So, you want better lights for your video calls? We do, too. Over the past, we've tried out numerous different lighting options to see what works best when we're using Camo. What we've learned is that you can get some fantastic results without a professional production budget.
Unlike finding the best mount for your iPhone, which is fairly straightforward, achieving good lighting is slightly more complicated, and involves learning a little theory. For help with this, we reached out to professional photographer Gia Goodrich to talk about the qualities that make a good light.That's Gia giving an overview in the video below.
Beyond this, the sort of features you want to look for in a light depend on the purpose of the light. For something like a video call, you might want to incorporate multiple lights, as we do in our smart bulb video below. If you look at Gia's setup in her video, her three zones of lights are (1) the light that's lighting her (the key light), (2) the light that's adding a purpley-lilac hue to her background, (the fill light), and (3) the buttery yellow light of the lamp and strip light (the back light).
In this article, we'll mainly focus on finding a good key light (the light that will shine on the subject, for video calls, that's you). The background in many these illustrative images is therefore pretty dark, and in need of additional lighting to really complete the scene. Here's some more information from Gia about fill lights.
We asked Gia lots of other questions, so we'll continue to include the helpful context and explanations that she provided throughout the article. For more tips on creating a good lighting setup, Gia has an extremely helpful YouTube channel dedicated to helping video users and creators of all skill levels create good lighting setups, particularly for video-call specific issues, such as preventing glare from lighting when wearing glasses.
With Gia’s comments in mind, we have a fairly good starting point to begin to evaluate each of these lights. Practically speaking, of course, how well a light source works is just one piece of the puzzle when looking for a light that will work well for video calls, especially if you work from home. A good light in this situation needs to meet other, more practical criteria too.
To evaluate these lights we'll be asking the following questions:
How well does it work as a light source? Does the colour look natural and daylight balanced? Or is it wash the subject out or give too much warmth? Is the lighting soft or harsh? Is it intense enough?
Is it practical to use? Is it easy to set up and turn on and off for someone seated at a desk? How is controlled and powered? Do I need to charge it? Can it overheat? Is it loud? Is it too bright?
Does it work with one's space? Is it too big to fit practically into a home office? Are there too many cables? Can I position the light perfectly? Can I move it easily?
Is it cost-effective? If it’s expensive, is it justifiably so, or are there cheaper alternatives that produce a similar effect? If it’s budget-friendly, is it likely to last for a while, or will I need to replace it need replacement quickly?
We'll give each light a score of 5 for each section.
Here’s where we'll be testing most of the different lighting options:
As you can see in these images, there are windows behind and to the right of the desk. To the right, you can see how the feed in Camo looks with this setup and no additional lighting.
There’s a lot of light in the room itself, but the position of the two windows is far from ideal. The light from behind causes the subject to appear darker than the background, and the light to the side, while the light from the side creates unwanted shadows on her face.
The first step, therefore, is to control as much of this light as possible. One option would be to simply work with the light by turning the desk to face face one of the windows. That would be a good source of light on this day and at this time, but we're looking for something that will give us the same good results at any time of day or year. We also need to compare these options from the same starting point, which is tough to do with natural light. So, let’s see what these lights can do on their own.
|점수 : 소프트 박스|
사용 된 제품
Neewer 헤비 듀티 라이트 스탠드 $ 70
소프트 박스는 전문가 용 세트에 사용되며 크기 때문에 테스트 한 모든 옵션 중 가장 좋은 (그리고 가장 아첨하는) 조명을 제공합니다. 소프트 박스 내부의 카메라는 실제로는 매우 작지만 상자 내부의 두 확산 레이어는 전경에있는 모든 것을 부드럽게 감싸기에 충분한 크고 부드러운 빛을 만듭니다.
We positioned the softbox directly behind and above our camera, and then angled it down to try to create a subtle Paramount lighting effect. Parker Walbeck outlines the five most popular portrait lighting patterns in his video here.
The light produced by the softbox is truly beautiful. It’s soft and flattering, and very bright without causing the subject discomfort. The colour on this one couldn't be adjusted, but it's set to a good daylight temperature, neither too warm nor too cool. The brightness can be adjusted, and we set ours at 75% brightness.
There's some assembly required, but if you're familiar with the general structure of umbrellas you'll be fine. Once it's set up, you just turn it on and off using a switch at the back of the light, and it remembers your last settings. It plugs into the mains, but because it’s made to be used on professional shoots, the lighting controls are at the back, so you can’t adjust the brightness from your desk. The light has a fan to prevent overheating, but it's barely loud enough to hear, and not loud enough to get picked up on most mics.
Is it a practical option? Probably not for most of us. This is a truly enormous piece of kit. Most desks sit flush against a wall, so, save for somehow mounting a light to the ceiling and moving back from your desk for calls, it’s not something you could use easily. But if you have the space, and want the best lighting available to you, this is it.
The softbox we used is made up of three sections: the light, the box and the stand, which, added together, cost about $300 (£220). It’s expensive for a video conferencing light, but for those who need the best light, it’s not overpriced.
|점수 : USB 비디오 라이트|
사용 된 제품
조명은 2 개 팩으로 나왔지만 여기서는 하나만 사용하고 있습니다. 조명을 켜고 끄고 밝기를 조정할 수있는 작은 컨트롤 세트가있는 USB 케이블을 통해 조명을 컴퓨터에 연결할 수 있습니다. 단순한 조명이지만 조명 자체가 매우 자연스럽고 책상에서 사용하기가 정말 쉽습니다. 스탠드는 확장 할 수 있으며 꽤 높이 들어 올릴 수있어 편리합니다.
While the light comes with a softening filter, the filter is so close to the light source that it’s not softening the light as effectively as the softbox. You can see that in the image above where there is increased shine on my forehead, as well as shadows that small light sources often produce. The harsh light is also picking up some imperfections in the skin.
다른 단점 : 케이블이 너무 길지 않고 약간 저렴하게 만들어졌습니다.
즉, 조명 2 개에 $ 45 (£ 32)가 드는 옵션의 경우 꽤 좋은 옵션입니다. 밝고 빛의 색상이 좋고 컴팩트하고 조절 가능하며 사용하기 쉽습니다.
|점수 : Elgato 키 라이트|
사용 된 제품
Next up, I tried the streamer favourite, the Elgato key lights. While the quality of the stand itself is much better than the generic light tested above, the quality of the light is quite similar. The Elgato light has the same issue as the generic light tested, which is that, while it makes an effort to soften the light, as the diffusing section is so close to the light bulbs that the light is inevitably harsher than light from a softbox.
We didn’t enjoy the Elgato software experience, and had hoped that for the price it would work with HomeKit, which it doesn’t. Software issues seem to be compounded when trying to switch between the two lights, which is why the larger light appears warmer in the shots (we might have fixed this with some time spent googling and trying various things, but it seemed like a bit of a slog). From a practical perspective, the much less sophisticated generic light with controls on the cable worked better. That said, the concept of being able to adjust the light level and temperature from your monitor is a good one.
The small and large Elgato lights retail for just over $100 (£100) and just under $200 (£200) respectively. We're unsure why the slightly larger version is almost twice the price, as it doesn't seem to perform too differently.
Other things we didn't love: the cable isn’t very long, the stand is really quite clunky and hard to move around, particularly as it’s designed to be used behind monitors.
|Scores: Smart LED bulbs|
사용 된 제품
- Philips Smart LED 8W Bulbs £11.99 each
정말로 더 이상 물건을 사고 싶지 않다면?
A while back, we tested a basic swing-arm lamp and garden-variety light bulb to see how it stacked up against the more professional options here. The answer: not so great, though it was a bit better than the Kodak ring light we also tested for this guide. Since then, however, we’ve tested a number of different setups using household lamps we already had, and found that we could achieve some fantastic results using just three programmable smart LED bulbs. Here’s how we pulled it off.
The fact that this lighting setup cost far less than most of the other alternatives here, while also being the easiest to set up and control, places these bulbs high up on our list of lighting recommendations. Their lumen stats might not be as impressive as the professional lighting we tested, but if positioned close enough to the subject, they gave off all that was needed to get a crisp, clear image from a good webcam, phone, or mirrorless camera (none of them were at full power in the video).
Perhaps the only thing that keeps this option from running away completely with the top prize is that Homekit-compatible versions are about three times pricier, and the fact that not everybody may have as many lamps around as were found in our test office. The lamps used in the video were all purchased from eBay, but if you don't have time to go auction stalking, you can achieve the same result with a couple of inexpensive tasks lamps and a glowy table lamp. Building this whole setup from scratch - three smart bulbs and three lamps - will cost a total of £79 in the UK, $100 in the US.
|점수 : Kodak 링 라이트|
사용 된 제품
- Kodak 링 조명 $ 130
링 라이트는 전화기와 화상 통화에 사용하기에 완벽한 조명으로 명성을 얻은 것 같습니다. 런던과 같은 도시를 산책하고 창문을 통해 보면 그렇게하면 과일 한 그릇처럼 링 라이트를 볼 수 있습니다.
그러나 일반적으로 링 라이트는 실제로 그다지 좋지 않습니다. 이유를 설명하는 Gia는 다음과 같습니다.
We tried out a Kodak ring light that was one of the more expensive options here. It came in a case that included a phone mount that seemed promising for cutting down the amount of desk space required.
This was definitely the worst light I tested. The light just wasn’t strong enough, and while you can switch between three pre-set light colours, even the ‘neutral’ option seemed a little too warm. You can see that the image from our Camo feed isn’t as crisp as most of the other options, as the light simply isn’t throwing enough light on the scene.
실용적인 관점에서 볼 때이 빛은 격분합니다. 폰 마운트는 폰을위한 별도의 마운트가 필요하지 않다는 것을 의미하지만 다리는 넓게 펼쳐지는 것 이외의 다른 작업을 거부하여 많은 책상 공간을 차지합니다.
스탠드가 너무 높이 늘어나지 않아 노트북과 함께 사용할 때 나쁘지는 않지만 더 큰 모니터와 함께 사용하면 빛의 절반이 차단됩니다.
|USB video lights||18|
|Elgato key lights||12|
|Wi-Fi Smart LED bulbs||18|
|Kodak ring light||7|
For smaller spaces and budgets, both the USB and smart bulbs were great options. If you have two or more lamps in your workspace, we highly recommend outfitting them with smart bulbs, placing them in key and fill positions, and setting them to daylight temperature and complementary brightness levels when you're going to be on video. If your space is less lamp-friendly, using a pair of USB-powered LEDs will improve your lighting for video calls, and take up minimal real estate in your space. Both of these options can be turned off and on and adjusted easily from a desk.
사용 된 제품
Though we've stayed mostly with key lights here, we had few other lights hanging around that we thought we might try as fill lights. Here's a quick and dirty look at using other lights in your scene to create a more interesting lighting setup for video calls.
키 라이트를 파악한 후에는 더 많은 라이트 레이어를 추가하는 방법을 살펴볼 수 있습니다.
While our scene is okay, it's a bit boring. There's also the issue that the subject's orangish hair isn't too distinct from the orangish bricks, and there's a lot of cream colour in the shot. To balance this, we used some Hue Play lights and a strip light to add more orange to the bricks, and placed a pink light almost directly behind the subject to gave just a bit of pink to her left hand side. As we noted earlier, LED bulbs like the Hue are really easy to control and adjust from your phone, and we set up this scene in a couple of minutes.
With a bit more time, you could think a little more critically about where you might want to place lights, and why. Ideally, each layer of light you add should serve some sort of purpose, for example, you might want to create more of a distinction between yourself and the background (as Gia did in her videos by using a contrasting colour behind her), add some visual interest to your scene, or take away shadows from your face and under your chin.
If you'd like us to look at any other lights, or if you've got any other tips to help me get a better lighting setup, let uk know in the comments below (or Tweet us @reincubate)