Get Lit For Your Next Video Conference


 In this era where we are trying to connect socially from behind screens, the perfect lighting is more important than ever to express the best you possible. We’ve all had enough time by now, wincing at how we look in a video call, when we should be listening to the speaker. For your next video call, take some time to apply tried and true lighting techniques that will leave you glowing but not blown out. Classic 1940’s Hollywood star Rita Hayworth here is an excellent example of the timeless film lighting technique, 3-Point Lighting. Madonna was right, Rita Hayworth gives good face, but that lighting though. This technique is as old as black and white studio films and was perfected by Hollywood bombshells and their best friends, gaffers.

I was born with two debilitating conditions, both severe Resting Bitch Face and a Two Face (demonstrated above in this classic episode of Seinfeld). So if I wanted anyone to approach me from across the room ever for any reason, I had to LEARN MY LIGHT. Just like you should know your angles, you’ve got to find the best lighting situation, get in it and stay in it. For a video call from home, that will probably mean investing in lights specifically for videos. 

Beauty vloggers use LED ring lights and rectangular light panels to blow out the screen and flatten any unflattering shadows (i.e. the Two Face problem). Soap operas also employ this type of blown out lighting, so that no matter where actors are they look like they are in a hospital cafeteria. However blown out light means that you then have to draw your face back on with heavy make-up for your features to show up. If that’s your chosen look, run with it and your Sephora Beauty Insider Points all the way to highlighter heaven. Though if you’d like to wear just enough make-up where you still resemble you IRL, then you can apply lighting techniques to make your face pop in the best way possible.

With 3-Point Lighting you want to start with the way video gamers are usually lit in their videos, then add one more light for depth. The Key light is your main source of light, for gamers it’s their screens. For a video call set-up, you’ll want to invest in a ring light, preferably one where you can control the color temperature. True, your device emits light, but you probably don’t want to be close enough to your device for that light to impact you. Think warmer (more yellow) light for evening and cooler (white or blue) light to counter any daylight coming into your room. By the way, your screen is probably emitting blue light. Move your video call set-up as far from daylight as you can, if you can’t close it off with blinds. With light, find your angels again, never have your key light right in front of you. This gives a creepy local news reporter “sun gun” effect and catches any glare or shine possible off your skin (think summer humidity shine).

The second point of the 3-Point Lighting is your Fill light. This goes on the side opposite your key light and the closer in intensity it gets to your key light, the flatter or less topography your face will have. If you can invest in a second dimmable LED ring light or small panel, do use that. If you want to use a light from around your house, make sure it is the same color temperature (white, blue, or yellow) as your key light. Color temperature is usually easy to decipher with your eye, you know it when you see the difference. Think of a candle as the low end and a strobe light as the high temperature end. To lessen the effect of the fill light that won’t dim, just move it farther away so the light can diffuse. Don’t forget that you can take lamp shades off to change the intensity of a lamp’s light.

 Back light is the third part of the 3-Point Lighting system and it’s the light people tend to forget. Back light does several helpful things and can also mess you up, girl. Back light separates your head from the background, adding much needed depth to flat video calls. In the case of Rita Hayworth, whom we started with, backlight makes your hair glow. There’s a reason they paint with gold leaf behind Jesus’ head right? We all want that halo, no matter how we are behaving. Place your back light, out the frame of your video, anywhere behind you, and just short of right above you. Right above will catch just your nose and light it up, like the Rita Hayworth below. (Curse the unrelenting Los Angeles sun!)

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