Recently, many of us have been thrown into the world of working remotely. Also, for many of us, this means meeting with colleagues and clients using video conferencing apps like Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Skype. This can all be pretty daunting. After all, this is work, not FaceTiming with the family. The requirements can look a little different. Today, we’re here to talk about lighting for video conferencing, and how you can absolutely nail it.
1. Windows: Friend or Foe?
The windows in your home office space can be an excellent source of natural light. Used incorrectly however, that natural light can work against you and wreck the image quality of the best video conferencing webcams. Placement is key. Never position yourself in front of a window so that the light source is behind you. You’ll end up silhouetted against the backlight and pretty much become invisible!
2. What color is your “white” light?
Ever noticed that the “white” light in your kitchen is different than the “white” light in your family room? One is more “bluish” and one is more “amber”. In lighting this is called color temperature, and it has a big effect on how you look on camera. The daylight that comes in your windows has a color temperature of 5600, while the lamps in your bedroom are probably closer to 3000. The lower the number, the more amber or orange the light looks. The higher the number, the more blue the light will look.
This is important because different color temperatures will have a more or less flattering effect on different skin tones. Generally speaking, daylight can make skin tones look a bit “washed out”, while lower (warmer) color temperature tends to give skin a nice hint of bronze glow. Finding the right color temperature for you will go a long way with how you look while video conferencing.
3. Multiple lights sources are a good thing.
Ok, so you’ve got a nice, bright desk lamp ready to go. That could work! But, as you may have noticed with some of your coworkers, you can easily look like you’re in an interrogation room with a bright light glaring off of one side of your face! The problem with using a single light source is that it creates uneven lighting with “hotspots” on one part of your face, and dark shadows on others. Not a good look.
In video production there is a concept called “three point lighting”. The simple version says – one light gets placed in front on either side of the camera (this is called the “key light). One light is placed on the side of the subject opposite the key light to fill shadows. Finally, one soft light is placed behind the subject and to the side (usually called a “hair light” or a “back light”). Using the three point light technique is the simplest way to create an even, beautiful lighting effect with ease.
4. Proper positioning
Do you remember telling a ghost story with a flashlight under your chin? Works well at summer camp, probably not so well when presenting your weekly report. The angle and position of your lighting is important to make sure you look your best in your video chat. Position your key and fill lighting roughly one to two feet above eye level and angled downward toward you for the best look. If the light is distracting, or blinding you, raise the light up slightly. If you’re noticing too much shadowing under your nose and chin, you’ll need to lower the light a bit.
5. Diffuse diffuse diffuse
If you’ve ever had to use a lamp without a lampshade you know just how great of an invention they are. Light coming directly off a lightbulb is harsh and casts hard shadows all over the place. A lamp shade “diffuses” the light, filtering it to make it gentler while at the same time casting softer shadows. This also happens to look much better on your face which makes you look better to your team.
6. Too much is probably just right
If you’ve ever been on stage, one of the first things you’ll notice is that those lights are BRIGHT! Many people that do end up going on stage at some point will tell you that they never realized just how bright stage and production lighting is. The simple fact is that lighting for these settings requires much more light than lighting for your family’s dining room. Achieving a truly professional look in your video chat requires more light than you’re probably thinking it does, but those professional results always look stellar.