Down and Dirty Lighting Kit
How to put together an effective video lighting kit for less than $100.

You don't need to have a top-of-the-line lighting kit to make people look great on camera. Obviously it would be super sweet to have a 10-ton grip truck with a crew of gaffers at your disposal, but we don't all have Lucasfilm budgets. And we don't all have hours to throw at elaborate lighting setups! But not to fear, because if you're making your own video, you can still look dapper without breaking the bank.

We went to Home Depot and spent less than $100 buying the essential ingredients for a basic DIY lighting kit for shooting an interview. While this is not the be-all, end-all lighting technique, it is an attainable and repeatable way to keep people on camera looking like humans.

Sure, you can go crazy with intricate lighting setups, or even use the fabled "3-point lighting" to create some shadows and modeling on your subject's face. But for business video, it's the "Wistia Way" to shoot interviews with flat and even lighting.

Light, camera, and subject placement

The goal is to eliminate shadows and create soft, flat lighting on your subject's face. Here's a diagram to help you set up your shot.

Be sure to keep the 2 key lights slightly above your subject's eyeline. The light facing the background will help to create contrast and hide the subject's shadow.

The equipment list

If there's one thing to splurge on, it's bulbs. Look for daylight balanced bulbs with a high CRI (color render index). This will help to produce the highest quality and most flattering light possible.

Home Depot:

  • (x3) Clip Lights - $9 ea
  • (x3) Daylight Color CFL Bulbs (buy different wattage options for flexibility) - $2.75 ea
  • (x3) Spring Clips - $2 ea
  • (x3) 12ft Extension Cords - $2.50 ea
  • (x1) Package of Clothespins - $2.50 ea

If you want to save a trip to Home Depot, here are Amazon alternatives:

If you follow basic lighting principles, you can get pretty good results from going lo-fi. How did you build your first lighting kit? What are your favorite lighting techniques and tricks?

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