zoom in on lighting yourself

Zoom logo with lights sparkling in the background

It doesn’t take too much effort to put across a good, clear image in a Zoom call, video or Facebook Live, even with the kind of standard webcam technology that comes on your average laptop or tablet.   Just like our eyes, cameras need light to render a good image. When there’s not enough light, too much light or a light is pointed in the wrong direction, it can cause cameras to render a lower quality image. It’s important to know how to set up and use proper lighting so you can put your best face forward, so to speak, in your Zoom calls.

Camera, Lights Action!

Lighting for a Zoom call takes into consideration how your camera will read different light sources, but before you adjust your lighting, you’ll want to get your camera positioning right. By far the most common issue with Zoom calls and videos is the position of the camera. There are 2 critical things to remember:

  • Keep it eye-level – looking up someone’s nostrils is not something anyone wants to see.
  • Keep it constant – frequently changing camera angles will distract your viewers and can be a turn-off.

With the basics right, let’s take a look at some lighting tips and techniques to get you ready for your close up… 

Key Light: unlocking the secret of great video lighting

The number one thing to keep in mind when meeting over Zoom: webcams automatically adjust to and record the brightest source of light. This is known as the key light. 

If your key light source is shining down from above your head, it will put your face in shadow and people will not be able to see your face, or expressions, clearly.  If that light is behind you, you’re no longer the focus. Avoid being backlit by making sure you’re facing toward, not away from, a window or another light source.

The best placement of your key light source is close behind your camera, coming from the same direction your camera is pointing. Position this light source as close to the camera as you can without it shining directly into your eyes.

Top Tip:  if you don’t have a good forward-facing light source, open up a white image or Word document on your monitor or laptop and use that as a light source on your face. 

Balancing Act: putting your best face forward

Making sure your webcam lighting is balanced is important to make sure you’re visible. One light above or below you can cause dark shadows on your face.  Adding light sources either side of you and/or from different angles to the key light will even out your lighting and help keep the focus on what is important – you!

If your light source is too bright, it can wash out your face and make it difficult to concentrate on your facial features. Even the most popular YouTube stars aren’t immune to this and over-lit themselves which made it difficult to see what exactly they were doing.

To fix this, try moving your lighting source further away from your face and let your camera automatically adjust the balance. If that’s still too bright, try softening the light with a diffuser or use a silvered bulb.

Top Tip:  Think of a clock: if you’re facing noon, try to position a light source at 11am and another at 2pm. Used together with a key light you’ll have created a simple three-point lighting setup: a method used by professional cinematographers and photographers.

Setting the Scene

Lighting for a Zoom call should take into consideration how your camera will read different light sources. Got some natural light in the room? Your camera will actually display that with a different colour temperature than in artificial light – e.g. the key light. A bulb with a high colour rendering index (CRI) is able to show the true colours of every object in a room.

While you should be the focus, you also need to think about your background; you don’t want to distract attention by highlighting a messy room or look like you’re sitting in a dark cave. Soft low-level (known as kicker) lighting at floor level or out of shot will provide ambient light that will reduce any harsh contrasts and distractions from the main event going on in the foreground.  Choose lights with a yellow-ish tone (not a harsh blue-tone) as this will create a sense of warmth and will feel welcoming. You can try using table lamps as a convenient option.

Top Tip: Test your set up before you go live. Once you find a setup that works for you, keep it as is! You won’t have to spend more time setting it up for your next Zoom call.

Ready for your close up?

With a little thought and planning, you can achieve great results and positive experiences for your viewers that are a real alternative to face-to-face interaction – keeping you closely connected without adding a lot of cost.

For more articles on getting great lighting – whatever your lifestyle – or if you’re interested in upgrading the lighting in your home or office space, get in touch with us.

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