How do I light myself well for webcam?
October 5, 2019 3:56 PM   Subscribe

I work from home, and I'm trying to get a better lighting setup for when I have video calls. This is part of an initiative at work to generally have employees with home offices up their A/V game, as it were, so they're present in video conferences closer to how people in the office conference rooms are. (snowflake details inside)

Some specific equipment recommendations were given with this work initiative. While some of the equipment looks good, it doesn't all work with the way I currently have my desk set up. (And I feel I finally, recently got my desk set up the way that works well for me, so I don't much want to change that around.)

Specifically, the lighting recommendation was to get two of these lighting panels and use them in a key light / fill light setup. And this little tripod to hold each panel. I'm good with the panels, but not the tripods — there's really no room on my desk for them. And I was thinking I'd want the panels to be higher, anyway.

I'm using the basically industry-standard Logitech C920 for the camera, and the integrated little clip mount thing is perfect for holding it on top of my monitor. I was thinking of getting a couple of those for the light panels, and that's where I'm having trouble. After more searching than I'd care to admit, I found the Marshall CVM-5 camera clip mount, and noticed that B&H has them but they cost $50 each, which seems maybe a little extravagant and I might have to argue about the cost on the expense report. I haven't been able to find anything similar to those mounts elsewhere, and I'm not sure if other clips or mounts would really work.

So, questions and notes/caveats:

Should I just get two of those CVM-5 mounts and be done with this?

Is there another way I should be mounting these panels?
Note that I have a sit/stand desk, so anything here has to be attached to the desk or something on the desk. And I'm using two monitors on a dual monitor arm clamped to the desk.

And finally, should I really be doing something else here?
posted by cardioid to Technology (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Note that I have a sit/stand desk, so anything here has to be attached to the desk or something on the desk.

Well this is going to really limit you. The best way to light for video is what all of YouTube does: use a ring light. In your case, however, it's like you've actually tried to design the setup most hostile to a ring light! Perhaps try two very inexpensive USB ring lights -- you'll have to trawl your own Ebay or Amazon.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:04 PM on October 5, 2019

I have this clamp on ring light/ phone holder and it works really well for my live streaming needs. It clamps to the desk, and I know the light looks small but I find it's plenty, plus it's dimmable if you find it too bright. Note that you do not need to use the phone holder, that can be bent out of the way.
posted by Pretty Good Talker at 4:21 PM on October 5, 2019

My friend swears by a serious ring light ($100), as well as other tricks.
posted by Nelson at 4:25 PM on October 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you can adjust the room and the walls are light colored, bounce light can be effective. Borrow a few focused desk lamps but point them at the walls on each side, a bit more on one side. Point some light at the ceiling. Once you've found a balance with extra, and different bulbs (warm and cool, read about color temperature) you'll have better luck choosing lights. The bounce diffuses the light softening the look, minimizing shadows. Might help to put up a mostly white poster. Then won't need to turn on special units and sit in just the exact spot.
posted by sammyo at 5:33 PM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I hate those ring lights with a passion. Everybody has these bright little circles in their eyes when they look at you. I'd do something like Adam Savage's One Day Builds: Custom Workbench LED Lamp!.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:57 PM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

The panels you linked are only 300 grams. You can find seriously cheap clip on mounts like this or this.

If it were up to me, I’d probably look at the room as a whole and figure out better lighting overall. Trying to solve this like a studio problem without accounting for the room lighting isn’t ideal. It’s probably good enough though.
posted by advicepig at 7:38 PM on October 5, 2019

This guy called Matt recently wrote a couple of posts about working from home which included recommendations for setting up webcam stuff, and also linked to this other post which contains more recommendations at different price points.
posted by fabius at 5:36 AM on October 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster:
In your case, however, it's like you've actually tried to design the setup most hostile to a ring light!
Not on purpose, but here we are. I'm also kind of zengargoyle's place where I don't much like ring lights (though I don't hate them). Maybe because I wear glasses and reflection is more of a thing.

What I've gone with so far is two of the gooseneck clamps advicepig suggested. I saw them in an initial search and figured they wouldn't be able to clamp on to the monitors because of clamp-vs-bezel size (I was right) and they wouldn't be able to clamp onto the monitor arm (I was wrong). So things are pretty much set up now and I'm going to try this for a bit and see how it works.

I'm likely to be taking pictures to share with work, and I may well put them somewhere I can share here, too. If so, the setup is likely, and the results (my face, with/without this lighting) are possible.
posted by cardioid at 7:25 AM on October 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

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