When it comes to creating professional looking YouTube videos, lighting is key. The best lights for YouTube videos will allow you to create a well-lit, polished look that’s consistent from video to video.
From vlogs to full studio productions, all styles of YouTube video can benefit from a dedicated lighting setup. The best lights for YouTube videos will allow you to film independent of natural lighting, with increased creative control for results that are colour accurate and flicker-free.
Dedicated video lighting is also an excellent creative investment. While cameras and camera lenses become dated as imaging technology advances, you will rarely find quality lighting going out of style.
Video lights come in styles and at price points to suit all levels of content creators. To help you find the best video light for you, you’ll find our brief buying guide below, followed by our pick of the best lights for YouTube videos.
How to choose the best lights for YouTube videos:
Video light basics
While most YouTube lighting setups start from a single light, it can be helpful to plan ahead. A three point lighting setup is the most common arrangement and involves a key light, a fill light and a background light.
The key light is your main light and is usually the brightest. This light is used to illuminate your subject and determines the overall exposure of your scene. How it’s positioned will vary depending on the look you’re going for, but in general, around 45 degrees from your subject is a good starting point.
The fill light is usually a little dimmer and is positioned on the opposite side of your subject, mirroring the key. This light is used to fill in any shadows left by the key light and its brightness can be varied to taste. Going for a bright, soft look? Turn the fill light up. Looking for something a little moodier? Dim the fill light down a little.
Finally, as the name suggests, a background light is used to illuminate the space behind your subject. This light can set the overall feel of your video and adds a sense of space to your scene. Pretty much any video light can be used to light your background, although dedicated background lights with colour changing functionality can offer a wide range of creative freedom.
The three point light setup won’t work for all styles of video, and it’s certainly not essential to go out and buy three separate lights immediately – especially if you’re just getting started. But it can help to bear this arrangement in mind when planning which light to buy first.
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What type of video light is best?
From candid vlogs to full studio setups, no two YouTube content creators are quite alike, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. If you film on the go then a small, packable, lightweight option will likely suit you best. Ideally you’ll want a light that can be run off of a battery and potentially one that can attach directly to your camera or phone. Small LED panels and ring lights work particularly well here.
Moving on up, if you’re working in a makeshift studio out of your home then you may instead want to opt for a mains-powered light. Larger LED panel lights are ideal as they offer decent brightness levels but can still pack down after filming. Larger diameter ring lights are also well worth considering as they can illuminate subjects from all sides, making for a great one-light solution.
For more permanent sets you’ll likely be less concerned about portability and so a more substantial studio-style light may suit you best. Studio lights tend to offer the most output and the widest range of light modifiers and accessories, allowing you to tailor the light to your specific needs. They do, however, tend to require larger stands and bulkier diffusers and so will take up more space while set up.
What brightness do I need?
Video lights come in a variety of different brightnesses and your ideal option will be determined by the style of light and how you plan to use it. Most video lights will list an approximate brightness in lumens, with 800 lumens comparable to a 60W incandescent lightbulb, and 1500 lumens a 100W bulb.
A brighter light with a dimmer will provide you with more flexibility as well as the ability to record your videos at a lower ISO for less video grain. Brighter lights do tend to be heavier and more expensive, though, and so sometimes it can work just as well to position a dimmer light a little closer to your subject.
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What other specifications should I look out for?
When working with photos or video you’ll want to look out for a light’s colour rendering index, or CRI rating. The CRI will let you know how true to life colours will appear when illuminated by the light, which is critical for achieving accurate skin tones. The higher the rating the better, but any light with a rating of 90 or above should work fine.
If you plan on working with mixed lighting then the light’s colour temperature is also important. You’ve likely noticed that bright sunlight can feel cool and blue, while indoor light can seem warm and yellow. As standard, most video lights offer a daylight colour temperature setting, or a kelvin value of around 5500K. If you plan on recording using dedicated video lights only then getting all daylight balanced lights will work fine. However, if you plan on filming with a mix of video and traditional incandescent lights, you’ll need a light that can be set to 3200K or tungsten setting in order to match the warmer indoor lighting.
The best lights for YouTube videos to buy in 2021:
1. Neewer LED panel: Best LED video light panel for YouTube videos
Price: £86 | Buy now from Amazon
Neewer’s LED panel is an affordable, easy to use, versatile lighting option that will work for YouTube video makers of all experience levels.
The light is bright, colour accurate, offers colour temperature adjustment and includes a diffusion filter for more flattering results across faces. While cheaper LED panels attach rigidly to a light stand, Neewer’s panel features a metal u-bracket that allows you to easily angle the light, making it significantly more user-friendly.
While the light comes with a UK mains adapter, it’s also compatible with NP-F550/F970 batteries, allowing you to set up remotely or simply avoid cluttered cabling.
Although it doesn’t ship with a stand, the panel is compatible with all standard floor stands and table mounts, allowing you to adapt it to suit your specific setup. If you’re working on a budget then this light makes for an affordable key light. Alternatively, you can pick up a pair bundled with adjustable light stands for a key light and fill light set.
Key specs – Brightness: 3360 lumens; Dimmable: Yes; Colour temperature: 3200-5600K; Advertised CRI: 96; Power source: Included mains adapter or NP-F550/NP-F970 Li-ion Battery (not included)
2. Godox ML-60: Best small studio light for YouTube videos
Price: £246 | Buy now from Amazon
Godox’s ML-60 light is the ideal solution for YouTube video makers looking to invest in their first studio-style light. Bright, colour accurate and simple to use, the ML-60 makes for an excellent key light on smaller sets and can then be used as a fill or background light should your productions get larger.
Unlike traditional studio lights, the ML-60 is compact and portable, packing down neatly into an included carry case. Compatibility with NP-F550/F970 batteries allows for remote use, while a grip handle makes it great for run-and-gun filming. The light is quiet, too, with near-silent operation, even with extended use and offering a fan-free silent mode when required.
As a studio-styled light the ML-60 is compatible with a range of lighting modifiers. As standard, it features compatibility with Godox mount reflectors and softboxes but can be used with all Bowens mount modifiers using an adapter. It’s worth noting that the light only ships with a basic reflector, so you’ll likely need to pair it with the Godox As-s60s softbox or similar before putting it to use.
If you’re working on a tighter budget and don’t need the high level of portability afforded by the ML-60, then the older Godox SL-60W is still an excellent option.
Key specs – Brightness: 4500 lumens; Dimmable: Yes; Colour temperature: 5600K; Advertised CRI: 96; Power source: Included mains adapter or NP-F550/NP-F970 Li-ion Battery
3. Elgato Ring Light: Best ring light for YouTube videos
Price: £190 | Buy now from Amazon
The Elgato Ring Light is an excellent single-light solution for YouTuber video makers and streamers. While most ring lights feature LEDs built into the face of the ring, Elgato’s LEDs are installed within the frame. This results in a ring of light free of harsh hotspots that’s significantly less fatiguing on the eyes over long recording sessions.
The light itself, thanks to the large diameter of the ring, is flattering and soft, resulting in a shadow-free look that works as both a key and fill light. While there are physical controls built into the rear, like all of Elgato’s lights, the Ring Light can be paired with a companion app, allowing you to adjust the brightness and colour temperature without having to leave your seat.
As standard, the Elgato Ring Light ships with a sturdy desk-mount stand that keeps floor clutter to a minimum. It is, however, also compatible with standard light stands too.
Key specs – Brightness: 2500 lumens; Dimmable: Yes; Colour temperature: 2900-7000K; Advertised CRI: 94; Power source: Included mains adapter
4. Rotolight NEO 2: Best portable light for YouTube videos
Price: £199 | Buy now from Amazon
Small but powerful, the Rotolight NEO 2 is a highly adaptable professional video light that works well both fixed to your camera while on location and attached to a stand while in the studio.
The NEO 2 features a set of easy to use controls on the rear, allowing you to quickly and accurately adjust its output and colour temperature. It’s also compatible with Rotolight’s range of disc-shaped drop-in filters. A set of diffusion filters is included, allowing you to soften the light for more flattering results on faces.
A mains adapter is included, but the main perk of the NEO 2 is its portability, with its compact design allowing it to slip easily into most camera bags. While on the go it can be powered using a set of six AA batteries. These are sold pretty much everywhere so you never have to worry about finding replacements should you run low while out and about – although we’d recommend looking into rechargeables.
For content creators that work with photos as well as video, the NEO 2 can also be used as a high-speed sync flash modelling light when paired with the Elinchrom HHS transmitter.
Key specs – Brightness: 2500 lumens; Dimmable: Yes; Colour temperature: 2900-7000K; Advertised CRI: 96; Power source: Included mains adapter or 6x AA batteries
5. Godox CL10: Best background light for YouTube videos
Price: £65 | Buy now from Amazon
Designed as a dedicated background light, the CL10 is perfect for adding ambience, colour and style to your videos. Using the included remote or Godox’s smartphone app, you can dial in your choice of 36,000 different hue and saturation combinations or use one of the in-built effects, like firelight, candlelight or TV flicker
While the CL10 is powerful enough to illuminate a background scene on its own, where it really shines is in a stereo pair. Using the Godox app, you can control multiple lights simultaneously and dial in vibrant complementary colours.
The Godox CL10 is powered by a USB-C adapter. This means it can be set up to run from the mains or, for portability, a USB power bank.
While the CL10 offers full control over both colour and saturation, it’s not the most colour accurate option when it comes to pure white light, and therefore not a good stand-in for key or fill light duty.
Key specs – Brightness: 1100 lumens; Dimmable: Yes; Colours: 36,000 user-selectable colours; Advertised CRI: n/a; Power source: Included USB-C adapter.
6. Nanoleaf Shapes Hexagon: Best custom background light for YouTube videos
Price: £180 | Buy now from Amazon
Looking to create your own eye-catching custom backdrop? Nanoleaf’s Shapes light panels can be arranged and orientated however you like: simply connect the individual panels together and stick them to the wall. This allows you to create a unique background to match your YouTube channel’s logo or theme.
Once the Shapes are paired with your smartphone, you can take complete control. Through the app, you can dial in whichever colour you like and apply it to the arrangement as a whole, or to each panel individually. You can also create presets, allowing you to instantly switch between different colour combinations. There are also customisable themes built in that allow you to have the lights change colour gradually, pulse in time with music, or react to being touched.
A starter set of Nanoleaf Shapes contains nine hexagonal panels, although you can expand your design through Shapes Expansion packs. Large and small Triangle Shapes are also available and the different panels are inter-connectable.
Key specs – Brightness: 900 lumens; Dimmable: Yes; Colours: 16,000,000 user-selectable colours; Advertised CRI: n/a; Power source: Included mains adapter.