Music Video Lighting: A Guide to Lighting Your Music Video

You may have all of your choreography, actors, visuals, and other elements lined up and ready to shoot. Still, the lighting will determine whether your music video is truly a success. Lighting doesn't only provide illumination, but it can also affect the entire tone of the video and either help or hinder the music that the video carries. You can ensure the shoot goes according to plan with the right lighting when filming your next music video project.

In this guide, we'll review how to plan your video and set up music video lighting in different situations to produce the best results.

Plan the video

The first step you need to take is to know what you want to achieve with the video. What kind of look are you going for? What is the overall tone? The level of lighting will play a big part in creating that look and feel. Before you can begin the shoot, you need to know what kind of budget you're working with, what equipment is available, the crew's size, and the number of subjects you'll be working with throughout. Based on these aspects, choose whether you'll want to shoot indoors, outdoors, at night, during the day, or in other situations that could all influence the lighting.

Knowing all of these details can help determine which music video lighting setup is best to use.

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Set up the lighting

As you set up your music video lighting equipment, keep in mind that there are three main lights for music videos in a 3-point lighting system that can produce the ideal look. First, there's the key light that provides principal illumination of subjects. A second light could act as the fill light that fills in any shadows produced by the key light. A third light would sit behind the subjects as a backlight, highlighting and defining subtle features of subjects and illuminating parts of the background.

With this 3-point structure in mind, you can set up lighting in different configurations depending on where and how you're shooting.

Natural outdoor lighting

If you only want to use sunlight, filming during daylight can provide sufficient lighting without the need for supplemental equipment.

If you're working with minimal lighting equipment and want to create some natural music video lighting effects, you can use evening or morning lighting to your advantage. Try shooting during the golden hour, which is the time of day immediately after sunrise or before sunset. At this time, you don't have to worry about it being too bright outside, and you'll have around a full hour of ideal natural lighting to your avail. You can also take advantage of the blue hour, which is either right before sunrise or immediately following sunset, creating a blue hue that accompanies the golden hour. However, unlike the golden hour, you'll only have around 20 minutes to film during the blue hour.

Indoor lighting

When indoors, you can use 3-point lighting to illuminate a subject, fill in shadows, and highlight features of your subjects, or you can use one- or two-point lighting to create basic lighting effects with key and fill lighting.

For a dramatic effect, use a fill light to partially illuminate the wall behind a subject. Keep the camera placed at the fill lights side, with the back and key lights perpendicular to the camera, and fill light on either side. This can create a dim lighting effect that sets a dramatic tone.

You can also use a 2-point setup if you want to isolate the subject in your shot. Set up the key light at the front of your subject and place the fill light to the subject's side, on the opposite side of the key light. You can then adjust the fill light accordingly depending on how soft you want the light and use different lighting colors to experiment with ambiance.


With these tips in mind, you can create the perfect lighting for your music videos, regardless of what you have to work with. The right lighting will help make sure your videos achieve the results you want from the first frame.

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