No, you don’t need a videography course to nail zoom lighting. A year and a half ago, no one knew whether Zoom was going to be the newest way to conference or if it was just part of an interim phase. Well, now we know: Zoom meetings are a permanent feature of life. And while Zoom has changed our lives in so many amazing ways, one thing about it seems to frustrate us even 18 months after it hit our screens: Why does it seem to be so hard to set up perfect Zoom lighting?
Great question. Let’s take a look.
why is zoom lighting so hard?
The first reason it’s hard to set up Zoom lighting is that most of us have never thought about video lighting before. Why should we? We’re writers, computer programmers, IT people, social workers, teachers and everything in between. We’re not videographers.
Neither are most of us working with unlimited tech budgets. We don’t have money for high-ticket web cams and light stands and bounce boards. Or even mid-ticket equipment. Besides, even if we had a setup like this one, how would we use it?
But the good news is, you don’t need to be a videographer to set up Zoom lighting like a pro.
Every. Single. Time.
You just need to follow these tips.
set up zoom lighting using natural light
Hands down, the best way to set up fantastic Zoom lighting is to use natural light. That doesn’t mean you can just plunk your laptop on your patio table and be done with it, though. Here are some pointers for getting the best Zoom lighting out of the sunshine:
- The larger the source, the softer the light. What that means is, if you have a large bay window, the sunlight streaming through it will be much softer than the same sun streaming through a small window. And the softer the light, the more flattering and illuminating it is.
- Light still too bright? Whether your window is too small or the light coming through a large one is blinding, here’s an easy DIY fix: Hang a white sheet over the window to diffuse the light. And use masking tape, it won’t ruin the paint job.
- Whatever you do, don’t sit in front of your light source. Mrs. Temima Gass, who helps small business owners gain control of their operations through her company Uncommon Strategy, explains why placement matters. “If you sit in front of the window, your whole face falls into shadow,” she says. “No one can see you clearly that way. You want your light source to either face you or be a little off to either side.”
GREAT. BUT NOT ALL ZOOM MEETINGS TAKE PLACE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY.
So how do you set up perfect lighting at night?
Achieving a great lighting setup for nighttime Zoom meetings is definitely trickier. And it might involve buying a couple of light bulbs.
Because the first thing to do is ditch fluorescent light bulbs. They tend to cast weird shadows and even if they don’t, they usually trend either too yellow or too blue.
Let’s expand on this for a minute.
All fluorescent and LED lights have a shade range that’s measured using the Kelvin scale. The warmer the shade, the lower on the Kelvin scale it will be. As the shade range turns cooler, the rating on the Kelvin scale goes up. Light that is so cool it’s almost bluish is super-high.
Since what you’re trying to do when you set up your Zoom lighting is approximate daylight as much as possible, you’re going to want to stay away from fluorescent bulbs. Instead, buy LEDs that run between 5000-6500K. These bulbs are usually labeled “Daylight” because this is the range that simulates – well, daylight.
TAKE ZOOM LIGHTING UP A NOTCH
If you want to invest, you can purchase LED fixtures or clip-on lights that offer adjustable lighting. With these, you can play around with the shade until you find the one that’s perfect for your Zoom meeting.
“Whatever setup you have,” Mrs. Temima Gass suggests, “don’t forget that during nighttime meetings your screen emits light, too. So take a few minutes before the meeting starts to see how you look. If the glare from the screen is too harsh, just adjust the brightness level until you look like yourself again.”
DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET CREATIVE
Running a tight budget? Take a look around your office area and your home. According to Marisa Murgatroyd of Live Your Message you might have exactly what you need to pull off a genius hack that will let you set up perfect Zoom lighting every single time: the 3-point lighting setup.
Here’s how it works:
- Overhead. Position yourself so that you’re sitting just under and in front of an overhead light.
- Right. Place a lamp in front of you and to the right.
- Left. Place a lamp in front of you and to the left.
That’s it. That’s the whole thing. Now you just have to check how you look on Zoom and move the lamps (or yourself) closer or farther, and you’re done. This is a great tip to keep in mind if you’re going away and might need to take Zoom calls from a hotel room or an Airbnb.
(Unless, of course, you packed up your lighting setup and took it with you on vacation.)
So there you have it: all the tips you need to set up perfect Zoom lighting.
Which ones worked for you?