Mixing Color Temperatures in Your Video Lighting Setup

When shooting video podcasts, light is probably your most important factor.

Digital video needs light and often times, lots of it. You can help a bad video camera look better with a well lit scene or make your high end video camera look professional by knowing some basics about lighting.

In the video below you’ll see a demonstration of how I’m mixing light. I’m using a large window as my “key” (main) light, a small LED light for a “fill” light and I’m illuminating the background with a simple “can” light (a cheap aluminum tin purchased at any hardware store with a household bulb placed inside).

I’m playing around with mixing color temperatures (Kelvins) as well as using an extreme angle. Experimenting is a great way to find your own “look.”

In this example, the window (left side of this image) is letting in large amounts of daylight which is rated at 5600 Kelvin (K). Complimenting that is a small LED light (right side of this image positioned at a slight angle upwards to get light underneath the bill of my hat) which is also daylight balanced at approximately the same K value.

In the background I’m using a simple tungsten bulb (coming in from camera right), typically rated at 3200K. I set the camera’s white balance for daylight so that my skin tone will be correct. As a result the background will appear slightly warmer taking on an orange tone instead of being properly balanced to display white as “true white.”

In this setup (see the diagram below), it’s OK to mix the light temperatures because the different colors are being used in different regions of the video. I have the daylight balanced video as the light illuminating my subject (me) and the tungsten light illuminating the background. This creates a certain amount of separation between subject and background and can be a creative way to create depth in your video.

lighting diagram sketch

To create a more traditional three-point lighting setup, I could have added a back-light to illuminate my shoulder (camera right) and the back of my hat. This would separate me even further from the background creating even more depth in my video.

Once you know the rules, by all means go out and break them. Playing around with different lighting setups, compositions, etc. will help you find a look that is uniquely your own and you’ll learn a lot about shooting quality video along the way.

About Ray Ortega

Full-time podcast producer and host of The Podcasters' Studio and Podcasters' Roundtable, I enjoy sharing my ten years of experience making podcasts to help others improve or start their own show.

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