Beautiful female model posing at studio in the light flashes.

How to create a self-tape – “Lighting”

Do I need any self-tape lighting? Should I spend thousands of dollars to buy proper lighting? My desk lamp is just fine, right? Let’s learn about lighting! What types of lighting are on the market and how to use them? What is a three-point technique of lighting? Let’s dive in!

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this article contains affiliate links. By clicking on these links and making a purchase, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Your support is appreciated!

Do you want to improve your self-tape by applying the golden ratio? – read more

Lighting doesn’t win the audition for you. But better lighting creates a more professional feeling. Agents and producers will notice you take it seriously, and you will look like a movie star, or you will feel like it at least. Haha. Performance and success are just up to you, and even the most expensive gear means nothing if you suck. I’m sorry, but it’s true!

Lighting types

Natural light, lamps, softboxes, ring light, a scrim, LED panels, candles, reflectors, umbrellas… aaaahh. What is it? Do you also feel overwhelmed by all the lighting types and terms, and are you unsure what type to use? No worries, let’s learn about them to make the right choice for self-tape lighting.

Natural light

Yes, correct, you know that already. Natural light is exactly what it sounds like – the natural light. Wow, you are such a fast learner. Ok, I am not as funny as I think. So jokes aside. Natural light comes from the sun or the moon, but the moon is a reflector because it reflects the sun’s light. Cool, so now we know what a reflector is. In terms of filmmaking and photography, a reflector is a piece of metal or glass used to reflect light in a certain direction.

How to use natural light for self-taping

If you want to use natural light for your self-tape, of course, you can, but it could be very hard. The weather is changing, and we don’t have sunny days all the time. But on those sunny days, we can use it. We will need a reflector.

As a reflector, you can use:

  • Foamcore 24″by36″ from Dollarstore for $1
  • Piece of white cardboard, if you don’t have any, paint normal cardboard with white color
  • Big canvas if you are a painter (Don’t buy it if you won’t use it for any different use)
  • Small mirror – don’t reflect directly on yourself, but on a wall nearby, or put a sheet of white fabric between the mirror and you. (that will work as a diffuser)
  • Kitchen foil stretched on a piece of cardboard
  • Professional reflector
  • You can also use a piece of white fabric or a white t-shirt, but a fabric works better as a diffuser (we will speak more about “diffuser” later in this article)

You are using the reflector to “bounce the light.” The light’s main source (the sun – key light) lighting from the window and a reflector (fill light) to support the light and bounce the light onto the object (yourself). A golden reflector could be used as the back light. And all this is called the three-point lighting technique. More about it later. Be patient.

This is an example of indoor use. If you are photo shooting/filming outside, here are other tips on using natural light.

Outdoor filming/shooting

Outdoor filming/shooting mainly depends on the weather, time of the day, and period of the year. All these aspects affect the colors that will be captured on the camera. Let’s say it’s a clear sunny summer day around noon. In this example, the light will be probably too harsh, so you would probably need to use a diffuser or shoot in shades.

A diffuser is a piece of translucent fabric that catches some of the light and makes the softer light on the object (yourself).

When you will be shooting in earlier or later hours you can take advantage of the Blue hour or the Golden hour.

Blue hour

Blue hour is approximately 20 to 30 minutes just before sunrise and just after sunset. It creates a blueish to dark blue color range on the sky.

Golden hour

Golden hour happens immediately after sunrise and lasts for about an hour, and the last hour of light before sunset produces a warm natural light. The sky offers a wide range of warm colors such as yellow, orange, and red.

But let’s return indoors. Not everybody can use natural light because of all types of aspects such as your windows facing north, you live in a basement apartment, or, as we already mentioned, the factor of weather. So now it’s time to use a different source of light.

Ring light

The ring lights are prevalent for self-tape lighting. It is easy to set up, it’s not huge, so it’s easy to store it. Unfortunately, there are two main issues with a ring light. First, it will create a ring reflection in your eyes, and many agents and producers don’t like the reflection. But, don’t worry if you have the ring light already. We will give you a few tips on getting rid of the reflection soon – second, the ring light creates a weird rim shadow behind you and creates highlights on your face.

If you are the ring light owner and want to get rid of the ring reflection in your eyes and also the rim shadow, turn the ring light opposite direction than you are and turn the intensity on maximum, but this will only work if there is a white wall or anything that reflect the light. If you don’t have a white wall there, you can use any other reflector. You can find the things to use as a reflector at the beginning of this article.


There are many types of softboxes, from octagon, and rectangle to parabolic. A softbox spreads small, intensive light into the large light. As the main source of light is used, a bulb or a monolight.

A softbox creates a soft light. It means it creates a softer image in a term of contrast. Opposite to soft light is hard light, which creates big contrast between black and white.

The larger the softbox, the softer the light.

The best softbox for video is parabolic because it’s deeper in shape, so it offers more subtle light and doesn’t light up the background as much as an octagon softbox. But you can use pretty much anything for self-tape to create awesome results. Using specific types of softboxes and switching between them is work for photographers and filmmakers, but it’s great to know more about it and play with details to create the best result.

If you want to know more about the softboxes, check out this video.

Grid on softboxes

Maybe you also think of what the f#ct is the grid on softboxes for. Adding a grid to softboxes, you are directing light in one direction to create more dramatic effects, it’s just about your creativity, but I would say you won’t need it for self-tape lighting. This feature is more useful for photography or if you want to create dramatic lighting for video.

Source of light for softboxes

It could be a bulb or monolight. Usually, cheaper softboxes are in the kit with a bulb included. The more expensive ones and more quality softboxes are separate and need some sort of light such as monolight. They are usually expensive. And if you are not a photographer or filmmaker (or YouTuber), you don’t need a monolight.

LED Panels

You can create soft light by using an LED panel. Again the rule – the bigger the LED panel – the softer the light, but to use this rule, we have to also consider the beam angle and the number of LEDs.

The beam angle is the angle at which the LEDs spread the light. It could be a spot or flood. Spot means the light is more directed to one spot, and flood is when the LEDs more spread the light. You can also use an LED panel as the main light for the softbox, but the softbox has to be specific for the LED panel.

The number of LEDs, more LEDs, more power, more brightness.


Yes, you read correctly, an umbrella. But don’t be fooled. I don’t mean an umbrella for rain. Umbrella with functionality is similar to a softbox. It spreads a small, intensive spot into the large light – soft light. It decreases the intensity of the light and lights up the scene, so the umbrella’s disadvantages could be a lot of light spillage, and it’s not directional. But it is easy to store it and great if you are traveling and need to do an audition in a hotel room or so.

Diffuser sheet

We already mentioned a little bit about diffusers and using them. Simply, the light is lighting into a hanging piece of translucent sheet of fabric. It mimics daylight, You can’t see any obvious reflection in your eyes and also it doesn’t create strong shadows.

How to set up your self-tape lighting

There are many ways how to set up your lighting, but the most efficient and easiest is three-point lighting.

Three-point lighting technique for self-tape lighting

Three-point setup is a basic lighting technique that serves you well, and it is easy to set up. It creates a cinematic look. It uses three lights – Key light, Fill light, and Backlight. You can also use 4th light called the Hair light.

Start in the dark or with as little light as possible. Is the natural light coming from the window? Put the blinders down.

three point lighting
Key light

The key light is the main light with the highest intensity of the three lights. Position is on one of the sides of the camera (in a view into the camera).

Fill light

Fill light lights up the other side of the object (yourself). The position is on the opposite side of the camera than the key light. (if the key light is on the right side of the camera, the fill light is on the left). It gets rid of the shadows created by just one light (key light) from one side. The fill light has 50 % of intensity less than the key light. You can also use a reflector as the fill light.


The backlight lights you up from behind. It will create depth in the footage because it separates the background from the object (yourself). The light goes behind you. It points to the camera, but make sure you cannot see the light in the shot. The backlight is also called the rim light.

Hair light

A hair light is set up above you to fill shadows on top of your head, that’s why it is called the “hair light”.

TIP: How to get rid of shadows on the wall behind you

Softer light, less visible shadow. Or you can move your lights more up, so the shadows will be dropping down and you cannot see them in your footage.

What other things consider for self-tape lighting

Color temperature

Consider the color temperature of the light before you purchase any light, not to be surprised. What is color temperature? In film and photography, they are two basic color temperatures. Over 5000 Kelvin are the color temperatures considered “cool” with a blueish tint. The opposite color temperatures below 5000 K are considered “warm,” yellow/red/orange tint.

Make sure you read the information about the light you are purchasing and check the color temperature to buy your desired one. It depends on what you prefer. The LED lights (LED panels, ring lights, etc..) have the advantage that they can usually switch between both color temperatures. Using softbox, the color temperature holds on what type of bulb you use, so you pretty much can change the color by switching the bulb.

So it’s just up to you what fits you better if Yellowish or Blueish/Whiteish tint.

You can also use the lighting gels to change the color of the lights. Gels are translucent colored sheets of plastic. They are placed in front of light.

Disclosure to color temperature – make sure all your lights have the same color temperature, and your camera will take care of the rest.

CRI – Color rendering index

Sometimes you can find unbelievably cheap lights and ask yourself, is it good light? Well, from my experience, a big fat NO. There are many products you can find for a reasonable price, but we will check some products in the next article, so read more next week. The CRI could help you with determining if the light is good in terms of lightness. The CRI or Color rendering index compares the faithfulness of the lighted object to the natural light source. It would help if you looking for a light with CRI 96+.

So hopefully here is all the information you need to know about self-tape lighting. Let me know if I missed something, or what are your experiences with lights.

See you next week.

My dedication to achieving artistic excellence extends from the stage to the realm of film. Currently represented by agent Jill Kabush at Dorothy S. Management, I am actively pursuing opportunities to establish my presence in the industry. While my creative interests span a variety of fields, including DJing and illustrating, my primary passion lies in acting. In the Czech Republic, I gained experience as both an amateur and professional actor in theaters such as Moravian Theater Olomouc, Theater DiGoknu, and Mlada Scena II. I also ran my own production company, creating short films. Upon relocating to Canada, I underwent intensive training at the Vancouver Academy of Dramatic Arts. Since then, I have signed with an agent, showcased my talent in esteemed theaters like Theater Around The Corner, and participated in independent film projects. Through unwavering dedication and hard work, I continue to refine my craft, striving for new heights in the pursuit of artistic excellence.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *