Elevate Your Videos: 5 Go-To Music Video Lighting Setups
In filmmaking and photography, light tells the story. It informs your viewers of how they are supposed to feel, without them even noticing.
If you are making music, chances are you have some story to tell, and in that case, you will want your music video to measure up. Here are some easy setups and tips for you to enhance your video.
Before we go in-depth with lighting, you should know the basics of making music videos. Check out our article on music video production to learn all you need to know.
5 music video lighting setups
1. Indoor lighting
The most common indoor lighting technique is three-point lighting. It means having three lights from different directions to shape the subject and set them apart from their background.
2. Natural lighting
If you want to avoid extra costs and the hustle of carrying gear around, we have an option for you: the sun. This light source can produce incredible results, and you don't need to rent it (at least in 2023).
There are two optimal periods of the day for you to avoid harsh brightness: the golden hour and the blue hour. The golden hour lasts about one hour and is immediately before sunset or after sunrise. On the other hand, the blue hour is shorter (less than 30 minutes) and happens before sunrise or immediately after sunset.
Still, using the sun as a light source means you will have to be a victim of rapid light variations. If needed, use diffusers and reflectors to bounce the sunlight.
3. Top backlighting
If your music video calls for drama and mystery, the backlighting technique is what you are looking for. To transform your subject into a captivating silhouette, you only need one light and a solid backdrop (make sure it is not too dark, or else it will absorb the light). Place your light behind your subject and angle it towards your background. That is it.
4. Two-point lighting
The two-point lighting technique uses only a key and a fill lighting, which you place as you would for a three-point setup. Since you don't have a backlight to create a clear separation, make sure you use a background that doesn't blend with your subjects.
5. LED Tube lighting
LED lights have been used since the 1950s in appliances or for Christmas. Today, you can consider using them to bring your music videos to the next level. LEDs tubes are very fun to use as they can change colours and are very portable. They can be used as a key light, fill light, background light, or simply as props.
Most commonly, filmmakers use them as a background light. To do so, place them behind your subject in any way you wish (on the wall, on the floor, hanging from the ceiling, etc.). For example, they can be part of your set decoration or have your subject dancing with them.
3 tips for lighting music videos
1. Choose the aesthetic look for your video
Again, it all comes down to the story you are trying to tell. Planning and sticking to a consistent visual look will not only make your story more aesthetically pleasing but, most importantly, more convincing.
Inspire yourself with different eras, fashion trends, countries and cities, nature, or even political movements. You may want to emulate a mysterious Sherlock Holmes vibe or the energy of a flashy Las Vegas casino. Above all, try to make it your own.
2. Use complementary colors for the mood
You may have some scenarios in your mind and not be sure about them visually making sense. In these cases, theory can help. Simple colour theories, such as complementarity, can guide you on what looks right to the human eye. You can easily find out which colors complement one another online.
3. Get creative with how you use lighting
Having a plan by any means constrains creativity. Once you have a vision, there are no limits to the tools and techniques you can use to make it happen. Start with a solid model (as a three-point lighting setup) and then play around with light intensity, colour, direction, and so on.
You can use colour gels, cookies (cardboard cutouts), reflectors, and much more. Again, it is all a matter of getting inspired. Borrow ideas from other music videos or even movies (such as using practicals).
Learn how to make better music videos
Eager to begin making music videos? Well, you're almost there. If you want to be fully equipped, check out our page on filmmaking to take your videos to the next level.
About the instructor
Eypee Kaamiño is a videographer for documentaries and tourism. His background is working in the music industry, in which producing music and music videos was the main job.
Music video lighting FAQ
How do you light a music video?
With either: natural light, typical studio lights or LED tubes.
What colour lighting is best for music video?
It depends on the aesthetic you planned.
Why is lighting important in music videos?
It sets an aesthetic and improves the video quality.