Here are some quick tips for improving your lighting in webcams. Many people can do only a few because of their room layout. If you have the right office space, you’ll be able to do most of them.
These are bullet-point tips, not ideas on artistic lighting. It’s meant for non-experts who find themselves in front of a webcam these days.
These tips will help lots of people I see during online meetings. Start with the ones that are easy for your space. Then do more as your time, set up and budget allow. Any one of these can improve your lighting.
Be the Brightest Part of the Screen
Compare these two images. The subject stands out better when the subject is the brightest thing on screen. FYI: The images are adjusted so the shirts are about the same color and brightness. The lighting isn’t perfectly equalized, but they still work for this comparison.
Generally, the viewer’s eye goes to the brightest thing on screen.
What’s in Front of You? The Lights
Arrange Light Sources in Front of You
As much as possible, light yourself more than your surroundings. Light yourself from the front so the light is brighter on you than on the background. You don’t have to be extra bright, just slightly brighter than the background.
Big Light Sources
As much as possible, avoid small lights and bare bulbs. Even a lamp shade makes a small light source bigger. The bigger the better.
Better yet, bounce several lights off the walls or ceiling in front of you. Extra light helps because bounce lighting reduces the brightness.
Balance Lighting Across Your Front
Try to light yourself from the front left, front middle and front right equally. As much as possible, use several lights or bounce lights off walls to your front left and front right.
Brighter is Better
Cameras compensate for low and medium light, and that amplifies visual noise. Cameras create cleaner images when the scene is extra bright.
Glasses? Arrange Lights High or from the Sides
Lighting directly from the front can cause reflections in glasses. Bouncing light off the ceiling in front of you or lighting yourself from the sides in front of you helps. You’ll have to experiment with the exact light arrangement.
If you can, create a mid to dark background.
Avoid Lights Behind You and Directly Beside You
Back lighting and side lighting can cause bad shadows and reflections on the skin. If you know lighting and how to create aesthetically pleasing shadows, go for it. But for most, it’s best to keep the lights in front.
Back and side lights can also light the background too much. The general rule: light yourself from the front. Any light hitting the background should come from your front.
Avoid Bright, Shiny Objects and Windows
The idea is to make yourself the brightest thing on screen. Bright objects and windows in the background can be brighter than you.
Move Away from the Background
When your only lighting is from your front, the light that hits the background is dimmer than the light hitting you. The farther you are, the dimmer the background is.
If you’re interested in the physics of it, look up the inverse square rule.