The key light in photography and cinematography is the primary light source for your shoot. If you’re an online streamer that faces a camera to create your content, you may end up asking yourself the following question: Do I need two key lights?
While a streamer can benefit from having two key lights, it’s not required. The most common streaming setup typically includes a 3-point lighting scheme with one key light and two secondary lights supporting.
Read on to learn more about key lights and their associated setups, including various definitions, recommendations, and a few guides around this topic on lights for streaming.
Lighting Factors & Light Definitions
Lighting alone can make or break your entire streaming production.
With that warning in hand, novice streamers should read carefully, ready to adapt their setup to meet the requirements of their streaming setting along with the desired aesthetic for their content.
The author at Restream lays out four major factors influencing the overall lighting arrangement:
- Light source
- Color temperature
- Physical specifications
You should always consider natural lighting, but if it’s inconsistent, it can ruin your production. Generally, a collection of artificial lights are used for indoor streaming productions.
For color temperature, a streamer should consider their lighting sources’ “warmth” or “coolness.” Warm lights are yellow and orange, while cool lights are white or blue. Each produces a vastly different effect for viewers.
Intensity is the measure of “softness” and “hardness” in lighting. Hard lighting is brighter, whereas soft lighting presents more of an aura, with more shadows cast. Streamers should remember that light always looks different for you in the room versus the viewer at home, through the screen.
Physical specifications deal with the size, shape, and overall physical setup of the lights around you in your streaming room. This is a significant limitation that you should consider before making any purchases. Your setup and light size options could differ wildly based on the specifications of the room you are shooting within.
Here’s a list of the major types of artificial light for video shoots:
- Key light: The key light is your main light source; it anchors your entire shot on camera. Brighter LED lights work best but tend to be a more considerable investment. You can use multiple key lights for better results. Most key lights require a stand to be placed correctly as well as a diffuser, if possible. The Masterclass website provides a quick guide on how to create your budget light diffuser.
- Fill light: A fill light is a backup light source that “fills in” the areas your key light doesn’t. It should fill out the shadows that your key light produces upon the subject and their surroundings. Umbrellas and softboxes make for good fill lights.
- Back light: Another light meant to aid your fill lights as they dissipate and support the key light(s). Back lights should be placed directly behind or above the subject(s) on camera to be effective.
- Ring light: For a setup with only a single light, a ring light can brighten your entire shoot as a solo fixture. Many beginners use ring lights because they only require one purchase, are easy to set up, and don’t need any other ancillary lights to make a streaming production decently visible on camera.
Next, we’ll cover how various combinations and collections of the different artificial light sources can create options for streaming lighting schemes.
Streaming Lighting Schemes
In all, there are six common lighting schemes to choose from:
- Three-point lighting: As its name suggests, this setup uses three different light sources. It is generally a key light paired with a duo of fill lights or a key light with a fill light and back light to support. They are positioned equidistant from each other, all facing the subject. Many YouTubers utilize this setup to perfectly focus the beams onto a singular subject in front of the camera.
- Two lights: You can use this setup with Godox Bounce Card (available on Amazon.com) to reflect one of the lights while the other focuses on the subject. Either the bounce card or a window filtering natural light into the scene can replace the fill lights. Alternatively, each light can face the subject in front of the camera.
- Godox AK-R12 Bounce Card of AK-R1 Kit.
- Compatible for Godox H200R Round Flash Head, Godox V1 Flash Series,V1-S,V1-N,V1-C,
- Compatible for Godox H200R Round Flash Head,Godox AD200 Pro, Godox AD200
Last update on 2022-06-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
- Four lights: This setup is helpful if you have a dazzling background to your stream that you wish to highlight. Similar to the three-point scheme, you will have three lights affixed on the subject, with a fourth pointing behind at the designated background for the shot.
- Loop lighting: Loop lighting is another professional light scheme that includes one key light and one fill light. The key light is placed next to the camera at eye level, while the fill light is placed on the exact opposite side to dispel the shadows from the key light.
- One light: As mentioned before, this setup would include the use of a ring light placed directly behind the camera shooting the stream. It’s great for budgets and beginners, the one light scheme features the lowest cost and setup time.
- Natural light scheme: If you can make it work with your location and room that you shoot in, you can use the natural light from a window with a bounce card or umbrella set up to reflect that source on its opposite end, and then position yourself as the subject in between them. For best results, the natural light and bounce card should both be facing toward you and not at the camera lens.
With all these options, a novice streamer should explore how they look for other streamers and then perhaps begin to experiment with a couple of different setups themselves after purchasing some light fixtures.
For more information, check out to see if Ring Lights are good for Zoom Calls.
Tips and Tricks for Streaming Lighting
Here is a small collection of valuable tips and tricks for the streamer setting up for the first time:
- Given the limitations of such camera quality, an excellent key light or ring light is necessary for webcam shoots.
- In your webcam settings, you should turn off any “auto” adjusters and manually adjust the temperature of your picture to match your light setup or desired aesthetic.
- Significant light sources are always “softer” (or less severe on the viewer’s eyes) than small ones.
- Overhead lighting can cast ugly shadows and should be used sparingly or with a softer level of brightness.
- Generally, you should position your camera at your nose line, and you shouldn’t sit too close to the lens.
- You should never mix too many warm and cool light sources. If possible, choose one or the other to focus on. And keep in mind that a computer screen typically emits blue light.
- If you film outdoors during the day, try to find some shade to shoot within. At night, try to find a street light to shoot near. This will help balance your natural light (or lack thereof) to make the production more visible to audiences.
- For a stream where you talk directly to the camera, avoid too much backlight as it could muddle the shot and your presence in the center of it.
- Extra bright LEDs replaced with fluorescent bulbs can create a softer light.
- Dacast presents a useful guide on using the right OBS Studio (a popular streaming capture software) settings for your stream.
For more information, check out which is better for streaming: ring light vs key light.
Ultimately, there are a variety of potential setups for lighting up your streaming production. You can use one key light or a pair, but you should always consider the nature of your stream (is it just one subject or several?) and the aesthetic you are going after as a creator (warm and bright, or cool and ambient?).
Before choosing what lights to buy, it’s worth reading about the different types of lights and their schemes. We hope this article helped get you started on your research.
- StudioBinder: What is Key Light? Definition and Examples in Photography and Film
- Restream: Video Lighting: Comprehensive Guide
- Photography.com: Warm vs. Cool Light
- DIYPhotography: Hard light vs soft light. What’s the difference and how do you do it?
- Masterclass: How to Make a Light Diffuser on a Budget – 2021
- ExpertPhotography: What is a Photography Umbrella? (And How to Use One!)
- Adorama: Understanding How Soft Boxes Work
- Husltr: Best Lighting For Streaming in 2021
- TheStudioGenie: How Should You Light Your Face When Streaming?
- Dacast: Best OBS Studio Settings for Broadcasting Live Streams [2021 Update]