional equipment|
|Control the temperature of your light|
|Can be very bright and harsh for your eyes|
Editors Rating: 4.8/5
This slightly smaller version of a ring light (also available in different sizes) made out best value rating for several reasons. Neewer is a trusted name in lighting, and their products come up time and time again when it comes to YouTube Lighting.
More than that, however, is the reliability and affordability of this light. While slightly smaller than some ring lights, it’s also a very flexible size, capable of lighting a medium-sized space well or doing a more closeup style of vlog.
We also appreciated that this was an incredibly affordable option for those looking for a single light solution. While lighting is something you can spend as much as you want on, sometimes you need professional-looking results without the Hollywood production budget.
This is a Fluorescent, rather than an LED, but since ring lights eliminate shadows on your face, it doesn’t suffer from the common problems of a Fluorescent light. It’s dimmable, so you can control how much light you’re working with (and spare your eyes), and it’ll hold your camera for you.
You’ll also receive the stand and a couple of filters for greater control over your light. While you won’t have as many options as the previous ring light on our list in terms of light temperature and quality, we still found this to be the greater value for the price.
|Size: 14” outer diameter 12” inner diameter|
|Temperature: Fluorescent lighting|
|Product Weight: 8.6 pounds|
|Maximum stand height: 59 inches|
|Input Voltage: 110-130V|
|Color Temperature: 5500K|
|Comes with some additional lighting accessories|
|Comes with 2 color filters for better lighting control|
|Moderate size suited to close up and distance vlogging|
|Works as your primary light source can be used as a standalone light source|
|Not as many light options and variability as some competitors|
5. Neewer Upgraded 2.6×3 M/8.5×10 ft Background Support System with 800W 5500K Softbox and Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit (Top Pick)
Editors Rating: 4.9/5
For our final entry, rather than a single light, we wanted to include a lighting kit. While this kit says it was designed as a background light, it can be used as a complete kit for vlogging, or as a support system for a key light.
Either way, this is a beginner and professional friendly combination of umbrella lights and Softboxes. It’s also about the most complete kit you can get for starting a new home studio, especially for its price, since it also includes several lighting accessories and a fabric green screen backdrop.
This is a good option if you’re interested in lighting an entire space rather than just a specific person or area. It made out best overall entry because it’s the most complete kit, and also one of the most flexible options we’ve found for solid vlog lighting.
The umbrella lighting helps provide soft well-diffused light, perfect for your backdrop, while the softbox provides natural-looking light for a focal area. Or, switch it around and use the softbox to backlight your subject for a more dramatic but still natural-looking focus.
Since this is a kit, it benefits from the advantages of umbrella lighting and Softboxes both, so we’d encourage you to review the section on each lighting style earlier in this article if you want to know more about how this lighting system will work.
|Color Temperature: 5500K|
|Input Voltage: 110-130V|
|Total weight: 31.4 pounds|
|Standard Lamp base: E27|
|Height Adjustable: Min. 3.5 ft. – Max. 8.5 ft.|
|Includes: 2 umbrella lights and stands, two softboxes, and stands, carry bags, and adjustment clamps, fabric green screen backdrop|
|Multiple light sources included|
|Can be a complete studio kit at an affordable price|
|Complements more intense key lights very well|
|Designed for photographic and video use|
|Key accessories like stands and backdrops included|
|All the light is relatively diffuse. No specific key light or spotlight included|
With the addition of a key light, this is a fantastic setup.
- Types of Lighting
- Natural Lighting
- Softboxes and Light Panels
- Umbrella Lights
- Ring Lights
- Other Lighting Accessories
- Best Lighting for YouTube Videos Comparison Table
- Best Lighting for YouTube Videos: Detailed Review
- 1. Julius Studio Video Light LED 160 Dimmable Ultra High Power Panel (Best Budget)
- 2. Aputure AL-528S Amaran 528 Bulb Spot Light
- 3. LimoStudio LED Ring Light 18-inch
- 4. Neewer 14-inch Outer 12-inch Inner Dimmable Ring Light Lighting Kit (Best Value)
- 5. Neewer Upgraded 2.6×3 M/8.5×10 ft Background Support System with 800W 5500K Softbox and Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit (Top Pick)