How to Get the Best Lighting for Your Videos and Photos

Written by the Lenovo Companion App Content Team

With all of the recent advancements in mobile technology and HD cameras, you’d think taking great-looking videos would be a cinch. But anyone who’s ever used a smartphone or tablet to record video in low light knows how hazy things can get. Even with the latest technology, most cameras need some extra help.

That’s where better lighting comes in. It’s the secret to capturing stunning visual, and it’s not always as challenging as you might expect. We’ve gathered up a few top lighting tips from the pros here at Lenovo.

Keep reading for five ways to use proper lighting for better videos—without spending a lot of money.

1. Change up how and where you use your camera phone

Start with some general guidelines from the video production pros: Expose your camera to the same lighting as your subjects. Try recording outside videos during the “Golden Hour” when the sun is lower in the sky and the lighting is more even. Avoid framing half your shot in bright sunlight and the other half in shade. These and other filming basics are some of the fastest, easiest methods for capturing memories and moments as you see them in real life.

2. Repurpose household objects

Framing your shots in better lighting can start with something as simple as turning on table lamps and moving them around. Try bouncing a light off a wall or angling a bulb toward your subject. If it’s a sunny day, situate your subject in front of a window.

Test out different angles, positions and heights—both of your subject and of your light sources—to figure out what setup best eliminates harsh light that tends to wash out faces and objects. It’s a lot of trial and error until you get the results you want, but simply playing around with the lighting at your disposal can make a big difference.

3. Look for outdoor areas of even lighting

When it comes to shooting outside with your smartphone or tablet, your best bet is to use it during the day. Look for areas of even lighting. Shady and sunny can both work as long as everyone and everything (including your camera) are under the same canopy of light to avoid uneven exposure. Your best bet is to film during the “Golden Hour”, if possible.

4. Create an inexpensive lighting kit

Think professional-looking videos require expensive equipment? Not necessarily. You can turn virtually any room into a studio by hacking together a lighting kit with supplies from your local hardware store:

  • A long, multi-plug extension cable
  • Aluminum clamp lights (like this)
  • Daylight CFL bulbs
  • Spring clamps
  • Clothes pins
  • Diffusing paper or a white cloth
  • Tripod stands (like these)

Once you have the paper or cloth, follow the steps in this great tutorial from Wistia. Generally speaking, you’ll want to aim a light from either side of your camera toward your subject and use a third light in the background (unless it’s already well lit, in which case your third light can serve as a backlight to make the subject stand out).

Clamping the cloth or paper over or in front of your lights will provide softer, more diffused lighting. Please note that while CFL light bulbs don’t get very hot, care should be taken when using incandescent bulbs. These can get hot and could pose a fire hazard if placed too close to paper and/or cloth.

And remember to test different setups. Even something as simple as bouncing light off a white wall or poster board can achieve great results.

5. Edit out the distractions

For the average user, altering a video’s lighting once it’s been recorded can be very difficult. But most editing apps can be used for a few basic solutions. Caught a blast of bright sunlight while walking to the softball team’s dugout? Trim out that part of the video. Troubled by a distracting shadow in a particular section? Crop it out. But note that with cropping, most times you’ll need to scale the image first so it will work with the aspect ratio of the video.You could also cover up that section by inserting B-roll of footage with better lighting.

Whether you use Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Premiere, Quicktime or other software, these simple adjustments can help you end up with clearer, cleaner videos—the kind you’ll want to save and share for years to come.

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