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  • Jinggo Montenejo

How to Look Good Online - Lighting Basics

Me and my riding buddy Ibba Bernardo started doing a webinar on how to look good in online meetings. We go through everything from grooming to online etiquette.

Our last webinar was for 230 people in the pharmaceutical industry - executives, sales and medical representatives who need to call on doctors and clients using Zoom or some other online meeting tool. Our webinar focused on steps they could take to look professional and confident while hosting meetings from their homes. Anyone who goes online to meet with clients or colleagues in a professional environment needs to learn this.

One of the things we discuss in the webinar is lighting and the concept of key and fill lights. This can be applied to photography, videography and virtual meetings.

Light turns the ordinary into magical. - Trent Parke


Key light is the main light used to light your subject. This can be big a studio light, the flash on your camera, a reading lamp or even a window. Its purpose is to show the form and detail of the subject.

In the examples below, these are what we call single light portraits since I only used only one light. That single light is called the key light.

The key light does the job of highlighting the areas that are important for the viewer to see. The face, the clothes, the bags, slippers and so on. It also drives the overall mood of the image which in this case is drama. You can craft and shape your light to your desired mood. In a nutshell, this is what the key light aims to do.

So how does this apply to online meetings?

A basic understanding of what your key light is will help you improve your lighting for online meetings. Here are a couple of diagrams to illustrate the different forms of key lights you can use when doing online meetings.


The window is the best source of natural light that you can find inside your home. Using this option first as your key light for daytime meetings offers the best result and it's free.

Work close to the window and draw the curtains to diffuse the natural light. North and south facing windows tend to have softer light while east to west facing windows tend to be harsher in the mornings and afternoons.

If the light coming from the window is too strong you may work at an angle and have it light one side of your face.

Work close to a window to get the best results


If you're working at night or in a place where there is no natural light, you can use LED lights or reading lamps. But since these lights can be quite bright, you need to position the lights off to the side of the laptop and point away from you. Or if it's not too bright you can point it towards you. Position it so that it's above the laptop monitor.


Ring lights are a popular purchase for a lot of people these days. I personally wouldn't recommend buying a ring light to use for online meetings mainly because of its size. It's difficult to position in a home workspace - normally because desks are typically placed against a wall and ringlights need to be used with lightstands which make it hard to position on a desk.

In any case, if you have one, position the ringlight directly infront of you and higher than eye level. Try to collapse the lightstand to its most compact form and place it on your desk.

Best position for a ring light


Avoid overhead lights like incandescent or flourescent lights. These lights cast deep shadows under your eyes, nose and neck. It also emphasizes wrinkles and lines in your face. Light that come from below your face is also not flattering. In the movies, they use these light sources to make characters look more sinister. Try to avoid this whenever possible.


Fill lights supplement the key light. It fills in light in the areas that fall in the shadow. This should not change the way the key light affects the subject.

Fill lights can be another light source or a reflector. In the photo below, the black material to the left of the subject is a gold reflector which bounces light back to the subject. The key light is the light with the big umbrella.

This is how we would use reflectors for online meetings.

These reflectors can be made of any reflective material like cardboard covered with aluminum foil, cartolina, the white side of illustration boards, or even silver sun shades.

The important thing is that these reflectors should be placed near you (and just out of frame) to be effective.

So when preparing for an online meeting, do consider where your light is coming from. Once you've figured this out, check the shadows and decide if you need a fill light and proceed from there. Good luck and thanks for stopping by.

If you're interested in joining one of our webinars, feel free to message me or Ibba.




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