If you’re just getting into streaming, you’ve probably already learned that upgrading from your laptop’s stock webcam to a dedicated webcam can dramatically enhance the quality of your video. Likewise, you might have even moved to a standalone streaming microphone. But don’t overlook a critical ingredient: Lighting.
Setting up lighting might feel excessive or decadent, especially if you are not a professional streamer, but the reality is that lighting can be an essential tool for having a successful broadcast. Lighting can make you look more professional and increase your engagement with your audience. But don’t think you need to spend a lot of money on lighting, either. You might need just one or two lights — like a desktop unit that provides a key light and perhaps a secondary fill light. Don’t be intimidated: They’re easy to set up and a little experimentation will have you making great-looking video in no time.
Here are some excellent lighting kits for streaming, and scroll down to the end of the article for tips on understanding these different lighting units and how to shop for them.
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1. Neewer 18-inch Ring LightPros:
- Bright 55-watt lighting.
- Adjustable from 1-100%.
- Comes with stand, camera mount and filters.
- Doesn't fit on desktop.
- Depends on filters for color temperature adjustment.
- Powered by AC wall outlet.
The Neewer 18-inch Ring Light is a large ring light is designed to work on its own or in conjunction with fill lights as a key light for illuminating your face while streaming. Indeed, the ring is quite large — 18 inches in diameter. The 55-watt LED ring produces 5500K light and can be dimmed from 1% to 100%. Want to tweak the color? The package includes easy-to-use white and orange filters.
Neewer includes a light stand in the box, so you have everything you need to mount the light. The stand accommodates a traditional camera via a hotshoe mount as well as a webcam or phone, so you can capture your video from the center of the light. If you prefer, you can set the standup behind the camera if you’re already satisfied with how you mount the camera.
Even if you’re just starting out, this is a good lighting option, since it produces a flattering “beauty light” glow, and the ring design means you can place your camera in the middle for even overall lighting, or use it off to the side for fill light or to add unusual lighting to your shot.
2. WongPing 5.7-inch Ring LightPros:
- Compact light sized for the desktop.
- USB-powered lighting.
- Comes with desktop tripod.
- Can't adjust color temp and brightness independently.
- Ships without instructions.
- May need more light than this ring can output.
Ring lights come in all sizes (though not all shapes — they’re always rings). The WongPing 5.7-inch Ring Light measures just 5.7 inches in diameter, and that makes it small enough to sit on a desk or tabletop. You don’t need a large, cumbersome light stand; the package includes a compact tabletop tripod that can also hold your webcam or smartphone. Composed of 64 individual LED lights, this ring is also USB-powered, so you can plug it into your PC or laptop for power. That makes it pretty portable, in case you need to shoot on location, and no matter where you stream from, you don’t need to be close to a bevy of outlets.
The light is dimmable across 10 level of brightness, with configurable color temperature as well (at lower brightness levels, the light is warmer). Of course, this can be a disadvantage as well — ideally, you would be able to adjust the brightness and color temperature separately, but with this light you need to crank it to maximum brightness to get white light. The controls for the light are inline on the USB cable, so you don’t have to go all the way to the light to make adjustments.
3. Mactrem 6-inch LED Ring LightPros:
- Large 6-inch ring light.
- 11 brightness levels and 3 color temperatures.
- If you need a lot of light, this might not be sufficient.
- Tripod is not very configurable.
- Can be difficult to position where you need it.
The Mactrem 6-inch LED Ring Light is a great all-around ring light, suitable for use as a key light, for illuminating products, and even as a fill light. The 6-inch diameter LED light array puts out a lot of light, and it’s adjustable through 11 level of brightness. In addition, it has three different color temature settings (each with 11 brightness levels) so you can dial in the look you need, including white, warm white, and warm yellow. Moreover, the light is USB powered, so you can drive it from your laptop or another USB device, including a power bank. That is both convenient at your desk and makes the light fairly portable. The controls for the light are inline on the USB cable for easy access.
The package includes a pair of tripods. Rather than including a mount for your phone or webcam on the same tripd that you mount the ring, you get two to configure as you see fit. Overall, this is a smart choice if you want your lighting to sit on the desktop or if you don’t have a lot of space to work with when you’re streaming.
4. Dazzne D50 Desk Mount Video LightPros:
- Bright 45-watt panel.
- Included remote control.
- Adjustable brightness and color temp.
- Batteries are an extra optional expense.
- One of the pricier lighting kits.
- Only comes with a clamp, not a tripod.
If you’re serious about your video production, you may need more light than a small ring light is capable of outputting. The Dazzne D50 Desk Mount Video Light is a powerful 45-watt panel light that measures 15.4 inches across and can provide key, fill, or backlighting for almost any project, and it’s affordable enough that if your existing lighting isn’t cutting it, you can step up to this kit. It includes a light stand that clamps to a desk or tabletop.
The panel is engineered with alternating white light and warm light LEDs, and the whole thing is covered in a diffuser to soften the output. The light’s brightness and color temperature are separately adjustable — the brightness varies from 0% to 100%, and the temperature can be tweaked from 3000K to 8000K. It’s all controlled from the back of the panel — an LCD display shows the light’s status — or via a wireless remote control, also with a detailed LED display.
The light comes with an AC adapter, but it’s also possible to run the panel wirelessly with a pair of rechargeable Li-ion batteries — unfortunately, the batteries aren’t included, so that’s an optional expense if you want to go portable without a wall outlet.
5. Emart 60 LED Portable Lighting KitPros:
- Bright lighting panels.
- Compact with integrated tripods.
- Come with filter gels.
- Lights are designed to only work with integrated tripods.
- No color balance controls.
- No brightness adjustments.
If your video streaming work involves showing closeups of products, you probably need to light them. That’s where a light like the Emart 60 LED Portable Lighting Kit can come in handy. For about $40 or so, this is a two-pack of lighting panels you can use for key or fill light operations for product shots or even yourself. Each of these panels has 60 LEDs and is sized about 5.5 inches wide and 3.67 inches high. Each panel emits a top brightness of about 1400 lumens.
The panels come affixed to their own small desktop tripods and can be adjusted to pitch up or down. And despite being desktop lights, they’re AC lights and qwdplug into a wall outlet — that can be inconvenient compared to a USB light, but they are significantly brighter — about 50% brighter than a similarly sized lighting panel.
In addition to the lights themselves, you also get four colored filters (red, blue, orange and white). That said, these lights are fairly limited. You get a single brightness — the lights aren’t adjustable in intensity, nor can you change the color temperature. The only control, in fact, is an on/off switch — there is no inline control or remote control.
6. Neewer Dimmable 5600K USB LED Video LightPros:
- Adjustable brightness from 100% to 10%.
- Inline controls on USB cable.
- Includes filter gels in four colors.
- Not very bright.
- USB but requires AC adapter.
- No color temperature adjustments.
The Neewer Dimmable 5600K USB LED Video Light is a bit of an odd duck; it’s a 5.5×3.7-inch lighting panel that uses a USB port for power. But while you might expect to plug it into a laptop, PC, or power bank, and in fact the product page explicitly suggests you can do that, Neewer actually recommends only powering the lights via an AC adapter. A further wrinkle: there’s no USB AC adapter included in the box, so you’ll need to get that separately at extra cost. All that adds up to a frustrating experience unless you are cool with always plugging it into the wall.
But if you can get past that, the Neewer lights are a solid choice if you need to illuminate a product on your desktop or are looking for some fill lights for your face — they’re not really bright enough to serve as key lights. This two-pack nets you two lights for under $50, and they come with tripods and colored gels (yellow, blue, red, and white) as well. The light’s brightness is adjustable from 100% down to 10%, with controls mounted inline on the USB cable for convenience. The tripod is desk-friendly and can be configured to set the light up to about 8.8 inches high; you can also add a four-section extension stick to mount the light as high as 46 inches.
7. HPUSN Softbox Lighting KitPros:
- Bright 85-watt lights.
- Easy to assemble.
- Flexible for any kind of video project.
- Brightness and temperature not adjustable.
- Not super portable.
Often, desktop lights just won’t cut it. Many aren’t bright enough and don’t throw a wide enough net to get the job done. Softboxes might seem like overkill — and they are definitely bigger than desktop lights — but they can give you all the light you need. The HPUSN Softbox Lighting Kit gives you a pair of 85-watt softboxes with bulbs and stands. In other words, everything you need to start streaming. The lighting is daylight color 5500K, but if yuou’re used to desktop LED lighting, be aware that these lights aren’t adjustable; you can change neither the brightness nor the temperature. Thyat said, they’re generously large, at about 20×28 inches, and throw enough light for almost any project. Need them to be dimmer? Move them further away.
The stands and softboxes are easy to set up and offer a lot of flexibility in how you configure the lighting — the heads can be rotated to almost any angle for direct or bounce lighting, and that means you can use them for key and fill lighting or to illuminate products for close-ups. The stands themselves can sit as low as 27 inches or as high as 79 inches.
How to Configure Lighting for Streaming Video
Lighting can be intimidating. After all, you've seen lighting professionals arranging lights on a movie set and at a photoshoot, and it seems like it takes some combination of science and black magic to make it all work. In reality, you can get good lighting with just two or three lights:
The key light is your main source of illumination and is generally positioned behind the camera and pointed directly at you. There are a lot of different kinds of key lights you can use including a ring light that wraps around the camera lens. Then key light's direct light can be harsh and cause shadows, though, which is why you'll almost always combine it with a fill light.
Fill lights, as the name implies, fills in shadows and evens out the illumination. You can use a desktop light or a softbox and angle it from either or both sides to clean up your illumination. You can stop here, or add a third light in the background.
The backlight is the third peg in what's commonly called three-point lighting. It's usually not essential and especially for streaming, you may be able to skip it entirely. But if you have enough space in the room and want to amp up your visual quality, a backlight, can create a sense of separation between you and the background; it generates a soft halo of light around the outline of your head and shoulders (which is why it's sometimes referred to as a rim light -- it creates a rim of light around your head, hair, neck and shoulders). You position the backlight behind and above you, and point it at the back of your head.
The Best Value Lighting for Streaming
The cheapest lighting is rarely the best value, and the lighting you buy should depend upon what your needs are because there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to lighting.
Even so, one of the best all-around choices is a softbox like the HPUSN Softbox Lighting Kit. It offers a lot of light in a soft, diffuse package, which you can use to directly illuminate your scene or set up 3-point lighting.
If smaller lights are in the cards, the best LED lighting panel for many people is the Dazzne D50 Desk Mount Video Light. It is satisfyingly bright, includes a remote, and lets you dial in the brightness and color temp.
Looking for a ring light? The Mactrem 6-inch LED Ring Light is affordable, adjustable, and USB-powered. It might not put out enough light for your needs, but priced about the same as an expensive lunch, it's definitely worth trying out.
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