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  • Writer's pictureJordan Woods-Robinson

6 Ways to Light a Self-Tape (with pictures)

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

When you're hustling to submit a self-tape before the deadline, the last thing you want to do is struggle with finding just the right light in your self-tape setup or when filming away from home. Here are 6 ways to set up your self-tape lighting to keep the focus on you.

Natural Light

Often times, all you need is a good window with soft light (not light shining directly onto your skin) to get a great self-tape. To best utilize natural light:

  • Stand directly facing the window

  • Remove any blinds that may cast weird shadows on your face

  • Leave 2-3 feet of space between the back wall and you

  • Keep camera at eye level

Natural Side Light

What do you do if you have a great natural light in your space but it's not opposite the wall you want to use? If the light is hitting one side of your face, make sure to even it out on the other side.

  • Remove any blinds that may cast shadows on you or the wall.

  • If using a soft box, have the center of the light be at eye level.

  • If you're using a floor lamp, keep it at eye level and try to use a bulb that doesn't change your skin tone. (Don't go too warm or too bright)

  • Leave 2-3 feet of space between the back wall and you

  • Keep camera at eye level

(Full disclosure: these links are Affiliate Links and we do get a percentage of the sale. But it's the same price for you and we don't recommend anything we don't use.)

Two Light Setup

The benefit of natural light is that it's gorgeous. The hindrance is that you only have certain hours of the day when you have access to that great light. Eventually, you'll want to upgrade your space with your own lighting kit to offer total control at all times.

  • Place 1 soft box on either side of the camera. (Keeping all grey parts of the diagram at head-level)

  • Point the soft boxes at 45 degree angles, lighting your face evenly

  • Leave 2-3 feet of space between the back wall and you

Three Light Setup

If you have 3 lights you can add a really nice dynamic by adding something called a "hair light." It helps separate you from the back wall.

  • Follow the same guidelines for the Two Light Setup.

  • The hair light should be behind you, angled to shine on the back of your head and the top of your shoulders.

  • The hair light should not be full intensity. If you notice it, it's probably too hot. Back it down so that you just notice it on camera and still miss it if it's turned off.

Add a Back Light

A back light helps in almost any situation. It does three things:

  1. Provides a nice vignette on the back wall which looks more professional

  2. It creates even more depth in your video, which puts more focus on you

  3. It help dispel any shadows that are on the back wall. These shadows can be distracting in a self-tape so one solution is to step further away from the wall. The second solution is to have the back light wipe them out.

  • A back light can be added to any setup. Follow the steps above for how many lights you have then add the back light.

  • The back light should be low to the ground and shining up on the wall. These are the LED lights we use but even a shadeless table lamp can achieve the right effect.

  • The back light can be directly behind you or to the side, shining on the wall behind you.

  • Play with intensity and placement until you find the effect that suits your setup.

The Secret Weapon

Our ring light is our favorite tool we've added to our lighting kit. It adds a glow to the front of of your face and a sparkle to your eye. It helps even out your features and helps dispel any shadows cast by the soft boxes next to the camera.

We've tried all of these setups at different times and this is, by far, our favorite. Yes, it's an upgrade from all of the other setups but the results are simply magnificent.

  • Your camera actually rests within your ring light. So, for placement, you won't have to adjust much. Put the camera at eye level and the ring light will be at the right level, too.

  • We've found ring lights to be pretty heavy, which can cause a sway to the camera. We recommend buying a metal tripod to add security.

  • Your ring light can be the only light on your face but, without the two soft boxes, we do find the look to be fairly stylized. This setup, above, is the one we recommend.

  • Remember, everything in grey in the image above needs to be at the same level. (Except the back light, which is lower and out of frame.)

  • Leave 2-3 feet of space between the back wall and you

Final Result

The important thing to remember is that there is no final result. Our self-tape setup, just like our technique, is constantly evolving. When you notice something, tweak it. You are a business and this is how you're showcasing your product. Keep adjusting the formula to match your customer and your audience.


#lighting #selftape #selftapesetup #homestudio


Jordan Woods-Robinson is an Actor and Head Honcho at Book From Tape Acting Studios in Orlando, FL. He challenges his actors to harness impulse as a tool, to trust their guts, to work on their feet, to break rules, and, overall, to make bold choices that make a lasting impression through tape. Email Jordan


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