It’s free to own a YouTube channel, but if you want to make your content stand out from the crowd then you need to spend some of your cash to shine a light into your video productions (especially if you want to monetize your channel and build a growing cohort of returning subscribers). Many YouTube videos feature ‘talking heads’ who are lit only by the glare of their PC’s monitor. By adding an extra LED (light emitting diode) light to the mix you can instantly improve your content’s production values. An additional light source can give a bland flat-lit face a bit of ‘modeling’, bringing out the three-dimensional shape of your subject and making them look more attractive. Lighting also expands your ability to shoot footage in a wider range of locations, making your channel’s content more visually interesting.
Just one LED light will help you take a step up from an amateur using available light to a pro who can shoot wherever they want. Professional YouTubers may want to use a more advanced set-up such as a 3-point lighting kit. One light will be the key light that’s the dominant light source. The second fill light will fill in harsh shadows caused by the key light. A third back light placed behind the subject will add a rim of lighting that helps make them stand out from a background. This classic lighting set-up enables you to produce more cinematic-looking results. Professional content-creators will also want a light with an adjustable color temperature so that they can make their light match other the color of other light sources on location.
Whether you’re streaming live to YouTube from your PC or planning a location shoot, this buying guide is designed to help you find the right light for your YouTube video requirements. We’ve balanced our reviews with budget lights at one end of the spectrum to more expensive kits at the other, so there’s something here for every YouTube content creator to help them ‘up their game’ and grow their subscriber base.
The best lights for YouTube videos
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Some YouTube channels are devoted to the unboxing of the latest products, from action figures to trainers. Once you’ve unzipped the attractive branded SmallRig carry case and you’re presented with three mini COB LEDs that you can use to add professional three-point light ‘modelling’ to a range of products. Each LED has a host of accessories that magnetically clamp to the lamp. These include diffusers to create a softer, more flattering light source and even coloured filters for more creative lighting set ups. Mini tripods extend each light’s height to 17 cm. As well as lighting product/unboxing videos, you can place the three LEDs on your desktop to light your presentations to webcam more attractively. Instead of using the 1/4 inch thread for tripod mounting you can use the supplied cold shoe mounts to attach an LED to a camera as a portable key light (though as they emit a fairly low 300 LUX at 1 meter they are best suited to close-up work).
This studio-style LED light wide and soft spread of light creates less harsh shadows than a smaller tighter LED, creating a more flattering look. Its high 70W output gives it a long range but you can use the control panel on the back of the unit to dial down the brightness to suit your subject. As this is a bi-color LED you can change the color temperature to complement a location’s other light sources. We were delighted to see that the kit comes with a dedicated remote control (with a range of up to 50 meters), so there’s no fiddling around pairing the Nuada R4 II with a smartphone app via Bluetooth. A CRI rating of 96+ helps the light reproduce colors accurately. It will also take a V-Mount battery so you can light subjects in locations where there’s no mains power supply. Please note that you will need to buy a light stand. We recommend the compatible Phottix PX200 which, despite cheap-looking plastic adjustment knobs, does a good job of supporting the Nuada R4.
There are many mini light panels on the market, but the RM120 stands out from the crowd for several reasons. For starters, we were impressed by its construction. It feels more robust (and heavier) than many flimsy plastic LED panels due to its metal body (and this quality is reflected in its comparatively expensive price). It also has a color OLED display on the rear that makes it easier to view the many menu modes this mini LED panel has to offer. You can dial in a range of color temperatures using the main dial at the side (which also doubles up as a mode-changing button). You can also select a wide range of creative colors from the HSI menu (instead of having to pop a gel over the light like you do with cheaper models). If you shoot drama content for your YouTube channel then you’ll enjoy using 12 animated lighting presets including Paparazzi, Fire, or Lightning. A 1/4 threaded hole lets you mount the light on a stand or tripod, you can use the supplied cold shoe adapter to pop the panel above your DSLR or mirrorless camera for a key light on the go.
Read our full SmallRig RM120 review for more details.
If you’re capturing YouTube content via your PC’s camera then you’ll capture a screen-lit face suffering from flat looking features and a washed-out complexion. By adding the JOBY 12” Beamo Ring Light to your home set-up you can add a stronger and more flattering wash of soft light to your face. The ring-shaped light will also add a sparkle to your eyes (though it can look a bit distracting when reflecting in glasses). You can buy the JOBY Beamo Ring Light on its own but then you’ll still need to supply a tripod and phone mount. This more expensive bundle provides you with a mount and a tripod in the shape of the JOBY HandyPod Mobile Lock. If you use a Mac then you an clamp your iPhone inside the Ring Light using the kit’s mount and wirelessly record the feed from your iPhone on your Mac. This enables you to present your YouTube video directly via the iPhone’s superior quality camera as it sits in the centre of the Ring Light.
For content creators who need a lightweight lighting source, the Zhiyun MOLUS G60 is a top choice. Although it’s only around the size of a Rubik’s cube its 60W power provides ample brightness for close to mid-distance situations like studio shoots or talking to the camera, and the DynaVolt fan keeps it cool. However as it doesn’t have a battery pack you need to power it via its dedicated power supply or a PD USB-C cable, so this dependency on cables limits the locations that you can shoot in. If connecting using the USB-C PD port, then the supply from the wall adapter will affect how bright the light can go, with a 100W wall adapter recommended for 100% brightness.Although it lacks creative lighting effect presets and RGB colour adjustments found in some other LEDs, the compact size and power of the G60 easily outweighs these minor disappointments. The light's brightness and color temperature can be conveniently adjusted using the ZY Vega app via Bluetooth or through manual control dials located on the rear of the device.
The Hobolite Micro is the smallest light in the Hobolite range, but its small stature makes it the perfect portable accessory for location shoots where you want to travel light. Despite its small stature it emits enough light to provide modeling for a portrait and the six magnetically attachable colored gels enable you to add a range of mood lighting to location and studio shoots. Video makers will also find that the 8 animated preset lighting effects can be a springboard to creatively enhancing your footage.
Read our full Hobolite Micro review for more details.
The Rotolight NEO 3 builds on the success of the preceding NEO 2 (which you can still find in some stores), adding a raft of impressive new features. Both models deliver flash output as well as constant lighting, but the NEO 3 delivers a full range of color in both modes, with full RGBWW options. It comes in various configurations and kits and accessories - but we think that that the basic three-light kit is a great set up for professional-looking YouTube videos
Small but powerful and extremely versatile as a constant LED light, the NEO 3 i delivers a full color range for video use – but also offers useful flash modes for stills photography. It has a huge range of electronic color filters and special effects, all available via a simple and intuitive color touchscreen menu.
Read more: Rotolight NEO 3 full review
Most of the lights in our YouTube lighting guide are designed to illuminate a subject from behind or to the side of the camera, but sometimes lights can be the star of the show. Once you fire up the Nanlite PavoTube T8-7X it will be impossible not to perform light sabre impressions using a wide range of RGB colors. Once you’ve got that out of your system you can use the light more conventionally by dialling in different color temperatures to complement a location’s cool (daylight) or warm (tungsten) lighting. It can also be used to add drama to your YouTube productions thanks to animated pixel effects such as ‘Driving’ , which mimics the effect of passing street lights illuminating your subject’s face. It also emits the red and blue flashing light of a police car - perfect for adding a bit of colour to a True Crime YouTube show. You can trigger these animated effects via the Nanlink smartphone app or via buttons on the light. And at under $100/£100 the Nanlite PavoTube T8-7X won’t break your budget – and they are available in packs of four if you are looking for a full lighting solution for your YouTube set.
The Zhiyun Fiveray F100 is an upgraded model from the Fiveray F100C, so it boasts more LED chips (324) compared to its predecessor’s 256. The newer model also sports a set of barn doors so that you can control the spread of light more easily. You can dial in a range of color temperatures or adjust Hue, Saturation and Lightness for a more creatively colorful output. The F100 also has a collection of 6 animated lighting effects which video makers can use to enhance their creative projects. It has a 1/4” threaded hole at the base for tripod mounting (though you’ll need to supply your own tripod). If you only plan to shoot stills then you could consider the older and cheaper F100C model (if you can find one).