I look like a space alien, and wish to stop frightening small children.
July 29, 2015 8:59 AM   Subscribe

I do a lot of online video conferencing from a home office. I’m looking for desktop light fixtures that create a video image that makes me appear to be a good guy, as opposed to someone you want to avoid at all costs. The lighting is good during daytime hours, but at night I look creepy. I need to find lights that provide even, gentle, and warm illumination.

The room presently has overhead ceiling lights, which create shadows and harsh glare on the video image of my face. I tried a pole lamp with incandescent bulbs that I placed behind the desk in the center. It offers an improved lighting, but not great, and I have to move the lamp after each video session because it doesn’t look right at that spot in the room. I’d like a solution that does not require re-situating a lamp all the time. This leads me to wonder if there are desktop lights that would do the trick.

This is for an office where in addition to video conferencing I meet with people in person. It is not a studio. Therefore I need to maintain a warm ambiance in the room, and prefer light fixtures that blend rather than dominate the environment. I have a sufficiently large desk that I can place desktop light fixtures on either side of the computer monitor, or behind the monitor if necessary.

In addition to the fixtures, I know there are different types of bulbs. LED, halogen, incandescent. What is best for this particular application?
posted by elf27 to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered low-placed wall sconces? Preferably with frosted covers, so that the light is diffuse.
posted by amtho at 9:01 AM on July 29, 2015

Or even a little ball globe that could be right on the desk and used only for this...
posted by acm at 9:51 AM on July 29, 2015

Get two small table lamps that have a white surface which diffuses all the light they emit, such as:
this one
this one
this one
or this one.

Sit at your computer in the normal position, extend both arms like a zombie. Draw them evenly apart until they form a 90° angle with your monitor in the centre. Locate one lamp at each hand on a small shelf, the base of the light-emitting part of the lamp should be around your chin level. Ideally your desk should be a white surface. Move the lamps toward you or further away to adjust brightness.

Re: bulb type, just get 2 of the same type. Ideally all other lighting in the room will have the same bulb type. Don't get 1 LED and 1 incandescent, you will be half-blue half-orange. As long as all light is the same type (all incandescent, for example) the camera should auto-adjust to match the lighting hue.

For advanced level stuff, get a wallhanging for behind you that has big neutral blocks or swishes (not a busy pattern or bright colour or stripes). Or if the room is behind you, get something like this.
posted by 100kb at 10:03 AM on July 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't know if you're going to like this answer because I'm suggesting a light fixture specifically for lighting your face as you sit in front of a camera, but - as someone who used to have to sit in front of a mirror and apply theater makeup, there is a thing for (almost) exactly your situation and it's called a "vanity light" or vanity "strip" or "bar." The idea is you mount it slightly behind and either above or on either side of your camera (and monitor, if your camera is monitor-mounted), right in your face.

This will light your face specifically with lamps that are close to it and also a bit diffuse to prevent weird shadows. You will get a much better result if you do this than if you try to half ass it with a lamp that is also illuminating some other part of the room. In fact it'd be better if the rest of the room were rather dim, for light balancing purposes. If you think it would look funny to have a bar of lights bordering your desk, maybe you can find something that you can tuck behind the monitor when not in use.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:11 AM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I administrate a video conference system for a large business with multiple offices that have to conference with each other a lot. You want a light that is slightly higher than your camera, maybe a floor lamp behind your desk? It needs to be slightly elevated to make your chin visible. Being lit from below will erase your jawline. Just get a nice decorative lamp to increase the ambiance and make your office and your face more attractive. Also, if you're using HD, stop. Drop the resolution to give yourself that 80's daytime soap opera look.
posted by domo at 10:26 AM on July 29, 2015

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