Video Lighting Setup: A Guide About How to Set up Lighting for Video

One of the most important aspects of filmmaking is proper lighting. Lighting can dictate how much of the action in a scene is viewable, whether the scene looks authentic or synthetic, and the scene's overall tone. If you want to know how to set up lighting for video projects of any kind, this guide will detail the ideal video lighting setup based on the equipment available to you.

Why is lighting important?

Lighting is integral to a scene because of its role in setting the mood, determining what gets picked up in the foreground and background, and either helping the audience feel immersed in the scene or inadvertently taking them out because of its artificiality. The perfect balance of lighting is always essential to create and maintain when shooting any video. Whether you're an amateur filmmaker, cameraman, grip, director, or visual effects artist, everyone can benefit from knowing how to light a scene properly.

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How to set up video lighting

The type of lighting situation you create will depend mainly on the number of lights available for you to use in a scene. Ideally, you will have three lights that allow you to create a 3-point lighting setup, but there are plenty of ways to make use of one or two lights if that's all you have. Depending on the number of lights you have and the available setup, you can have a key light, a fill light, and a backlight, with 3-point lighting using all three.

1 light video setup

If you have a single light to use for lighting the scene, this will serve as your key light. The key light is the primary light used in any setup, illuminating subjects and surroundings with sufficient lighting. The role that a key light plays make it the brightest light in the scene, as it sits to the side of the camera and provides the camera-facing side of a subject with enough light while leaving the other in shadow.

Of course, if you don't have lighting equipment available, your one-light setup could consist of natural daylight when filming outside.

2 light setup for video

In a 2-light setup for video, one light will be the key light while the second is a fill light, which adds some complexity to the lighting.

The fill light is set up on the other side of the camera opposite the key light. Together, the key light illuminates the subject, while the fill light helps remove some of the shadows that the key light creates. Typically, the fill light is slightly dimmer than the key light to ensure the key light still provides most of the lighting. If you can't adjust the fill light's brightness, you can move it farther from the camera and key light to reduce its intensity.

3 light setup video

With three lights in your setup, you can create a more professional look for your scenes. In addition to the key and fill lights, your third light will function as the backlight. As the name suggests, the backlight is set up behind the subject to illuminate the back.

Unlike key and fill lights that provide primary illumination, backlights are used to define subjects by lighting certain features. As a result, good backlighting will create a subtle halo of light around the subject to keep it more discernible from the background. Ultimately, the three-point lighting setup gives scenes a three-dimensional look that adds to the immersion.


With any additional lighting, you can use them to illuminate the background and subjects' surroundings, adding more dimensions to the scene. However, with 3-point lighting systems, you can often achieve professional-looking results. Whether you only have one, two, or three lights, there are plenty of ways to use them to create the right lighting for your next video.

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