My Secret To Good Online Video Lighting: A $20 Lamp From Ikea

By Yaro Starak
47 Comments

Over the last two weeks I’ve been doing some video recording work at home.

My goal was to create a new optin video for the new EJ design I have coming out soon. I also needed to create the video for the sales page of my upcoming product, the EJ Insider, a monthly interviews club.

I’ve been recording videos since 2007 for my YouTube channel (please subscribe!), which have over the years slowly improved as technology has improved.

For many of my old day-to-day videos I recorded while traveling the world, I used a creative VADO camera. Later I upgraded to a Sony handycam, then once HD came in, I went back to the VADO with their HD version.

Just recently I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Canon 60D from my friend Jay Jay, then when my friend Tuan was given a Canon 6D with a nice long lens, I was able to have a play with that too.

I have to say the Canon 6D is the best so far, although you certainly pay the price for it. What’s particularly impressive is how good it is in low light, but more on that in a moment…

Lighting

Once I decided that video was going to be part of what I do online, I enlisted the help of my friend and video expert Gideon Shalwick.

Over the years Gideon has given me advice with hardware and software for online video, including helping me purchase a set of hefty home studio lights.

This is what I have now, which cost if I remember about $1,300 in total for the pair of lights.

My Lightpro 110A lights and Canon EOS 60D in the middle.

My Lightpro 110A lights and Canon EOS 60D in the middle.

While I have done most of my Yaro.TV daily videos just around my house or out and about using whatever lighting was around, for my sales page and optin videos I used the home studio with the standup desk in the background.

About three years ago I used my home studio, lights, and the VADO HD to record two optin videos, one for my Blog Profits Blueprint landing page, and one for my Membership Site Masterplan landing page. I then used Screenflow for Mac to edit the videos.

Unfortunately I was not impressed with the background lightning and made the less-than-good choice to use Screenflow to brighten everything up. The end result is a very pink looking Yaro, which I was not very happy with, but put out there anyway.

This time, with the power of the Canon 6D camera, I was determined to make something better.

Studio Recording Failure Again

Over the previous two weeks I did two separate recording sessions. One with the 60D then another with the 6D, hoping it would look better.

The end result was this first take video for my newsletter optin –

As hard as I tried with the studio lights and the expensive camera and the latest version of Screenflow, I just couldn’t get it to look great. Even if you put that video up to HD on YouTube settings, the lighting isn’t great.

Now part of the problem is simply how I set up the lights in the room, so I began to play around with using other areas of my apartment with or without the lights.

I was particularly keen to get that cool blurred background effect using depth of field settings (apparently known as “Bokeh“). I struggled with the Canon 60D to get the blurred effect I think because the lens is too small, but the Canon 6D has two areas on its lens that can be adjusted to easily create shallow or deep depth of field, blurring the foreground or background easily.

After playing around with natural daylight or studio light in different parts of my apartment, I did improve the video quality, which with the blurred background was looking good, but it still wasn’t exactly what I wanted. The background was too busy or the lighting still looked very flushed because of lack of shadow.

Since I had already spent two days recording videos I wasn’t going to use, I gave up on filming that day feeling a little frustrated. However I did record one more impromptu video that evening…

Amy Porterfield

Later that night on my Facebook timeline Amy Porterfield popped up with one of her videos.

I’ve always loved Amy’s videos. They are very clear, to the point, relaxed, with a warm mood lighting feel, Amy sitting in front of her lounge, and the soft blue wall with pictures hanging on it, all blurred out in the background.

You can see what I mean in this video from Amy –

It helps that Amy can also deliver her words the way she does. I don’t know whether she uses a script or not, but she’s definitely natural. I also liked her use of background music.

On a whim, I decided to have a play with the 6D and record something like Amy’s video. I set things up next to my couch, using my side table lamp for lighting, and with Amy’s speaking style fresh in my mind, produced this video -

That video, to me, looked better than anything else I had done over the previous days I had spent in my recording studio with expensive lights.

The Canon 6D had managed to use the light – at night I might add – from a basic $20 Ikea lamp and thanks to it’s impressive low light performance, pump out something simple and inviting. No microphones, just me, the lamp and the camera.

This encouraged me to try a new angle. I’d go without the studio lights, aim for a casual style and of course, use the depth of field settings to make something simple and relaxed.

My Bedroom

The next day was Saturday. I had the whole day spare and I was determined to finish recording the content for both videos I needed.

I spent the morning getting myself ready – had a shower, trimmed the stubble and picked out what clothes to wear. I had managed to get a stain on my light blue video recording shirt, sigh, so needed something else. Lucky it was cold enough that day for a sweater, so I popped on the dark blue basics.

I then started to play around with using the daylight and the lamp together to find a good spot, with a nice background for filming.

Nothing looked right, then I went into my bedroom and noticed that the back of my bedrest, with a lamp and some books would be the kind of minimalist style that I was after. I added a few more books, got the camera set up and again started playing around with the lighting.

I had the window open for natural light direct on to my face, but again without shadow it didn’t look as good as the video I did the previous night. I brought my trust Ikea lamp in and placed it near my face hoping to create some shadow.

It helped a little, but the daylight was too strong, so it really didn’t produce the effect I wanted.

I pulled down the blinds, basically blocking out most of the daylight. I then positioned the lamp on top of my ironing board, off to the right of my face, and did a test recording.

The result, was great.

Amazingly enough, filming in a dark room with a soft bulb in an Ikea lamp, using the 6D’s low light abilities, produced the best quality footage.

Here is what the set-up looked like -

My video studio: An ikea lamp, an ironing board, the canon 6d camera and a stool for me to sit on, all in my bedroom.

My video studio: An ikea lamp, an ironing board, the canon 6d camera and a stool for me to sit on, all in my bedroom.

I then spent the rest of the day doing various takes at two different angles (one at waist height up, and one close up headshot) and had my footage.

I used a Zoom H1 audio recorder with a Rode Lavalier lapel microphone and edited it all together using Screenflow. I also added some background music that I purchased from Audio Jungle.

The end result, was this new video for my newsletter optin –

I really like it, of course time will tell if it is actually effective.

I’ve just finished editing together the EJ Insider sales page video, which is 11 minutes long, so took a bit more work to finish. I’m really happy with it. I much prefer the lightning and the casual format. Using this style (and perhaps because of Amy’s influence), I used a more relaxed presenting style, not worrying about whether I missed certain points, so I feel like it is less “salesy” too.

I have a teaser from that video up on YouTube, but I’ll save that for a future blog post about the EJ Insider later.

For now, tell me what you think, do you like this video style?

Yaro Starak
Videoing

About Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and .

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47 Comments

  • Jon

    Lighting is a tough one – you are right though, the lamp looks great. My set-up is two soft boxes, cost me 200$ for the whole set-up but the camera is where I invested my money, using a Canon XF100 (cheapest I could get that offered stop motion and time lapse – essential for my line of work).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr0NpqQUROE

    As you can see from this sample, my set-up is pretty similar to yours – it’s just practice to get comfortable in front of the camera – I’m by no means natural but getting better.

    Jon

  • I use a pair of halogen construction lights from Lowe’s hardware. Simple, angle them to reflect off ceiling.

    $40 bucks.

    Isn’t amazing how some cheap hacks can product quality results.

  • Yeah lighting is something to get best when doing video. I haven’t done any videos for this website but have plans to do so in the future.

    I’ll be recording them in the bedroom where the computer is and we have one main overhead which should prove to be decent lighting to get the ball rolling.

    Other than that, if I ever do any videos outside during the day, I’m just hoping my phone will capture things well enough to be effective. I have a Droid Incredible 2, with a front-facing camera so that makes it much easier to record as I can see myself and what things will look like with playback before even having to do any editing.

  • Definitely an improvement on the last one, those studio lights can transmit way too much light and is hard to get them to the point that is welcoming! Keep testing! that’s the only way.

  • Dan

    Great post and out of the box thinking. Lighting has always been the most difficult part of shooting a video and with studio lights, some times I feel like they are a bit unnatural. I like the look of the lighting. May have to trek on down to Ikea and pick one up!

  • Rick Resch

    Hello Yaro,
    The last video is great. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Just put the best video you think out there and watch what happens. You can always improve later. You did a good job. Keep it up!

    Cheers,
    Rick

  • Hi Yaro,

    Great improvement on the last video. Although, as humans we always strive for perfection, sometimes it´s about getting it out to the public as soon as possible. Then you will get feedback.

    I look forward to hearing some great reviews about your video.

  • Rob

    Edit: Sorry for putting URL in my name. Plz delete previous comment.

    Definitely like the last video… I think going after clear and non-salesy is huge. A lot of people mess that up.

  • The first time I tried adding lighting in a video, I was shocked by how much better the image quality was. I was using a $400 “prosumer” camcorder and about $45 of lights and light bulbs I’d gotten at a home goods store. But when I watched the video, it looked like I’d spent thousands of dollars on a DSLR camera and pro-level lens.

    Wistia, the video hosting company, has a great video called, “The Down & Dirty Lighting Kit.” They assembled their lighting kit out of things you can pick up at a home goods store. I modeled my lighting setup after theirs and have gotten good results.

  • mitch

    which memory card did you use to record the video? From what I read, people have been experiencing problems with numerous sdhc memory card, specifically the sandisk extreme pro with write/read speed of 90mb/s. Some people have had better luck with the sandisk extreme 45mb/s but long recording got broken up to 15 minute files

    • Just a normal sandisk, 15GB. But I never record for longer than ten minutes per recording, so maybe that helps.

  • Thanks for taking us behind the scenes in your studio. It really shows what a difference the right tools make and you’ve certainly saved me some trial and error time down the road.

  • The last video is much better than the one with the white background. I don’t know why bloggers like the standing with the white background format… it feels like your facing a teacher! And nobody likes to be sitting in a class… at least I don’t. I prefer to be talked (and taught) to in a more casual and accessible way. The format inspired by Amy conveys a warm yet professional vibe. Then, using that same format, you can maybe test different scripts and see which converts better?

  • Tim

    Thanks for the great, encouraging post! I’ve been thinking of ways I could do videos without spending a fortune on setup since I’m just starting out, and this provided all the inducement I need to start now!

  • I noticed her videos too. They look great. I did a mini interview with Amy’s videographer, it’s just daylight, as Amy is fortunate to have soft daylight coming from 2 directions. Not many of us are so lucky. You did a good job to reproduce this soft daylight effect.

  • Thanks for the post! I love to read how people are getting sweet results like this with their lighting or other video equipment, especially when it’s as simple as blinds and a lamp.

    I’m ready to try this with my camera, and see if it does as good a job.

    Love,
    ~CarolAnn

  • Wow. Great info Yaro. Thank you for another useful post.

  • Hey Yaro,

    Great info and what a difference it all makes when you add a good camera, mic and lens. I use a canon 600d (T3i Rebel) with a 50mm 1.8 fs fixed lens. This gives a great blur effect in the background.

    I also have 3 point lighting system for white background portrait shooting, but prefer the light where I work through my skylights. I must admit, it is hard not to get a good picture with a DSLR as the camera compensates for a ton of light faults.

    Thanks for sharing Yaro

    Dan Sumner

  • Great vid Yaro. Youtube is the future blogging platform for the world.

    Quick question, do you know which lens you used to film your videos?

    I love that out of focus look and have trouble recreating it.I tried using a 50mm but the focus would be lost if I moved my head.

    Any tips?

    • I haven’t got the lens with me Ayman since the camera is not mine, but I think it is a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM…but don’t quote me!

      You definitely need the longer lens range to get the blurry background effect going. I have a 60D from a friend but the lens is too shallow to do the background effect very well.

  • As someone who is just starting out by making videos I have certainly noticed how light makes or breaks a good video, I have found making them at a certain time of the day in my garden is a good start for me as my garden gets a lot of sunlight.

  • I think the room color in Amy’s video adds another dimension to her video. That shade of blue is welcoming and soothing. A white background can be very stark. Your videos have come a long way, but I still think the drawing point is the way they capture your gentle personality. You don’t come across as pushy, but encouraging. Keep up the good work!

  • Valuable information for me. I was also experimenting with ligthning but wasn’t satified. Now I try your IKEA-approach. Thanks.

  • Sarie

    Hi there Yaro – nice video – love it and you look great!
    Would you like to share the exact name of the Ikea lamp you bought?
    Thanks. :-)

  • Hi, Yaro,
    First, let me say how sad I am for you regarding the loss of your mother. You are very young still and there will be many times over the years you will miss her so much…when you do…go ahead a cry…it’s better to allow yourself to grieve…than holding it all in. You will heal over time, but you will always miss her.
    I’m sure she felt sooo loved by you…….taking care of her the last two years was probably one of the hardest things you’ve ever done….It’s wonderful you and she had such a good relationship…..you’ll have those memories to cherish forever.

    I LOVE what you do……and I really like the Video where you’re in front of the bookcase…talking about the challenge of lighting etc. It is more natural…and I find the ones with the plain white/cream background just too boring to watch for long. You may want to move back from the camera just a few inches….as it cuts off your head…..and feels a little bit too close for comfort. In the second Video when your head sort of “jumps around” trying to give some movement….it look jerky and bugs my eyes. Just move naturally…..maybe hold something up to see or…??

    I’m a very visual person and with Videos I need something else to look at besides a “talking head”, no matter how much I like the person….I end up minimizing the video and just listening to it if there is nothing else or at least some color in the picture. I like when a video has music at the beginning…..but HATE it when the music plays all the way through….very distracting. I’m often taking notes during good teaching….so holding up a card , or a white board if figures are being used is very helpful….
    Not trying to be picky, YOU are the professional…. That is always a challenge I know……and if 20 people see the same video…….they will ALL see it differently depending on their personality, experience etc.
    I commend YOU for getting out there..and taking Action……I think that is far more important than whether the Video is perfect or not.
    All the best..and I always enjoy your postings….
    Blessings, Dazzling Dolly Lutz

  • Casey Dennison

    Yaro, the last video looks spectacular! It’s amazing what cheap lighting can do. So many low-budget film makers have had no other choice but to use cheap lighting sources, which I believe adds to the creativity.

    Casey

  • Although I do like both and if I only saw only the first one I would likely opt-in, I agree, I like the warmth of the last video. I also prefer the dark blue sweater vest over the lighter blue button up too. This last one feels more authentic and less “salesy”, (is that even a word? LOL) I have to say too, from a female perspective, you come across more handsome in the last one. Strange how little things can make big differences in the tone and mood of a video. I have shot many of my own and will look at one and know immediately if I like it or not even with very little changes. I have not tried this style yet but it is perfect for what I am currently working on and will try it. Good work!

  • Tony

    Yaro, A few thoughts for you. The close up on your face is far to distracting. Not being personal here by the way. You just end up concentrating on your face, not your message. The initial medium distance shot is a far better approach as with Amy’s video. If you have to vary shots, vary to something similar. Also she is using colour co-ordination slightly better than you are. Look into compatible colours a bit more for the type of message you wish to present. You are still pretty much black on warm yellow/white. Its ok, but could be better. Also, lose the microphone. Probably explains the black shirt, but there are better ways to do audio. Amy is obviously doing it somehow. Hope this helps…

    • Thanks for your feedback. I do like Amy’s blue feature wall, I don’t have any other colours in my house so I went with what I had.

      As for the mic, I think I have the solution for that too, it needs testing though to make sure the audio quality is as good, but I agree, I’m not a fan of lapels.

      The close up face shot I quite like and have heard from others they like it too. I think the mix is good, from mid range right, to center and close up. Someone once told me that shot changes need to be significant enough to “wake up” the viewer, which I think is accurate.

      • Tony

        No worries. Just had a look at Amy’s video again. She does have an audio lapel and it looks like a silver pin. Somewhat clever,and so good I missed it initially. Still think your close up is just to close up. Maybe hang back just a touch or do change the colour in background. Maybe that is forcing your face as looking a bit to big. Its the same rough colour as background. A darker colour in background might help fix that. Maybe that is why her close up seems not so imposing. Good luck with it.

  • I prefer the natural look as long it’s combined with your obvious professionalism, you look like someone I trust telling me what’s good, and I do buy from you! I bought a HD Vado on your earlier recommendation and am about to venture into videos. I think your stuff is great, I even study it.

  • Hannah Rose

    What a helpful post! I have read that a cheap paper lantern with a bulb in it provides soft, iffused lighting. I too have struggled, so it’s wonderful to have your information for the next time I try recording. It sure takes practise to look effortless! Thank you!

  • I too have used construction lights from Home Depot. You can get the ones on the strand or just the small table stand style or a clip on. If you get coming from 2 directions, you can eliminate all shadows if that is the style you are going for – studio.
    Otherwise a few cheap lamps in the right location do the trick.

  • Excellent idea but it is the background which is important.

  • Hey Yaro,

    I think the main issue with your videos is that you’re just not as good looking as Amy ;)

    No not at all, I’ve just started doing videos as well but haven’t released any because of the lighting issues in the office. Thanks for the tips. I’ll be heading out to Ikea for a few lamps this weekend to see if I can make them better.

  • There seems to be a growing trend of using whiteboard animations in sales videos, especially outside the “make money” niche. It looks cool at first, but to my mind you can’t beat the simple honesty of one person talking directly to the camera. Just seems more genuine.

    Thanks for the tip about the Ikea lamp, my wife’s been nagging me to take her there for a couple of weeks so I get to kill 2 birds with one stone :-)

  • [...] videos. After some trial and error with lighting, I finally came up with a setup that combined the Canon 6D with an Ikea lamp and a Rode lavalier lapel mic and went to work recording [...]

  • Hi Yaro:

    That last video seemed perfect. The only piece of equipment that I have is a small JVC camera. I did a video the other day for my blog and it looks horrible, but I kept it live because it’s a 5 minute long video and took me several times to get the wording correct, etc. and I was too tired to scrap it and start over.

    The lighting was terrible. You can see reflections in my eyes. I was reading Robert’s idea above using the two lamps from Lowe’s and reflecting them off the ceiling.

    So, since I have a camera to shoot the video’s; I guess the only other big issue is “lighting”? Based upon your article, it sounds like I don’t need to spend a lot of money at all.

    I’m hoping that someone can answer this question for me. I often record my video in our great room which is surrounded by windows. Is this a bad idea and should I be recording in a room with less windows or no windows?

    Janie

  • And I thought you had paid a video guy to record that for you. Now that I know your secret is a lamp on an ironing board, the pizazz has faded… lol.

    It’s a nice video. I didn’t realize all the work that went into getting the right lighting and preparing and filming a video.

  • Hi Yaro,
    I really know where you’re coming from with this (lol) it took me many attempts to get my white background videos working how I wanted. I really like the blurred background and soft lighting in the last video. Are you using bullet points in that, or an auto-cue script?

    • That was bullet points on paper, but for the videos on this post I had learned them basically off by heart, so I talked off the top of my head.

      • Well either way it all sounded natural. What do you find the most time effective way?

  • Ha haaaaa! That’s what I’m talking about.

    I notice the videos that I make with my cheapo cell phone come out better some times also. I think it’s all about the information that you are sharing more than anything else. I have a new review that I’m about to publish where I went your route. The best solution is a simple one.

  • Hi Yaro, yeah I like that style. “Ordinary guy makes good”, which I imagine is your target audience. A well presented but understated production without unnecessary bells and whistles. I believe the expression I’m looking for is “quietly professional”.

  • Thanks for the demonstration. I’m a newbie using an iPhone 4s with an olloclip wide angle lens with the desire to film acoustic guitar performances in a low light, wood paneled music studio. I’ve got a couple mechanic lights and the tin can lights.

    Any suggestions on how to get the same desired effect with the blurred background?

    • I don’t think you can get the blurred background with an iphone 4s Bill, it doesn’t have the depth of field because the lens is too small.

      That’s my guess giving my limited camera knowledge.

  • Yaro,

    I’ve spent years lighting film and video using a wide range of gear. But, my home office recording system is not much different than what you are using.

    I have 2 large white paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling with 2 daylight balanced CFL bulbs in each. I use a Y-shaped adapter to fit the 2 bulbs into each lamp socket.

    The lanterns give off a nice soft light that makes everything look nice. By choosing daylight balanced bulbs, I can shoot day or night and not worry about weird color casts coming from window light.

    There are tons of paper lantern style lamps available that can create the same effect as the ones I use without hanging anything from the ceiling.

    If you keep the lights close to the subject, it’s hard to go wrong with a soft source.

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