- VILTROX L116T Key Light ($45)
- Foam Board ($3)
- Lights You Already Have ($0)
- A Window ($0)
- Professional Grade Lavalier Lapel Microphone ($35)
- NexiGo Lightweight Mini Tripod ($15)
Your laptop webcam will have to do, but that doesn't mean you can't get more mileage out of it than you have thus far.
Dig into your webcam settings. Out of the box, I've yet to see a camera that has the color, contrast, and temperature dialed from the moment you hit record. Some webcams will come with a native settings app that lets you control things like white balance, hue, contrast, and saturation. While others, like MacBooks, require downloading a third-party app to access these settings.
It's hard to eyeball exactly what changes will be 'better', but here's a trick:
- Find a video you like the coloring & overall look of
- Put it alongside your own video, and tinker with the settings until you can get something close
- Remember the darker your shot, the harder the camera will have to work, and the lower your image quality will be.
VILTROX L116T Key Light ($45)
If you watched the video series you knew where we would be burning our budget - lighting. Don't fuss with the throwaway multi-light packages in this price range, as they aren't high enough output. You need a single, powerful light to use as your key light. This one's good enough to serve as a background or fill light down the road when you upgrade your setup further.
This one's dimmable, can run on a battery, and has a color temperature adjustment from 3300k-5600k. The built-in diffuser is going to give you a smoother light, and reduce reflections. Keep in mind you need a tripod for this one.
Foam Board ($3)
Head down to the local craft store and pick up a 36"x36" foam board. You won't believe me until you try it, but a foam board makes for a great reflector on the cheap. Remember most photographers & videographers rely heavily on reflected light. My main set currently uses a reflector, and a foam board is a nearly-free way to get better light control. My favorite YouTuber DSLR Video Shooter uses foam boards in his videos to nail the fill light.
Lights You Already Have ($0)
Most of us have some desk lamps laying around - Put them to work to add some interest to the background of your shot, or if you need a more fill light. Lights are among the easiest ways to add interest to a shot, without actually having to record in an interesting space 🥴
A Window ($0)
Get creative & shooting from different locations relative to the window. Think of positioning a window the same way you would your key light: not directly head-on, but from the front, 20-30 degrees off-center.
Professional Grade Lavalier Lapel Microphone ($35)
Hear me out - Lapel mics can deliver great audio quality, vastly better than what your laptop offer. If you went through the video series, you know even pro video folks use lapel mics when the subject is too far away from the edge of the frame to get a mic close.
They work well because they can be so close to your face that it's easy for them to isolate your voice. This one comes with an extra-long cord, and is the kind of thing you'll keep using in certain situations long after you've upgraded to another mic.
NexiGo Lightweight Mini Tripod ($15)
You need a desktop tripod for your light, and this one gives you good flexibility. It reaches up to 13 inches in height, and is high enough quality that you could use it down the road for a webcam, smartphone teleprompter or light reflector.