Getting the right lighting for your videos is important for overall video quality. Without it you may find yourself washed out, grainy, yellow, or unevenly lit.
Fortunately, finding a decent lighting source doesn't have to be expensive. In this post, I'll take you through my favorite budget lighting setups for YouTubers and give you my thoughts on each.
Run and Gun - Neewer CN-216
For under $30 this little LED light packs a punch. With 216 LEDs build right into it and a shoe mount attachment for even a budget DSLR camera, it's great for taking with you.
The 216 LEDs are quite bright when turned all the way up. This is good as you never know when you'll need more light. Turning them down is simple to make for a quick soft lighting setup. Color temperature adjustment goes between 5400k and 3200k.
This isn't a light I'd use in front of your face in a studio setup although with the diffuser you can make it work. It takes 6 AA batteries and a simpler option that plugs into the wall would be better for that. Rather, you can use it on the side or for a run and gun option.
Overall, the Neewer CN-216 is compact enough to take in your camera case, convenient in that it can fit on the shoe mount, and a perfect option for taking with you on-the-go or shooting late into the evening. The LED bulbs have a life span of up to 50,000 hours. For these reasons, the CN-216 makes the cut for our cheap audio video YouTube setup.
If you're using the shoe mount for a shotgun microphone for YouTube, you might have to choose another lighting option here. Alternatively, you can use a different audio source as well.
A more fixed solution from Neewer would be this 2 pack of dimmable 5600k LED lights that come with tripods for height adjustment and various color filters. It's right around $50.
I've seen a lot of my friends use these as a budget option for streaming or just a fixed studio option. It works great for removing those pesky shadows for green screen!
The lights themselves aren't the most sturdy I've ever used, but the usage I've gotten out of them has been more than worth the price. Overall, they're a great value for the money you spend.
Softbox Lighting Kit from HPUSN
Admittedly this product breaks our $50 pricepoint by $20. That being said, at $70 I felt that it should be mentioned in an article about a budget lighting setup.
This lighting kit from HPUSN is a must-have for beginning YouTubers and photographers in general. It comes with two soft-boxes, two light-stands, two Kelvin Lightbulbs, and is easy to take with you on the go.
The carrying case makes it easy for when you go out and about. I do some photography for a boutique that my wife owns, and it's easy to take this to various locations and studios when I don't have a more permanent setup in place. The softboxes expand and collapse like an umbrella and are stored in easy-to-use sleeve pouches and the duffle bag for carrying everything is nice and big so you don't have to try to squeeze everything in.
For adjustability, these lightboxes also have 210-degree rotatable heads which makes it easy for when you need the perfect shot.
Overall, I don't think you'll regret having this inexpensive softbox kit. Even once you have a more expensive setup, this kit will still be an easy grab and go option that you can get a quicker shot with.
Cowboy Studio Triple Lighting Kit
My friend Craig over at Joker Productions has been using this Cowboy lighting kit for several years now. It costs around $50 and includes 2 white umbrellas, 3 stands (1 mini and 2 7 feet), a carrying case, and 3 45 watt 5500k bulbs.
While I do prefer a simple shoe mount LED light for my run and gun setup, the carrying case does allow you to take all of this with you. If you travel to a location that allows you set something like this up, you'll be surprised at just how effective it is.
In terms of brightness, this kit is all I need for my office. In fact, I often leave the mini light out as I currently have enough. Between the 3 of these, this should be plenty for a YouTube studio setup.
This set is very similar to other options on Amazon including one I currently use in the LimoStudio Lighting kit. As they are pretty much the same, I'd go with whichever one is cheaper. Use it in conjunction with a good budget tripod like the ZoMei Z818 and you're got a solid studio setup for cheap.
Sensyne Ring Light with Tripod Stand and Remote
One new release I love for 2020 is this 10" ring light from Sensyne that comes with an extendable tripod stand.
The light itself comes with three different color modes including warm yellow, daylight, and cool white. With the remote or on-light panel, it's easy to adjust the light. Plus the tripod stand makes it easy to adjust to the ideal height.
This is an easy way to increase the quality of the pictures you take with your cellphone from amateur to semi-pro. You can also use it with a compact camera.
For me personally, having the remote is a big deal. It allows me to set and step back and make adjustments from the photo wants I'm ready. Overall, it's hard to beat for $30; however, the Qiaya ring light I'll mention below may also be a better solution for some that want something even more simple.
In addition, having to use an AC adapter may not be ideal for everyone.
A Budget YouTube Phone Lighting Solution
Qiaya Rechargeable Ring Light
You carry your phone with you everywhere so having an inexpensive lighting solution to improve the quality of your videos is a must.
This isn't the only ring out there but it is one I recommend. The Qiaya rechargeable ring light can be mounted to your phone in order to take better selfies or video while you're out and about.
It's very affordable at around $10 and is a quick way to get better photo and video from your phone right away. It's also extremely compact so you can take it with you in your pocket wherever you go.
Overall you'll definitely want this or something like it if you use your phone a lot.
Whether you're starting out or have been a YouTuber for a while, natural light can be your best friend. I have 5 windows in my office (3 small windows above typical viewing height). With my blinds I can close and shut these whenever I want. This along with 100% natural bulbs in my ceiling light allow me to come pretty close to my desirable lighting without any extra kits.
In fact, whether you're a new YouTuber or experienced one, I'd challenge you to get outside and use more natural light. Some of my best shots were taken outside and viewers find these types of shots interesting as well.
The Time of Day is Important for Natural Light
The only downside to using direct sunlight is that it can often be too much. If you move to a shady location or move around the people in your video so that the sun is your backlight, you'll likely find an angle that isn't overdone. Another option is to shoot during the blur hour when the sun goes down or the magic hour leading up to a sunset or just after sunrise.
Choosing the Right Equipment
For more experienced videographers picking the right lens and camera and using reflectors and flags can also help. Going in to the right equipment goes beyond the scope of this article; however, a camera with a lot of dynamic range will help during the day as well as a lens with low contrast and wide primes.
Under $20 - Newer Collapsible Disc
You might be able to avoid a bunch of unnecessary lighting options if you're willing to take with you a portable disc light reflector.
I currently use this 43-inch Newer Collapsible disc. It's cheap and I find myself switching between the translucent, gold, and silver options quite frequently. Other options include black and white. When I'm outside I use it to block the sun or change a bad angle to a good one.
Inside it's useful as well. As someone who does product reviews and shoots photos for them, this allows me to get just the right angle on the product I'm shooting as well without creating a box or taking too much time. I can also direct natural light from the window to my face or another part of the room.
Overall this is an inexpensive disc reflector that will last you a couple years. Is it as nice as the professional options? Not in terms of material. Will it last you just as long? Probably, but if it doesn't it's cheap enough you could buy again if need be.
LimoStudio Lighting Light Tent Kit
If you do product reviews as I do, it's also nice to have a lighting tent kit setup. This 16 x 16" box, from LimoStudio, allows for different colors and gives your product the isolation it needs for just the right setup.
In addition to the tent, this kit comes with 2 LED lights, the 4 backdrop fabrics shown above, and a cellphone clip holder. While I'd recommend you use something other than your cellphone for pictures, I have seen some great pictures with my Samsung Galaxy S8.
The Included Lights Are Just OK
As far as the included lights are concerned, they're fairly basic as that's what you get with a $40 kit. So, you'll likely want to use another option at some point in time. And I found that they weren't powerful enough for what I was trying to go with. Still it's nice to have another lighting source for just about any project.
Overall, this box isn't the biggest setup in the world so it likely won't work for everything you do. However, in my case, it was well worth the $40.
Overall, there are a lot of inexpensive lighting options out there that can help take your YouTube videos to the next level. Try and get creative as much as you can as that often works better than the most expensive solutions.
Have a solution you use that you want others to know about? Be sure to use the discussion area below. Also, I'm open to answering any questions you may have.
I've also written additional posts on affordable YouTube audio and video setups. So, be sure to take a look at those if you'd like to know more.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.