Sunday, July 12, 2020
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Best lighting for live streaming video [2020]

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Live streaming can be quite fun and doesn’t take a ton of crazy expensive gear to make it happen. Even with an entry-level live streaming equipment setup you can get some pretty great results with the right light. But chances are that your streams are looking particularly noisy and grainy, and that’s because you don’t have enough light. You might think you do, but you don’t. So let’s take a look at some great live streaming lighting setup ideas!

Great streaming lights are critical to excellent live streaming quality

In another life I was a fairly active photographer, working with a lot of live music photography and band/portrait work. The key there was light. The more the better, and the better the light the better the image.

That holds true even more for video and even live streaming video. Great light can make even inexpensive gear look killer–if your resources are tight, focus on getting good lighting for your live stream or video conferencing to make up for a lower quality camera.

We’ve highlighted some of our favorite streaming lights down below, and you’ll find more details and helpful tips further down this guide as well.  Whether you’re game streaming on Twitch, broadcasting on Facebook Live, or one of the many who are now working from home and video conferencing with your teammates you can benefit from upgrading your lighting setup.

Best overall streaming lights: Aputure 120D II

Aputure 120D Mark 2, 120D II LED, 180W Daylight Balanced Led Video Light, 30,000 [email protected], CRI96+ TLCI97+, Support DMX, 5 Pre-Programmed Lighting Effects, Ultra Silent Fan
  • 🌿|25% Brighter than Aputure 120D|: The Aputure 120D Mark 2 Boasts 30,[email protected] w/ the Reflector, 135,[email protected] w/ the Aputure Fresnel Mount, Comparable to A 1000W Tungsten Light
  • 🌿 |Accurate Color Rendition|: CRI 96+ TLCI 97+ offers Natural, Pristine Color for Broadcast Video, Photography, Television Production and Studio Filmmaking
  • 🌿 |Supports DMX Lighting Function|: The C120D II's DMX system is also pre-programmed with special lighting effects (i.e. thunder, fireworks, etc.) and allows users to input their own effects

Last update on 2020-07-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Don’t get us wrong, we love affordable lighting setups, but if we’re highlighting the best streaming light, it’s got to be the Aputure 120D II.  Yes, it’s big.  Yes, it’s expensive.  Yes, you need to have enough room to set it up with the preferred light modifiers.  But if you have the room and the budget for this light, it’s the best lighting for streaming you can get while staying within an affordable range.

The light itself is only a part of the equation as you’ll be pairing this light with a light modifier–a device that attaches to the light itself to soften and/or control the light coming from the light itself.  The three popular modifiers for the 120D II would be the Light Dome II softbox, the Light Dome II Mini softbox, and the Lantern Softbox.

Last update on 2020-07-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Light Dome II is the go-to favorite, the Mini is for setting up in smaller spaces (or less soft shadows), and the Lantern is a smaller modifier that will flood your room with light in a less directional manner–great for bouncing light off of walls as fill.

Best “Aputure-killer” streaming lights: Godox VL150

Godox VL150 LED Video Light with BD-04 Barndoor Kit, 150W 5600K Daylight-Balanced Bowens Mount,CRI 96 TLCI 95, [email protected], Bluetooth and Wireless Radio Remote, with V-Mount Plate Controller Box
  • 🏆High Light Brightness&Accurate Color Rendition :|| 5666.9 fc/61000Lux at 3.28"/1m w/Reflector,[email protected] with Bare bulb, The 5600K- Balanced VL series maintain advanced accuracy in color rendition with CRI and TLCI ratings of 96 and 95 respectively; Stepless Dimming from 100% down to 0%.
  • 🏆Remote Control and Mobile APP support: || The VL light come with a standard remote control,able to control the lights within 6 groups and 16 channels wirelessly at 433MHz.The downlodable GodoxPhoto app is compatible with iPhone or Android smartphones or tables while operating the VL Series Via Bluetooth.
  • 🏆Optional Power Supply:|| Power supplied by DC power or V mount lithium battery.With two-high capacity V-Mount,The VL series can produce their maximum output without the heavy cord system,allowing users to power anywhere and travel light.

Last update on 2020-07-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Previously, if you wanted a lower-priced alternative to the Aputure 120D II you would have to compromise pretty heavily.  Thankfully, with the new Godox VL150, you don’t have to give up almost anything.

The VL150 (along with the bigger VL200 and VL300) actually outperform the Aputure lights in brightness using both large modifiers and reflector dishes and match or slightly edge out the Aputure lights in color accuracy.

Our previous Aputure-on-a-budget choice, the Godox SL60 and SL200, couldn’t quite compete on brightness, design, or usability as their fans were fairly loud and developed a reputation of ruining audio in some configurations.  The new VL lights output the same fan noise as the Aputure lights, and even kick on later than the Aputures.

Lastly, if you’re going to be running with the more affordable Godox VL lights, you’ll want a good light dome-style modifier at a better price as well.  The LAOFASS octabox fits the bill quite nicely and is one of the better budget light modifiers you’ll find that is just as easy to use as the Aputure models.

Last update on 2020-07-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best budget streaming lights: Viltrox L132T

VILTROX L132T 0.78"/2cm Ultra Thin CRI95 5600K/3300K Bi-color LED Video Light Dimmable Flat Panel Light , with NP-F550 battery and charger
  • Using knob button , press it to switch brightness and color temperature .when rotating it , the brightness (20%-100), or color temperature (3300K-5600K) parameters will be increased or decreased .
  • Topest CRI95 cab completely with perfect color of sunlight and ensure that its light is natural lifelike .apply to portrait , children is , wedding and new photography etc.
  • The light panel of this on-camera LED light is not only slim therefore easy to use but also helps in bestowing the best shots after combining different lights.

Last update on 2020-07-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Viltrox L132T is one of the absolute best lights available for the dollar.  This light has a rather decent size illumination surface with absolutely no micro-shadows.  The individual LEDs are pretty much invisible through the diffusion panel, making this one of the softest light panels you’ll get under $100.

You’ll get a battery and charger included, but you’ll definitely want to buy a separate battery if you intend to use it without DC power, as the included unit isn’t the best.  Thankfully it does take standard Sony NP-F batteries and it does have a 12v power connector (adapter not included, unfortunately).

Last update on 2020-07-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

But even with those caveats, we can’t stop recommending this light to pretty much anyone who asks for a budget suggestion.  For the cost of an Elgato Key Light you can get multiple L132T lights.

SEE ALSO:  Canon releases new software allowing select EOS cameras to function as high-quality USB webcam

Best Elgato Key Light alternative: Viltrox VL-400T

VILTROX VL-400T (2 PACK) 40W CRI 95+ 224 Beads Ultra-Thin Adjustable LED Video Light,Bi-Color Continuous Lighting Panel &Remote Control for Video Shooting,Outdoor Interview,YouTube Studio Photography
  • Viltrox VL-400T Ultra-Thin Adjustable LED Video Light is a Bi-color LED Light(Temperature Range: 3300k-5600k) with high quality lamp beads which is energy-saving, environmental and long-lived. Adopt HD LCD display,Color temperature and brightness can be easily adjusted according to your requirements. Easy operation and clear display with very high contrast.
  • Viltrox VL-400T Light is designed for Various Video Making Photography Lighting and Location Shooting, Video Shooting,Outdoor Interview,YouTube Studio Photography
  • The LED light is so portable that it is suitable for location shooting, satisfying your shooting needs on more scenes.Standard equipped with remote controller which can remote control parameters

Last update on 2020-07-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Note: Due to current situations affecting global shipping and increased demand for live streaming devices, many popular items are being delayed by Amazon.  We’ve started a guide to some of the best alternate live streaming devices to this and other equipment that live streamers may need during this crisis and will be attempting to update it as often as possible.  These alternatives will be ones that (at the time of updating the guide) will be shipping faster than the normal Amazon delayed notice for most items.  If you can’t find this device, please see our list of alternatives.

There really aren’t many alternatives to the popular Elgato Key Light that match up feature to feature, but the Viltrox VL-400T gets very close.  The VL-400T is almost the same size as the Key Light but isn’t quite as bright.  Our top pick link above from Amazon comes in a two-light set with batteries, chargers, AC adapters, and a wifi remote to control the lights.

SEE ALSO:  Canon releases new software allowing select EOS cameras to function as high-quality USB webcam

The smaller sibling to the VL-400T, the VL-200T, is also a reasonable replacement as it has many of the same features just in a smaller number of LEDs resulting in a bit less brightness, but they’re still excellent lights.  The diffusion isn’t as good as the L132T, but they do have more features.

Last update on 2020-07-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What to look for in a live stream lighting setup

  • LED lights: They’re thinner, bright, lower on power, don’t get nearly as hot, and easily positioned in your setup.
  • Size: The larger the light source in comparison to the subject (you), the more flattering the light quality. It doesn’t need to be gigantic, but bigger lights will be better than the tiny little box lights that go on top of a video camera. Look at getting something with a light surface roughly the size of a sheet of paper or larger.
  • Positioning: Bigger lights may be better than smaller lights, but even a big light can act small when placed far away from the subject (you). Get a light that’s a decent size but can still be placed relatively close to you.
  • Brightness: You’ll want not just a bright light, but also to be able to control the brightness to get your exposure right. This gives you more flexibility in exposing not just yourself but your set and backdrop as well.
  • Color temperature: This dictates how warm or cool the light is. This basically means whether the light is more yellow or more white/blue. Daylight is about 5500K, many new laptops (including Macbooks) calibrate their screens at 6900-7000K to look “really white”, and properly calibrated displays should be around 6500K. The ability to change this will let you match existing lights and ensure that things look natural on your video broadcast.
  • Power: While many LED lights can run on batteries, you’ll probably want one with an external power cable to plug into the wall for long stream sessions.
  • Diffusion: Diffusion is making a light source softer. If the bulbs/LED elements are exposed bare, you’ll want something over them to make those less harsh. If you can’t see bare LEDs/bulbs through the plastic covering that’s a good start.

Note: this guide’s scope is really to address the best lights for smaller live streamers working from a desk setup, not necessarily from a video broadcast studio type of setup.

There are a lot of great options available these days, so let’s check out a few of our favorite live streaming lights for Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Twitch, and more.

Lighting is the most important part of good live stream video quality Click to Tweet

Best lights for live streaming and video broadcasting

Elgato Key Light

Elgato Key Light

Elgato is turning its attention toward the streaming market pretty hard these days, and their latest new entrant into the area is the Elgato Key Light. It’s basically tailor-made for streamers, and is growing in popularity very quickly.

The benefits to this light is that it’s a fairly good size light at 13.77″ x 9.84″ (just a bit larger than a normal sheet of paper) that outputs a ton of controllable light. A single Key Light can crank up to 2800 lumens. For reference, that’s over twice as powerful as a Lifx smart LED bulb’s 1100 lumens (Lifx, by the way, is the brightest of the smart LED bulbs out there, with Philips Hues coming in around 800 lumens).

Not only do they get bright, but they do have an adjustable color temperature, ranging from a very warm 2900K to a super white 7000K. The Key Light is definitely one of the more flexible lights out there and lets you dial up exactly what you need for your stream.

The last key benefit (no pun intended, but it’s staying! haha) is the mounting system. Each Key Light comes with a metal telescoping pole on which you mount the light. This pole is actually designed to clamp on to your desk, allowing it to be quite flush against the wall your desk is on and eliminates the need for a traditional light stand. Oh, and the AC power supply is included, so, bonus!

The Key Light can work with Elgato’s Stream Deck along with its own control software, and connects via wifi for setup. You can control your lights without having to get to the physical device, and it makes setting these up and getting ready to stream super easy, barely an inconvenience.

Being able to get such a thin light on a space-saving stand to minimal overall impact to your existing desk setup is a godsend to many live streamers. It’s super flexible, insanely bright for the size, and most importantly it throws out some very quality light. While there are more inexpensive options available, none have the complete package of features that many streamers will need for their setups.

Buy Elgato Key Light here

Viltrox L132T

Viltrox L132T While the Key Light is a complete all-in-one package, it does come at a fairly high price compared to some other options out there. One of my personal favorites (and the one that probably gets the most overall use around here) is the Viltrox L132T and it packs a ton of use into a small, well-priced package.

The L132T is smaller than the Key Light, roughly half the surface area at about 4″ x 10″. It’s also not as bright, capping out at 1065 lumens at a warm blend. It does cover 3300-5600K color temp and dimming down to 20%. Even at around 1000 lumens it’s often much too bright, especially for up close work and food photography (my girlfriend loves this light for her blog photos).

Yes, that means it’s half the size and half the power and half the color temperature range of the Key Light. But it’s less than a quarter of the price. And it takes standard Sony NP-F550/F750/F960 series batteries as well as a 12V adapter (some ship with this, others don’t).

We can’t say enough good things about this light. Yes, there are “better” lights out there, but at this price point you won’t find one at this size that creates such even, smooth, and controllable light at all.

Note: Viltrox lights usually have a B version and a T version. The B version is usually only daylight, 5500 or 5600K. The T versions are the adjustable color temp variants. These sacrifice max brightness for flexibility. Also note that max brightness is referenced at around 4400K temperature, the halfway point in the blend where all LEDs in the light are on.

Buy Viltrox L132T here

Viltrox VL-200T/VL-400T


What if you do need a larger sized light and still keep the affordability? Viltrox has got you covered there too. They have a few larger lights that are quite similar to the Key Light in size, shape, and brightness but share the same creature comforts as the L132T.

SEE ALSO:  Best alternatives to popular live streaming devices [2020]

The VL-200T is about 10″ x 8″ and maxes out at 2500 lumens at 4400K. Whereas the L132T takes one Sony NP-F battery, the VL-200T and VL-400T have two battery slots because of the larger number of LED elements.

If you want an even larger light, the VL-400T measures around 14″ x 9.5″ and can pump out 2900 lumens at 4400K. These larger lights usually don’t ship with the batteries, but do ship with the AC adapter and even a wireless remote control for adjusting the lights individually or as a group.

All of the Viltrox lights here are CRI 95+, meaning that the color accuracy of the light is pretty outstanding. What they light up will be pretty close to how the subject actually looks in daylight. Yes, you may see some ever so slight color tinging and shifting here and there, but most of the time you’ll never catch it. We haven’t even found CRI measurements for the Key Lights, but I’m assuming they’re also CRI 95+, so these are all most likely on equal footing, accuracy-wise.

I’d put the VL-200T and VL-400T as the best competitors to the Key Light at this point, although they will require picking up a separate mounting solution, which shouldn’t be terribly expensive. You won’t be able to control them from your computer like the Key Lights, but you could get a lot more light for you dollar with the various Viltrox offerings.

If you’re tight on budget or just don’t care about computer control, the Viltrox lights are probably your most affordable bet.

Buy Viltrox VL-200T here
Buy Viltrox VL-400T (2 light kit) here

Falcon Eyes SO-28TD/SO-68TD Flapjack lights

Falcon Eyes SO-28TD

Another popular style of light are what’s referred to as “flapjack” panels for their round, flat profile. Falcon Eyes has been making their SO-28TD and SO-68TD panels (among others) for a while now, and produce great quality light.

They’re not as inexpensive as the Viltrox lights, but are much more sturdy builds with larger surface area and more brightness. The SO-28TD is about a 14″ diameter and outputs around 2460 lux, with the SO-68TD around 26″ and maxing out at 5920 lux. They can be powered by batteries or AC adapter.

These are used by a lot of filmmakers and YouTubers because of their build quality and pleasing light output, but also make excellent lights for live streaming and video broadcasting. They’re a great alternative to the Key Light, especially if you want something you can use on location as well as at your streaming desk.

SEE ALSO:  Best alternatives to popular live streaming devices [2020]

Buy Falcon Eyes SO-28TD here
Buy Falcon Eyes SO-68TD here

Aputure 120D II

Aputure Lightstorm COB 120Dii

We’ve previously gushed about the Aputure 120D II and the Light Dome in our guide on how to start vlogging. Yes, it’s a bit overkill for some vloggers (especially those who don’t always vlog at home or in a studio), but it’s definitely one of the popular choices for many vloggers and YouTubers.

Streamers have also fallen in love with this light, as the Light Dome modifier creates some absolutely gorgeous light and is incredibly easy to work with. As long as you have the physical space available for it, that is.

The 120D II cranks out a whopping 30,000 lux (with

the fresnel reflector) at CRI 96+ and TLCI97+ ratings and is daylight balanced–no color temp adjustments here, just 5500K goodness.

It runs on AC power with an included power/control unit, but if you need portability you can always use a battery pack like the classic Paul C. Buff Vagabond Mini battery packs. There is an active cooling fan in the housing, but it’s pretty quiet at around 18 dB.

Aputure Light Dome 35" octobox
[/thirstylink] Aputure Light Dome 35″ octobox
The Light Dome is pretty large, especially when compared to smaller LED panels like we’ve covered already. Add to that the required C-stand and it makes it a bit of a tight fit if you’re in a small space, or if your desk is right up against a wall.

But that said, it’s still an amazing light at a pretty reasonable price point. If you need the best with no compromises and have the space for it, it’s a great option.

Buy Aputure 120D II here
Buy Aputure Light Dome here

Godox SL-60W/SL-200W

Godox SL-60W

Godox has been making lighting and photography gear for quite a while, and is known for some great budget-friendly equipment. With the growing popularity of the Aputure 120D, the Godox SL-60W has rose to the status of the go-to alternative at a fraction of the price.

The SL-60W is the same type of light as the 120D. There’s no built-in diffusion or reflector, as it accepts light modifiers with a Bowens mount, same as the 120D. The SL-60W is considerably lower price though–you could buy about five SL-60W lights for the cost of a single 120D, making it extremely popular for YouTubers and filmmakers on a budget.

That said, there are some compromises here. You’ll only get 4100 lux brightness, CRI 95+ and TLCI 90+. The fan is definitely not as quiet, but if you’re close mic’ing your subject or using a good directional microphone it shouldn’t be an issue for streamers.

The bigger brother gets a lot closer to the 120D in brightness, reaching 20,000 lumens with CRI 95+. It’s about 2/3rds the output but also about 2/3rds the price. Again, an excellent alternative but not without its tradeoffs.

With the SL series lights, you do have wide compatibility with a huge assortment of light modifiers, wireless control and grouping. It’s not the absolute tank of a unit that the 120D is, but it’s an excellent first light for beginners or a great fill light for larger setups. You sure can’t beat the price, so definitely check this light out as a great alternative to the 120D.

Buy Godox SL-60W here
Buy Godox SL-200W here
Buy Neewer 32″ Octo Softbox here

CAME-TV Boltzen Andromeda 2FT-R RGB LED Video Light

CAME-TV Boltzen Andromeda 2FT-R RGB LED Video Light

Here’s something a bit different, if the other form factors don’t quite suite your needs.  CAME-TV has a rather unique light in a tube light form.  Similar in design to the lights found in much more expensive Kino Flo, these CAME-TV lights are pretty powerful and easy to mount and come in various lengths (2FT, 3FT, 4FT, etc).

The 2FT-R is a 20W RGB light that runs on optional batteries or included power adapter, they are adjustable from 0-100% brightness, white balance between 2000K and 10000K, and offer CRI 96+ and TLCI 97+ accuracy.

They come with full-length barn doors for controlling light spill, and can also be purchased in a kit of four with a mounting bar to connect them together.  The lights can also be controlled via an app on your phone for easy adjustment if mounted out of reach.

The 3FT version is a daylight-balanced 5600K light that shares the same features and kit options, but is a 60W light for a much stronger output.  Either of these models, however, are a much more affordable Kino Flo option, and would be a great pick if you’re looking for something a bit different.

Buy CAME-TV Boltzen Andromeda 2FT-R RGB LED Video Light (single) here
Buy CAME-TV Boltzen Andromeda 2FT-R RGB LED Video Light (4 piece) here
Buy CAME-TV Boltzen 60W Andromeda 3FT-D Daylight LED Video Light (single) here
Buy CAME-TV Boltzen 60W Andromeda 3FT-R RGB LED Video Light (single) here

Quasar Science Q-LED T8 30W 120V Dimmable Lamp

Quasar Science Q-LED T8 30W 120V Dimmable Lamp

Like the tube light look, but need something a bit more affordable?  Quasar Science has you covered with their 30W 5600K light.  It’s a standard 4′ T8 lamp, but does come with the P1Z plug to plug it into the wall.

This one’s pretty no-frills.  Brightness is adjustable, and that’s about it.  It’s definitely more of a set-and-forget lamp, but makes an excellent accent or fill light for your streaming lighting setup.

Buy Quasar Science Q-LED T8 30W 120V Dimmable Lamp here

Desk mounting LED lights (Elgato Key Light alternative mounting)

The major benefit to the Elgato Key Light is that it does come with everything you need to mount the light to your desk, including an adjustable boom pole and a desk clamp. The lights we’ve looked at do not come with a stand, but do come with tripod or light stand mounting points so we can piece together our own mounting solution similar to the Key Light.

First, we’ll need an adjustable boom pole, such as this Andoer monopod/mic boom pole. It’s not as sleek as the Key Light support, but it’ll get the job done. Next, some sort of clamp like this UTEBIT clamp. Both of these actually come with a ball head mount for a camera, but you won’t necessarily be using these for the lights.

If you pair these with even the larger Viltrox lights you have a very affordable version of the Key Light. I wouldn’t advise mounting the large Falcon Eyes lights, however, and especially not the Aputure/Godox style lights. But for the smaller panels this would work quite well.

What about ring lights?

We thought about including ring lights in this guide, but after some deliberation, we’ve come to the conclusion that the day of the ring light for most live streaming setups is probably in the past. With the advent of larger, softer LED panels, you can get much better quality of light in a more flexible form factor.

Ring lights are really meant for one specific task–creating a shadow-less lighting source with one single lighting fixture. They’re really meant for beauty lighting to create light from all directions around a camera lens. This is why they’re a ring–you place your camera inside the ring and the light hits the subject from all angles, neutralizing shadows.

Really, this is for showing off makeup or other similar uses, or creating a very distinct stylized high-key light on a subject with minimal depth. You also need to get a ring light fairly close to the subject to achieve this goal. It’s meant to completely bathe the subject in light from “all sides”.

If you really want that look, however, go for it. If you want the weird “cut-out” shadow look, go for it. If you love the “halo eyes” catch lights in your eyes, go for it. But, in our humble opinion, you’re better off picking up a flat solid light that creates more lighting surface instead of the small strip of light on a ring light.

Remember, total size of surface area relative to the subject is what creates softer light on the subject. Ring lights just won’t get this look in our opinion.

Final thoughts

Plain and simple: Lighting equals great images. You’re going to need something flexible, powerful, and small enough to fit into your streaming setup. Thankfully we live in the age of great LED lighting options at ridiculously affordable prices. Any of the options above would work excellent for various types of setups.

Do you have any questions about lighting setups for live streaming that we missed? Any thoughts or suggestions? Drop a comment below or @ us at @creatorbeat_ on Twitter or @creatorbeat on Instagram!

Lou Wheeler
Musician, photographer, and tech nerd in Sacramento, CA. Currently learning audio engineering and video production while spending way too much time on YouTube.


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