Lighting – Teach Your Course Online


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Lesson Notes

[Introduction] So, why is lighting so important? Why do we worry about lighting? What’s the big deal? Turn the light on and shoot some video, right? 

Understand that lighting is that moment of a first impression. Studies have been done, for years, talking about just how quickly someone can create a first impression, and how quickly others judge you, from the moment they see you. And when they first see you on video, what they’re seeing is how you’re lit. Yes, they’re seeing your image, yes they’re hearing your voice (and we’re actually going to talk about that when we talk about cameras and microphones). But that first impression — three tenths of a second — can you believe that? That’s how quickly people make a snap judgment about you. 

Cameras aren’t as capable, as our eyes are, of adjusting to the lights in a room. So what a camera sees is very specific, compared to our eyes. And so how we’re lit really, really matters. It instantly communicates your professionalism, the time and the care that you’ve put into doing this, and it really reflects on you and how you care about your students (your class, your tribe). It sets a tone of how important this video is, that you’re not messing around, you’re really, really serious about this. And it puts the viewer’s mind, almost unconsciously, at ease about what’s going to follow. It’s like, “Ah! They know what they’re doing. They’ve lit themselves great and so it’s going to be great!” 

And lighting also helps direct people to the important parts of what you’re showing. Mostly it’s your face and any object that you’re demonstrating when you’re doing your work. It sets you up for success in all that you’re doing in your session, in your course. It raises your profile as an SME, as a subject matter expert. And as I said, it’s not just the lighting — it’s your camera, it’s your microphone, it’s how you look, it’s how you sound. But all of those things work together to help raise your profile as a teacher. So let’s talk about lighting, in this lesson in Teach Your Course Online. 

[Video pre-roll] So here we’re going to take a look at lights.

You want to take advantage of any natural light, if you can. A window can be great, as long as it’s not too bright, it’s not too glaring. Usually what you want to do is use lights that are more controllable, because as the day goes on, your light will change, from a natural light from a window.

Lights don’t have to be expensive. A couple of table lamps, placed properly, maybe up on some higher shelves, will work just fine.

If you are using lights that can be pointed in a particular direction, make sure that they are aimed right at your face, right at your head. Put one to the left of you and above you, and the other to the right and above you, both about 6-10 feet away from you, kind of a 45-degree angle, right? On the right-hand side, you want to use a 100 watt bulb. That’s the one on your right. On your left-hand side, you want to use a 60 watt bulb. So it’s more powerful on the right. The one on the right is called your key light, the main light. The one on your left is called the fill light. Now, that puts more light on this side of your face, and less on this side. It’s called two-point lighting. So you’re not evenly lit on both sides, which doesn’t look as interesting as if you’re lit well on one side and not as much on the other.

If you want to look even better, put another behind you and to your right or to your left. That’s called your hair light or your back light. (Even though I don’t have hair…) It helps outline my head. That’s called three-point lighting, and it’s how Hollywood lights most scenes.

Now I’m going to demonstrate how this works…

  • [switches off all lights] Oooh scary kids, all the lights are off! I’ve actually got a room light from the other room, just so you can see the outline of what I’m doing. But the first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to turn on the key light, and that’s going to be up and to my right. And when I turn that on, you’re going to see that it lights the right-hand side of my face. So let’s take a look at that.
  • [switches on key light] So, there we go. That’s with my key light on, but it kind of looks like I’m sitting in the middle of a stage somewhere, with a spotlight shining down on me. There’s a lot of shadows underneath my face. The key light does a good job of giving light, but what we want to do is even things out. We want to add a fill light, so let’s do that.
  • [switches on fill light] There we go, now we have a fill light, but it’s not as bright as the key light. The key light is, let’s call it 100% and the fill light is more like 50-60%. That’s why I said use a 100 watt bulb if you’re going to put a lamp close to you, and use a 60 watt bulb if you’re going to put a lamp close to you on the other side. So, key light 100%, fill light 50%. Now I mentioned you can make it even better-looking and more like Hollywood (get that “cinematic” look), by adding a third light — a hair light, a back light. Here’s what that looks like.
  • [switches on hair light] There you go. See the difference? It’s subtle, but it makes a big difference. It helps outline my head a little bit better.

When you’re doing this, you want to use LED lights for a consistent look, and also to keep the temperature down. You want to put them in the same place every single time. I’ve linked to a 3-light LED panel kit (about $150), and it comes with stands, so you can set them up in the same place all the time. There’s a link below this video, where you can find them.

If you want to diffuse the light a little bit, you can use tracing paper or baking parchment, if the lights are a little glaring.

Don’t light yourself from above. It looks very “industrial.” If you just use your ceiling lights, that’s bad.

You don’t want to light yourself from below either, because it looks a little creepy.

Now, one final thing. Don’t use a ring light, especially if somehow you’ve positioned it away from where it belongs, which is right around the lens. Ring lights are for YouTube influencers and Instagram makeup un-boxers who want to work close to their cameras, and show you what they’re doing. Those lights are designed to be mounted, again, around the lens of the camera. If you put it six feet away, a ring light, it’s just a light then, that happens to be shaped like a ring. And it’s not good for your use anyway. We’re professionals, we want to look good for our students in class.

That’s it! Not that hard, huh? That’s lighting.

I think this is the last time I tell you to do this, but click the Mark Complete button below, and I’ll see you in the next lesson.


Bescor 3 Point LED kit with stands:

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Collapse Comments

how far away you should place the lights from the computer?

David H. Lawrence XVII (Administrator) April 9, 2020 at 5:07 pm

It depends on how powerful they are. Regular table land should be what we say in the video – 6-8 feet from you. What are you using?

David H. Lawrence XVII (Administrator) April 9, 2020 at 5:08 pm

Lamps, not land.

So I will be adapting these practices to catering to preschool level students. The “lessons” will be short, to the point, and cheerful. A great deal will be for connecting with the children and families to facilitate a feeling of normalcy and familiarity for our littles who are not capable of understanding the changes we are all in. Do the ideas for content, background, and visual stimuli remain the same for gearing content for young let students?

I would imaging there may be more physical movement needs with a younger audience?

David H. Lawrence XVII (Administrator) April 12, 2020 at 12:54 pm

It depends on what you’re teaching, but yes, likely.

For some reason, I can’t “mark complete” the last few lessons. What do I do?

David H. Lawrence XVII (Administrator) April 12, 2020 at 10:02 pm

Not to worry. There’s no requirement to mark those. Those buttons are required if you use video in the class.

I am having the same problem with Marking Complete. Glad it wasn’t just me. (taking dunce hat off now….)

David H. Lawrence XVII (Administrator) April 26, 2020 at 2:16 pm

Make sure you let each video you watch completely end. 99% and then stopping doesn’t enable the Mark as complete button.

Fantastic information

Thanks for this. I’ve learned so many good tips about the better things to do. Can I check how to progress beyond lighting? It tells me I’m not enrolled whenever I try to get into the cameras section.

David H. Lawrence XVII (Administrator) April 26, 2020 at 2:15 pm

I’m not sure why this is happening to you. I haven’t had this complaint from others that they can’t get into certain lessons but they can get into others. Is this still the case?

Please, recommend the type of light color to choose such as the following:
– Soft white
– Cool white
– Daylight
Thank you

David H. Lawrence XVII (Administrator) April 26, 2020 at 2:19 pm

LEDs don’t come in those colors, but soft white bulbs will work just fine. Remember the tip in the video about using tracing paper or baking parchment to diffuse the light if needed.

Wow! What a difference the lighting makes! Who would have known–other than an expert like yourself? I changed my background to plain Jane, adjusted the lighting, changed chairs (I had the squeaky chair before–arrgh!). My students said they could tell a difference in the before and after. Thank you!

David H. Lawrence XVII (Administrator) April 26, 2020 at 2:03 pm

Wow! Want to shoot a quick video and let us see your space?

Thanks again for the webinar with Drew. Apparently Amazon is sold out on the lighting package you recommend. Is there any other package on Amazon that you recommend and is within the same general price range? OR is there another store that would carry this? or perhaps the manufacturer?

David H. Lawrence XVII (Administrator) April 28, 2020 at 10:30 pm

Any similar LED panels that are adjustable in their brightness (and don’t rely solely on batteries) will do just fine. June 11, 2020 at 8:56 am

Great info! Any recommendations on the strength of the “Hair light” bulb? Thanks!

David H. Lawrence XVII (Administrator) June 11, 2020 at 10:47 am

Like the fill light, start at 50% and adjust from there. June 15, 2020 at 11:20 pm

Thanks! July 31, 2020 at 10:29 am

Hi, On Amazon the light package you suggested has 3 LEDs that are all the same voltage (70w). Will this matter as you recommend, 100w and 60w for the Key and Fill light?

David H. Lawrence XVII (Administrator) July 31, 2020 at 11:26 am

There is an adjustment dial on each of the LED lights, and the 100w and 60w are for if you have to choose a bulb because your table lamp isn’t adjustable.

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