Streaming has been a popular occupation for years and there are many different platforms people use to stream or watch streams such as Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and so on.
You wouldn’t believe what change light can make for your streams. That’s why you should consider 3-point lighting for your streams, or:
1. Key light – your main light, best placed to shine right in your face at 45° angle from your desk; righ lights are good for this as they are easy on the eyes
2. Fill light – meant to counterbalance the key light and get rid of hard shadows; these should be at 50% brightness and placed on the sides of your setup
3. Back light – meant to separate you from the background and highlight your face; best to place it so that it shines at your back from above
If you’re going to compromise and ditch one of these three, ditch the fill light
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3 Point Lighting Setup
Sure you can just buy one light and call it a day, but if you already have the means to do so, you should consider getting 3 point lighting because your streams will go from being ordinary to extraordinary just with 3 light sources.
So what is a 3 point lighting setup? Well, as the name suggests, you have 3 light sources that you use to make sure you, as a streamer, and your setup is lit up so that your viewers can see you better.
This is important because streaming isn’t just about giving people content but also interacting with your audience so you need to look sharp and bright at any moment.
Knowing this, we can start talking about three point lighting. There are 3 types of lighting you need for this setup and we’ll explain each one and how to set it up properly.
So let’s not waste any time and see what this is all about.
1. Key Light
The first light you need to get even if you’re starting out your streaming career is your key light. It’s the light that will shine directly at your face and is usually placed on your desk.
Now, positioning of the key light is important as you want to have the best angle at which the light will shine so that your face is lit up and there aren’t too many shadows that get in the way of the perfect shot, but also you don’t want the light to shine directly at your eyes because it can cause eye strain.
That’s why it’s a smart idea to place the light at a 45° angle, usually at the corner of your desk. This isn’t a rule you have to follow, rather a suggestion, so you should see for yourself and try different angles until you get the right one.
Also, even though this is your main light source, you shouldn’t have this light at maximum brightness because it’s quite easy to get eye strain if you’re in front of bright light for hours.
That’s why you should keep it at a medium brightness level but just don’t make it too dim, as unnecessary shadowing will start to appear. If you are experiencing fairly harsh shadows, you should consider getting a light with a diffuser.
Great lights for your key light are definitely LED ring lights because they usually don’t strain your eyes because of their shape and they are also quite inexpensive so you won’t have to spend that much money on them when creating your 3 light setup.
Of course, if you’re not into ring lights, you can always use smaller LED lamps or any other LED-type light source, as long as it’s not a reflector and it has a tabletop tripod.
2. Fill Light
In your three-point lighting setup fill light is used to counterbalance the light emitted for the key light. This is crucial for getting rid of hard shadows as well as making the subject more highlighted.
The fill light can be placed also at an angle between 15° and 45°, or it can be placed on the side of your setup. You can also use a bigger light for your fill light, or use the same light type as your key light.
Normally, you would use a diffuser on your fill light because you don’t need the shine as you would with your key light. Also, your fill light should be at about 50% brightness level, but you should of course see what works for you the best.
Fill lights can be set up on a tabletop tripod that will be placed in the corner of the side of your desk, or on a floor tripod next to your desk. Using a floor tripod is a better option because you have a lot more room to adjust the fill light by height and angle.
The best choice for your fill light is a larger LED light on a floor tripod with a diffuser or softbox. Also, brightness adjustment is crucial so you want to make sure that you can control the brightness of your fill light at any time, especially if you’re streaming at a day near a window because shadows from the outside can affect your lighting.
You should stay away from ring lights as your fill light because they usually don’t come with a diffuser and also the ring-shaped light emitted isn’t ideal for contrasting the key light.
3. Back Light
The last light you should get in your three point lighting system is a back light. Now, a back light may seem like the least important lighting in a 3 point lighting diagram, however, it’s far better to have a back light than a fill light.
The reason is that it separates the subject, meaning you and your face, from the background. By having a back light, the background behind you will appear dimmer and you will appear highlighted.
Of course, as the name suggests, the back light is aimed at your back, meaning it will give you a kind of glow that contrasts the background.
The light should be angled in such a way that the light is emitted either from the side or at a diagonal. Ideally, you should angle your back light at a 45° angle, as same as your key light, but this isn’t a rule you should always follow because it depends on your setup.
One thing to note is that your back light should shine light from above, so having a tall floor tripod to place it is crucial. Also, you need a big LED backlight with a diffuser so that you don’t create unnecessary shadows.
Now, the brightness of your back light should be put at a small percentage, about 20%, because you want to create a kind of dimmer light effect that shines from behind.
What you can do also is aim your back light at your background. If you have a specific setup where your background is kind of plain, such as a wall or even window drapes, and is a bit textured, you can light it up just a bit so when you use your key and fill light, you’ll become highlighted but the background will seem lit up as well.
For back lights, a great option is to get big studio LED lights with a floor tripod, but the best solution would be to get a light with a reflector because the light can cover more area. You’ll definitely need a diffuser as reflector lights are quite bright.
Lights to stay away from are ring lights because of their shape, and tabletop lights because you need to be able to adjust the height of your back light.
Things to Consider When Buying 3 Point Lighting for Streaming
You don’t need to buy 3 separate lights specifically to have a 3 light setup because you can use the outside light as your fill light and a reflector light as your back light, so you only need a key light.
However, it’s not a great idea to be dependent on the sun which shines through your window, because if you stream at night, you’ll see that a fill light is a must-have. So that’s why if you want to have a proper 3 lights setup you should get 3 lights.
So here are some things you should consider before you buy your 3-point lighting setup.
3 Point Light Kit or Separate Lights
Understandably, there are 3 point lighting system kits that include all the lighting you’ll need for your setup so you don’t have to buy them separately. And there are some pros and cons to these kits.
The reason why these kinds of kits are popular is that you can get one for around 150$ and you’ll get 3 lights which are ideal for streaming. However, this might not be ideal for streamers who either like to customize their lights and for streamers who need specific lights because they are creating specific content.
In that regard, even though getting your three-point lighting setup separately will cost you more money, you’ll have greater quality lights and you’ll be able to get the exact lights you need.
For example, if you’re into ring lights, it’s quite hard to find a 3 point light kit that has ring lights. So the pros and cons of getting separate lights are:
So in the end, this is a question of whether you want to get a 3 point light setup right away or you just don’t want to limit yourself in terms of lighting options.
What’s Your Budget?
Streaming lights are typically around 20$ to even 150$, but of course, you can even get 1000$ studio lights, so your budget is determining how much you can spend on your 3 light setup.
That being said, going for a 3 light kit isn’t that bad if you’re looking to spend less money on 3 lights, however, in the long run, it’s better to save up and invest in great quality lights that will last you for years.
Sales are your best friend if you’re on a budget, and because streaming lights are becoming more and more popular, the demand for them is quite high and of course, the price is going to go down because new manufacturers are sprouting almost every day.
Our advice is that you don’t settle for cheap lighting if you don’t have to, but if that’s what you need to do at the beginning of your streaming career, try to spend as much as possible on mid-range quality lights because you can always upgrade when you start earning money from your streams.
This is an important feature for some streamers because if you have portable lighting, you aren’t limited to streaming indoors. Of course, when you stream outdoors, you do have the sun as your fill or back light, but having at least one light from your portable light kit is quite a privilege.
That’s why if you’re getting a 3 point light setup, you should make sure that you get at least one light that is either battery-powered or can be charged with a USB cable.
Of course, you can always buy a separate light as your portable one, but why would you spend more money than you have to.
This is where 3 point light kits sort of fall off because most of them need a wall socket to be plugged in. So getting separate lights is always a good option if you’re constantly on the go.
Which Light Do I Get for My 3 Light Setup?
As we already mentioned, if you don’t want the hassle of buying separate lights, you can always opt for light kits which are around 150$ minimum and go all the way to even 1000-2000$ if you want something premium.
Of course, once you buy a 3 point light kit, you’re pretty much done because you’ll get 3 lights that are perfect for your stream. What you get with buying 3 point light kits is lots of accessories such as softboxes, diffusers, filters, travel bags, and so on. So it’s not a bad deal overall.
However, if you want to buy them separately, it’s a whole different story, so we’ve made a quick list of good light options for each type.
For your key light you should consider getting:
- Ring lights – portable; lightweight; often have a camera mount and a phone stand; the light is perfect for the key light source; because you don’t need a diffuser for a key light it’s the safest option.
- Small LED lights – portable; lightweight; come with a diffuser, softbox, and filters; some have tabletop tripods and camera/phone mounts; lots of brightness.
- Large LED lights – compact; typically have a floor tripod; adjustability; quite powerful; best quality lights.
For your fill and back lights:
- Reflector light – large surface area; powerful; has a floor tripod; adjustable; comes with a diffuser and softbox;
Large LED light – as mentioned above.
Of course, you’re aren’t limited to these options, and if you can get it to work, you can also get 3 ring lights and call it a day.
If you want good quality ring lights, here are some models you should look up on Amazon:
QUICK OVERVIEW: Best Ring Light
As far as streaming LED lights are concerned, take a look at these:
QUICK OVERVIEW: Best LED Lights
But lights aren’t the only important thing in your 3 lights setup, so let’s talk about accessories for a bit.
Accessories are important because you can’t just get bare lighting. You need to manipulate the light and the brightness emitted from your streaming lights and several tools that will help you do that.
First, let’s talk about softboxes. A softbox is just that – a box that you put on your light to make the light dimmer and the light beam more diffused.
It’s often made from reflective material on each side and a paper-like diffuser on the front side from where the light is emitted. As you can already tell, softboxes are great for your back and fill light.
Next are diffusers. A diffuser is a sheet of plastic basically that is used to spread the light beam evenly and remove harsh shadows. You can use diffusers for any of your 3 point lights.
Lastly, we have filters which are sort of like diffusers as they are also made from plastic, but they can be in different colors. They’re great for key lights if you want to create a certain effect.
Knowing this, you should always consider getting 3 point lights that have these accessories, or you can also buy them one at a time, according to your preferences.
We hope that you now know all the basics of setting up your 3 point lighting system and a bit more about what to look for when buying your lights and why having lots of accessories is important.
We also hope that you’ll find the right 3 point setup for you so you can start your streaming journey.