Lighting for the Camera – How is it Different From The Stage?

frontlight lighting for camera lighting programming Sep 23, 2022

The camera has been a part of live events for some time, but in the post-2020 world more and more events rely on the recordings and live streams to make events happen. In this video, David shares how to think about lighting for the camera and the different types of events and what approaches to take.

The way your lighting looks on live stream or camera recordings matters! 2020 really switched up the way live events are shown and magnified the entire spectrum of possibilities for these events.  It used to be that not every event was captured on camera, but today that has changed.

The Reality is, these days, even if you don’t have cameras in your event you still need to optimize your lighting for recordings at least a little bit for those in the audience who may be filming with their phones.

Lighting and Live Shows

2020 initially had everything shut down and people began creating studios. Bands, churches, and other venues were creating live stream studios where they employed studio lighting techniques in the same way that film and tv work.

As time moved on and things began re-opening with reduced capacities we started to see that hybrid live events became incredibly popular. A hybrid live event is anywhere between a completely studio event and a completely live show.

Hybrid live events have their own unique set of challenges. Some hybrid live events utilize a small audience where it is okay to have the lighting be intrusive on the stage. This is because in a typical studio lighting set up you often have a primary light and fill lights. The key light (primary light) sits just a little bit off the cameras lens which creates a nice contrast to the face of the person on stage.

Fill lighting is then often brought in from the side or the back to warm up the look a bit and give some separation from the backdrop.

Light Source

Oftentimes you use umbrellas or soft boxes or just big sheets of white silk to create a very large white source of light that sits completely at eye level or just slightly above. This is in major contrast to stage lighting where you will generally want to keep the lighting up and away from the audience because it will look better on the eye when on camera.


Lighting for the camera and making it look good is a combined effort of many different things. One step of exposure is taking your camera app and snapping a quick photo of your lighting. You want to have it come out looking relatively great without having to tweak or edit anything in the photo.

The next step to check exposure is by snapping a quick photo of yourself with your lighting in the background. Sometimes, especially is there is a lot of darkness around the stage the image of a person can tend to get blown out.

Another thing to consider is if people are moving around a lot on the stage. You will see that if there is a lot of movement, a photo will cause things to look blown out in the image.

Taking time to double check these things and ensuring that you get the proper exposure consistent with your camera and lighting is really key.

Color Temperature

The color white has different tunes to it that in lighting we call “color temperature”. You will notice with stage lighting as well as LED lighting in your home that some lightbulbs will be more orange, and some will be more bluish. The tint of the white towards a cool or a warmer temperature has a large effect on your overall ambiance.

Matching your color temperature with any lights that are lighting people on stage is incredibly important. Making sure they are matched ensures that your lighting will look great still on camera.

The Hybrid Event – How to Use “Video Lights” With Regular Stage Lighting

Balancing stage lighting, video lighting and the camera can be difficult. Let me show you how to optimize all 3 together for your next hybrid or live stream event!

Balancing Video and Lighting

When we talk about running a hybrid event and having some element of both video and non-video lighting it means that you may have any number of things going on at the same time.

Getting Started

When you are lighting for video, the best place to start is with your front wash. You will set up your front wash and get it to the level of lighting that you feel comfortable with. When deciding exactly where that comfort level lies there is a couple things to take into consideration. If you are lighting purely for video that light level can essentially be anywhere you like. As long as the people being recorded are comfortable and the camera is able to properly expose everything, you are all set!

If you are in a live setting, then it’s advisable to go to the back of the room and see for yourself what looks natural and what looks bright enough without being overly lit. Once you have this situated and are happy with how things look on stage it’s time for the next part of the process.

Camera Exposure

After you have your front light set to the level that you want it you will next take a moment to expose your camera manually. You will also need to take some time to white balance to the color temperature of your light source.


Once your two main elements are balanced, there are a couple other things you want to pay notice to as well, one being the backlight. If you bring the backlight up to full in white you will find that it will turn the people on stage a bit pinkish. Taking out a bit of red and then taking a little time to adjust the color temperature to your liking will make a big difference esthetically.

You may also decide to play with the intensity of the backlight and shift it during your show depending on the person or people on your stage and how it looks as you go along to make sure that everything looks smooth and well-lit throughout.

Different colors in clothes, different skin tones, and changes in closeness to the camera and/or background will alter the way the lighting looks and need to shift accordingly.

Set Lighting

Set lighting can change the look depending on the color and location of the lights. Taking a moment to observe how your set lighting looks with the presenters on stage can make a big difference on the overall appearance of your show. Some colors and/or intensity may not match with every person on stage and will need to be adjusted to maintain the balance visually.

Taking time to optimize your background will ensure that the focus remains on the presenter during your show.

Audience Lighting 101 and Console Setup For The Camera

The last step to great hybrid or livestream event lighting is to balance your audience lighting. In this video, I show you what and how to make your audience lighting really shine for the camera – and the in-room experience!

Lighting the audience during your show to make it look perfect on camera is another important aspect of lighting for a live show.

A typical event such as a regular church service or concert, etc., the audience will be darker or in the dark, especially during music portions. This can present a few problems if video is important to your show where the audience will be a part of the video.

Including the Audience

In a live stream or in a hybrid type event you generally want to show that the audience is there! You can go about doing this in a couple of different ways. You may choose to have cameras on stage shooting behind or beside the presenters to give you a good angle to reveal the audience. Another way to go about it is to have wide shots where the entire room is part of the shot as well as the stage and those presenting.

In both scenarios if you do not light the audience at least a small amount then they are just going to come across as a black void on camera which will majorly ruin the look of your live stream.

Light the Audience

The best way to avoid having your audience vanish into a dark abyss on camera is pretty straight forward. Get some light on your audience!

Tips for Lighting the Audience

When you go to do this it’s important to remember that way you light the audience will be a bit different than the way you light the stage.

Front Truss

One way to go about lighting the audience is to take lights from your front truss and point them down towards the audience. Any light that comes from directly overhead is going to look pretty decent on the audience. The reason for this is that the main purpose is not to light the people in the audience perfectly as you would for those presenting on stage, but rather brighten them up so that when they are in the shot they can be seen. This overhead light will accomplish this wonderfully, while not blinding the audience.

Mid Truss

Another way you could choose to light the audience is to use the mid truss angle. Your options are really quite open when it comes to how you decide to light them. It comes down to deciding how critical the audience is to the show and how much you want to include them.

For example, if you have someone who requires a bit more attention such as illuminating a single person in the audience who may be accepting an award, then you want to have them lit with a 45 degree angle to get the best view of them. A mid stage light with a wash could easily accomplish the look you need in such a case.

Another helpful tip to note if you are lighting a single person in the audience is to take the light that is focused on them to a white rather than a blue and be sure to balance the intensity to ensure that they are exposed correctly.

General Audience Lighting

When it comes to lighting the entire general audience one thing that you will really find helpful is to put gobos in all of your lights as well as prisms with a slow rotation. The reason for this is because if you just have a wash light beaming down on your audience, it will cause them to get really worn out and their eyes will get tired.

To avoid this you will typically want to keep your angle higher and wider so that people aren’t staring directly into the lights. Also, applying a slow rotation to the light will make all the difference.

If you have the ability, having the light come from straight above the audience or slightly behind can give really great results while not blinding anyone.  Of course, the ability to put a light anywhere in the room isn't always available to you, so lighting well often has compromises.

Console Layout

When you are laying out for a camera ready show you will first start with the principles of laying out your console the way you would for any other type of show. The biggest key is having the ability to adjust every part of the room to the camera as you work.

Your front light will be locked in so that your wash light on the stage is set without an option to change it because this needs to be the same all the time for the camera. That said, on the other hand, things light your backlighting and your audience lighting are going to need to change based on the circumstances.

Making the Best Lighting for Video Possible

The biggest thing to keep in mind is to be flexible when you are working with lighting for camera.

Leave yourself room to play with and alter lighting throughout the show depending on your needs while keeping that main front light set to ensure the necessary consistency. Being ready for anything will prep you to put on the best show possible and catch it on film perfectly every time!

As you use the principles outlined in this article and videos, you'll begin finding the "sweet spot" in your space that looks great both in person and on video!


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