Basics of Webinar Lighting on a Budget

By Sharat Sharan, John Carucci

Somewhere between the unflattering look of restroom illumination and the vibrant glow of your morning news program lies the perfect look for your webinar’s talking head. Now you may think that the lighting in your conference room or office looks pretty good, and it’s entirely possible that you’re right.

But a more likely scenario is the available lighting that appears acceptable when you’re walking around the office doesn’t translate too well on camera. Overhead fluorescent lighting tends to produce unflattering color and shadows on the face, or has a wide light ratio that looks like the outfield at Wrigley Field in the mid-afternoon.

By the way, that’s when the scene shows both dark shadows and blown-out highlights. Either scenario provides more of a distraction than proper illumination. You don’t need a fancy lighting kit to effectively illuminate your presenter, nor do you need a lot of space to adequately light a simple situation.

But as the presentation size increases, it’s often necessary to consider more sophisticated lighting design. You need to consider locations that are big enough to not only support the speakers, but that also provide enough room for adequate lighting.

Consider the minimum space required to light each of the following scenarios:

  • Desktop: A small light on the desk or podium can work, provided that the illumination isn’t harsh.

  • Single speaker with video camera: Be sure there’s enough room in front of the speaker for a tripod-mounted camcorder, and at least one light on a stand next to it.

  • Multi-camera: You’ll obviously need a little more room to fit another camera, most likely on the opposite side of the room. Be sure your space can handle it.

  • Moderated panel: This is the most challenging in terms of logistics because it’s not much different than prepping for a television news show. You must be sure that each participant is properly illuminated, and that requires the lights to be effectively arranged. You’ll also need enough room for at least one static camera and another to move freely on a dolly.

The light can be simple. Have a main light on your face at a 45-degree angle and a white bounce card out of camera range.