The Basics of Lighting Your Stream


If you are reading this article you’re probably wondering, “How important is lighting to my stream?”

We often find ourselves prioritizing other aspects of streaming like software, overlays, alerts, audio devices, and camera equipment. However, lighting is also a particularly important element that you should take into consideration. In this article, we will be covering the basics of lighting your stream and explaining how to get started with fine-tuning that ideal lighting setup you’ve always wanted.

Different Types of Lighting

When it comes to video production and/or streaming there are traditionally four different types of lighting, sometimes referred to as “Four-point lighting”, that can be used to create the visuals you want for your stream:

  • Key Lights
  • Fill Lights
  • Backlights
  • Background Lights
Example Of A Typical Lighting Setup

Key lights (not to be confused with the Elgato Key Lights) are your primary source of light that should be used to illuminate yourself. Typically, your key light is placed just off to the left or right of your camera, but not so far as to cast half of your face in deep shadows.

Fill lights are secondary lights that should be used to support your key lights (primary lighting source). Typically fill lights are placed at a different angle than the key light(s) and are used at a lower or equal brightness to “fill in” or reduce/eliminate the shadows created by your key light(s).

Backlights often confused with background lights, are lights used to illuminate you from behind. They are used to give some depth to your appearance on screen, serving to separate or highlight you from the background. When it comes to streaming, backlights are typically optional and may not actually be required. These lights are more of a personal preference.

Background lights These are lights placed behind you. However, unlike the other three lights, they are used to illuminate background elements such as walls, shelving, collectibles, or other features of your room. They draw more attention to the background, adding depth of field to your overall scene. A well lit background can contribute greatly to your brand.


Envision How You Want Your Stream to Look

Whether you are just starting out or whether you are looking to upgrade your current lighting setup, make sure to think about the vision you have for your stream!

We all have different preferences as to how we want our streams to look. Make sure to take that into consideration as you start pricing out lighting options, or look to upgrade your current lighting setup. Taking this approach will help you save money long-term and ensure that you do not buy any unnecessary lighting that does not fit your needs or end goal.

Natural Lighting vs Artificial Lighting

Natural lighting is the first option that you will want to consider unless you do not have windows in your room, or you prefer blocking sunlight out with curtains. It can be used as a substitute or cheap alternative to purchasing artificial lighting, especially when you are just starting out as a content creator.

When utilizing natural lighting, be sure to consider the time of day that you plan on streaming. This may determine whether you still need to consider artificial lighting sources.

Regardless of your choice of natural or artificial, you still want to be sure that you orient the light source as close to a “key light” position as possible.

Natural Light Changes

In the morning through early afternoon, natural light is typically soft, meaning the sunlight is diffused or evenly spread out across your face and/or scene resulting in zero or minimal shadows. Depending on how much light enters your room, you may not need to purchase artificial lighting sources at all or when you are just starting out.

However from mid-afternoon to early evening, natural light can be harsh, meaning the sunlight is extremely bright and creates uneven lighting on yourself or heavy shadows in the background of your stream. Additionally, if you stream in the early morning or evening time when it’s dark outside, you might not have any natural light to utilize. In these scenarios, purchasing artificial lighting is often ideal or required.

Artificial Light

As far as artificial lighting sources, some popular options among content creators and streamers are softboxes, ring lights and the Elgato Key Lights. Each of these various options create soft light that can work in conjunction with natural lighting or other sources in your room.

When considering which option may be best for you, make sure to conduct your own research and read product reviews from different reputable sources. Additionally, you’ll want to come up with a budget and allocate how much you want to spend on lights for your streaming setup.


We understand streaming can be very intimidating at the start and you may want to just focus on the basics of recording content and becoming more comfortable on stream. However don’t forget that lighting is also an essential part of your stream and can make a difference in how your viewers perceive your content!

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