Behind the Screens: 5 tips from Jordan’s budget Amazon lighting setup [Video]

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Jordan's studio lighting setup

There are tons of lights and lighting setups out there for simple product videos, but they can quickly get expensive. So I thought a little behind the scenes look at my cheap lighting setup might help give some affordable ideas. Here are five tips to help if you’re shooting products or just want some new ideas for lighting. Be sure to watch the video below to see how it is all set up.

Lighting tip #1: A key light is key

At the core of my lighting setup is a very affordable lighting kit from Amazon – the LimoStudio 700w kit. This comes with stands, two 2-x2-foot softboxes and two 85W CFL bulbs which are each a 350W equivalent – making the setup pretty bright. The lights have a cool color temperature at 6500k.

I can’t find the exact kit that I bought just over a year ago on Amazon, but this one from Neewer looks like it is just about the same thing. I typically only use one light, so even just picking up a single light like this amazon choice would fit this setup.

Because most of the products I shoot are relatively small, I can get the softbox up close to it which makes the light surface larger and thus softer on the product. I usually place it to the left and at a roughly 45-degree angle from the camera.

Lighting tip #2: Background

It’s not always necessary, and sometimes you might just want a clean photo or video frame with a bare background, but having some background light can be interesting. If you’ve been around this channel for a while, you’ll notice that I almost always have twinkly fairy lights in the background. It makes the Bokeh, or depth of field from the camera, pop and just adds some dreamy interest.

5 Lighting tips: Video

These, as with my desk lamp, are also a much warmer color temperature so it gives a nice warm light in the background. To take it even a step further, I sometimes turn on a pair of Philips Hue lights that I normally have set to a warm color similar to the fairy lights and desk lamp.

Lighting tip #3: Fill in the side

One thing that I use for product photos but not normally when I’m on camera myself is a fill light. This is a light that is usually on the opposite side as the key light and I place it behind the subject a little bit. I use it to lighten up the dark side of whatever product I’m shooting and set it apart from the background a little bit. I have a couple of small bi-color LED lights from Ikan that I also take advantage of. These raise the cost of this setup by quite a bit, but having another cheap light like another Neewer from the kit mentioned above would also be a great option.

If you don’t have another light, you can always use a white poster board, cardboard or painted plywood to reflect the light from the key light back onto the subject. Check the video to see how this works in action.

Lighting tip #4: Shooting overhead

While I don’t always use the unboxing footage, I do try to record unboxing most of the products I review. For this, I use a simple backdrop stand like this one on Amazon matched with a camera clamp and an articulating friction arm. The stand that I have doesn’t feel like it can hold a ton of weight, but a mirrorless camera like the Sony a7s ii that I use seems to be okay.

For another great overhead setup, check out this rig from Jeff at 9to5Mac.

Lighting Tip #5: Switch up the surface

Another easy way to switch things up is with different surfaces. Especially when shooting top-down, having a cohesive or contrasting surface for your product to sit on adds some nice interest. The one that I use most often is just a large sheet of black poster board. My table that I shoot most products on is a light wood color, but having a black surface that I can swap in when I want to change it up adds some nice interest.

Wrapping up

There are tons of ways to light products, this is just a quick and affordable setup that I use for pretty much all of my videos and photos. I’d love to add a large dimmable LED keylight at some point, but this has been working fine for me so far so it’s hard to justify that.

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