4 best lighting set-ups to fit any budget

Improve your videos with a great lighting set-up, no matter what your budget.
4 best lighting set-ups to fit any budget

Hero image by Kal Visuals

A great video can change everything. We know this because history classes tell us video killed the radio star and Kennedy won the first televised Presidential debate and then the Presidency. We know this because we watched Justin Bieber and Charli D’Amelio and their rises to fame. 

The almighty algorithms of social platforms also tend to favor high quality videos. One of the fastest ways to get great quality without having to get a load of camera gear, is to improve your lighting.

We asked freelance videographer Ryan Weir for his best tips for lighting on any budget. Here is what he said.

Budget: $0. No lights!
There's plenty you can do with the lights you already have. Sit in proximity to a window using natural light on your face or whatever you are trying to light. Get creative with a white sheet or shirt or something that bounces light back towards your subject. You can get good lighting with some clever positioning.

Works best for: Selfie videos that don’t require a lot of movement. Think TikTok explainers or simple Reels.

Mid-range: $30-$75. A small panel LED light or a ring light. 

Check out this panel light from Viltrox ($65). It's good to have an adjustable white balance in a light since webcams are all over the place with their colors and people often can't control them manually. 

Or get on trend with this ring light from JOBY ($30). Ring lights are generally inexpensive and they work fine for the job. They do have a bit of a distinct look to them (think: makeup tutorial), where you can see the reflection of a circle in people's eyes as they talk. Some people like this, some people don't.

Works best for: Filming yourself at your desk or when doing video meetings. Think on-video podcasts and short video segments.

More serious range: $75-$200. A larger panel LED light (plus accessories)

If you’re ready to get more serious, try this larger panel LED light from GVM ($150). A larger light source will give off a more soft, diffused light. As far as video lights go, bigger is typically better.

Works best for: Filming more than one person at a time or full-body shots. Think explainer videos.


Top-Tier: $200+. Two lights!

For recorded filming, check out this kit from Godox. This kit introduces the use of two lights (one key and one backlight). Same with the previous trend, these lights are bigger so the light also becomes softer and more controllable.

Works best for: Larger scale productions with full post-production work. Think promotional videos or advertisements.

Choose your lights based on your needs. For example, if you’re planning a highly-viewed video series central to your marketing strategy, go with the top-tier and go all out. However, that's a big setup and can be clunky and it's certainly not convenient. 

If you want something that's semi-permanent on a desk or in a workspace for periodic videos, think in the “serious” range. Or pair that with a more mid-range light for a second backlight. 

What you’ve got to say is important. Get the right lighting so everyone can hear (and see) it.

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Our team of career freelancers writes about best invoice practices, what makes a great client, and repeats the mantra, "never work without a contract." We're opinionated about the future of work and will always be on the side of freelancers.
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