Basics of Webinar Lighting - dummies

Basics of Webinar Lighting

By Sharat Sharan, John Carucci

Video webinar quality is only as good as the lighting on the scene. To look our best, humans require soft, directional illumination. Unfortunately, the only way this can happen in an office situation is if you were to lie on your back looking up while conducting your webinar.

Avant-garde shoots aside, that’s not a very good idea. Then again, neither is trying to figure out how to use a sophisticated lighting kit if you have no experience. But don’t fret — there are some simple solutions:

  • An on-camera light: If you’re using a video camera on a tripod, you can purchase this accessory that mounts atop the camera. The illumination is less than perfect, but with the proper diffusion (a filter or paper material to soften the light), it can work.

  • A portable soft box: A better solution is to use a portable soft bo to provide nice, even illumination. Basically, the box attaches over the light source. You can find them at your favorite camera store for around a hundred bucks.


  • Large shaded lamp: You can mimic the soft box look by using a translucent lampshade on your desk out of camera range.

Basics of lighting kits for webinars

When your needs are more ambitious, you can bring your own lighting kit to exercise proactive control at the scene. Light kits range in price from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. You can also buy them used for significantly less money.

Here’s a list of the components in the case and the role they play:

  • Light head: Using either a quartz lamp or LEDs, these high-output lights provide up to 1,000 watts of power or more.

  • Barn doors: This standard accessory attaches to the front of the light and uses four hinged metal doors to shape its beam as well as preventing the distinctive scatter of light.

  • Stand: Stands support the head and allow you to position the light at various angles and heights. Varying in size, they go from short and stout to quite high.

  • Umbrella: You can soften illumination from the light head by turning it away from the subject and bouncing into a reflective umbrella. This softens and diffuses the light and produces a flattering illumination for the subject. Umbrellas come in various sizes and reflective surfaces.

  • Soft box: A soft box is a large box-like enclosure that goes over the light head. The light reflects off the interior surface and it comes through the diffusing material at the front of the box, creating a soft, even illumination.

How to match the light to your webinar

Understanding lighting concepts is a start, but making sure that the lighting works for your situation is what really matters.

Consider the following:

  • Understand the nature of the light source: Some light sources offer a very narrow output, whereas others offer wider coverage. Keep in mind that they are bright up close to the subject, but the light falls off as the distance increases, so lights work best when the subject is at a fixed distance.

  • Try to balance artificial lighting with ambient light: After you establish the distance, adjust the light or camera setting so that the natural and camera light match exposure.

    Some lights have a dimmer control, which makes it easier to balance them with ambient light. If not, manipulate the balance by adjusting the camera-to-subject distance. The more closely you match the on-camera light with the ambient light of the scene, the more natural it will appear.

  • Be aware of color temperature: Each source of light differs in output color, varying from the tungsten-balances of 3,200K to 5,600K daylight.

    That means there can be a difference between a light source on the subject and the rest of the scene. If the camera is set for daylight (5500K) and the light source is tungsten (3200K), the speaker would have an orange color cast, whereas rest of the scene looks normal. The good news is that most include conversion filters to adjust back to tungsten or daylight.