Videoconferencing: Why Lighting Matters

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By Sarah Young, Alaris Marketing Manager

Lighting can make a huge difference in the engagement and overall success of a videoconference, especially when recording a deposition for future playback before a jury. With more proceedings going virtual this year, this article will outline how you can ensure you and your client look your best, while showing your professionalism and know-how.

What is Good Lighting?
First and foremost, it is important to illuminate facial expressions. Using a laptop screen as your main source of light will likely not be the best option. Proper lighting eliminates unwanted shadows that may skew a person’s expressions or appearance.

Videoconference Lighting Dos and Don’ts: Here are a few tips for optimizing the best light sources for your next remote proceeding:

 

  1. Positioning:  Sitting with a window or light source behind you can put your face in silhouette and obscure your facial expressions or cause unflattering shadows as the camera adjusts to the background light. 
    Instead, position yourself so that you are facing a light source. This will ensure your face is well illuminated and your expressions clearly visible. Additionally, be sure the camera is at eye level so the other participants aren’t viewing the interior of your nasal cavity. 

    Although it may sound counterintuitive, the closer the light source is to you, the softer the shadows cast on your face. Position the lights at a distance in which minimal shadows are created while illuminating you face and body.

    In most cases, overhead lighting will create a down-lighting effect. Before setting up for a videoconference, it is important to start by turning off the overhead light and finding the right light sources or setting up additional lighting from there. The best kind of at-home light fixtures include desk lamps, swing-arm lamps and clip-on lighting.

    Additionally, lighting from below can result in a large “horror movie” shadow effect on the face, highlighting only the areas of the nose and neck. To avoid the wrong light, make sure lighting is at approximately eye level, close the curtains or reposition a light in the foreground, as referenced above.
  2. Natural Lighting: When possible, utilizing natural light from a window behind the camera offers the best results in creating a professional, well-lit appearance and setting.
  3. Lighting Assistance: When natural lighting is either not available or else insufficient to get the results you are seeking, position a lamp or soft light just above the camera. Drape wax paper, a tissue or other sheer material over it to reduce harsh shadows and provide pleasing hair-light illumination. (Check the flammability of the material you use, to avoid potential fire hazards.) 
    While it is important to have enough light, having too much can result in overexposure and harsh shadows. If a window is too bright, try lowering the blinds or moving away from the source of light. Adjusting the blinds in a vertical position pointed towards the ceiling may further reduce light bleed and will focus the light up towards the ceiling.
  4. Three-Point Lighting: If you have the space and sources available, multiple lighting options can provide a high-quality, polished look. Referencing clock dial positions, a light at eye level, with additional light sources at 11 o’clock and 2 o’clock, can offer multiple angles of light if you should need to turn or pivot at a moment’s notice.
  5. Bulb Selection: A simple light bulb change can provide a world of difference in illuminating your face during a videoconference. Warmer light bulbs or “daylight” LED bulbs that cast more of a blue glow, mimicking natural light, can soften dark shadows. When reviewing lighting bulbs and devices look for those with an adjustable brightness and color temps to better match the surroundings.
  6. Distraction avoidance: Shadows, glares or reflections can cause unpleasant distractions. Use a white or light-colored wall to brighten up the room by draping a white sheet or light backdrop. This can remove a distracting background, while assisting in reflecting the light for a brighter focus.
    And remember: Just say “NO” to stock virtual backgrounds. While these can be fun, parts of your body can disappear into the background and then reappear, causing a distracting, surreal effect.
  7. Clothing Selection: White and bright colors can reflect light and create a dark visual effect on your camera, while pale colors close to your natural skin tone can “wash out” your image. Stick to darker color palettes to help neutralize this effect or aim for a medium shade of blue or green, to keep the focus on your case.
  8. Eye Contact: Although our natural tendency is to look at the image of the witness on the screen, depending on the position of your camera, you may appear to be looking down and not directly at the witness.  Remember to look at the actual camera itself from time to time to better mimic an in-person experience.
    If you are using two screens and referring to documents, consider displaying your documents on your laptop screen directly below the camera so that as you refer to them, the other participants aren’t viewing the side of your head.

Lighting Tools
There are many options on the market for lighting assistance. Look for models that allow for various output and color temperature; for example, LED lights at a 25% power setting with a color temperature at 5600K. Some tools (in no particular order) to keep in mind include:

  • Lumecube: High-quality small light panels and cubes available on multiple retail sites and Amazon.
  • Neewer: Many lighting options available on multiple retail sites including Amazon.
  • Bower 8” Selfie Ring Studio Light: Available at Walmart and Amazon (pictured above).

Test Before Using
To avoid unpleasant surprises on “game day,” be sure to test your lighting type and positioning at your leisure before your proceeding.  The best way to test your lighting setup is to open the app for the camera you intend to use and look at your image on your own computer screen  You’ll be able to easily determine your optimal lighting positioning and sufficiency, the camera position in relation to your eye level and any distracting background items.

Conclusion
Although lighting is often overlooked in the grand scheme of preparing for a remote deposition or online dispute resolution proceeding, it can make a world of difference in creating a professional outcome. Lighting can make you feel like you’re in the same room with the witness if it is done well and properly. With these simple lighting tools on your side, you’ll be ready to focus on the proceeding at hand.

Read next: Legal Videoconferencing Best Practices

Click here to download our Videoconferencing Do's and Don'ts PDF