How Lighting Helps Create an Effective Story in Video Marketing

Published: April 27, 2021

Aaron Huskins


In my last blog, I wrote about how the story and concept are what matters most when it comes to effective video marketing. Equipment, sound, lighting, cinematography, and editing are really just tools to tell that story.

So, in today’s blog, I wanted to talk about one of those tools: lighting–and how you can use it to emphasize and strengthen a video concept.

How Lighting Helps Create an Effective Story in Video Marketing

Lighting styles and techniques vary as widely as the stories they assist in telling. No one lighting setup or style works for everything when it comes to video marketing.

So, when deciding how you’re going to light your scene, consider the script.

  • What emotion are you wanting to evoke in this scene?
  • How do you show the audience that feeling?

As videographers, it may seem like our jobs are to manipulate lights and cameras to make beautiful images. That’s partially true, but what a good cinematographer really does is communicate and create feelings.

Here are three ways lighting helps you tell a story in video format:

#1: It creates a better contrast.

A high-contrast, shadowy image can create a very different feel than flat, even lighting. Many dramatic and serious scenes use higher contrast lighting to emphasize the moodiness, while comedies and corporate videos are usually less contrasted and evenly lit.

For example, if you’re a dentist, you probably want to avoid shadows and drama because, well, many people are already wary of going to see a dentist. Dark corners, backgrounds, or parts of a dentist’s face don’t exactly scream “cleanliness” or “trustworthiness” to viewers.

However, high key, low contrast lighting can make a subject appear more approachable and less mysterious. On the flip side, using contrast to create intrigue in your business or product can also keep viewers curious and make them take that next step to learn more or continue watching. 

So, remember to compare and contrast (i.e., compare your lighting scheme to your message, and contrast light accordingly).

#2: It improves your video’s quality.

Hard and soft lighting convey very different emotions in your video. Where a hard light source intensifies shadows and creates harsh drop-offs on a subject, a soft light source gradually drops off to a shadow.

While, in many cases, soft light appears more flattering on a subject’s face by softening wrinkles or blemishes, that doesn’t mean there won’t be times when it’s not right for a project.

For example, if you’re trying to emphasize a farmer’s grit and experience, you might want to use hard light to accentuate the wrinkles, scars, or calluses on their skin to subliminally tell your audience that these individuals have been doing this a long time or that they’re not afraid of a hard day’s work.

Neither quality of light is better than the other. It’s all about what’s right for the story when you think about video marketing in 2021.

#3: The lighting direction helps you convey emotions.

In the same way, a videographer has to consider the best camera position for a shoot, they also need to consider the best lighting position for the scene. The video marketing ideas and possibilities are endless; you can light the scene from above, below, the front, behind, onside, offside, etc.

If you want a subject to appear mysterious, you can use a rim light to turn them into a silhouette and hide their face and emotions. If you want to make them appear evil or scary, you can light them from below or high above to create shadows in their eyes.

You can even use the direction to emphasize the lighting’s other properties. You could use an onside key (a light coming from the same direction as the camera) to create a flattering, more evenly lit image, for example.

Or, if you want more contrast, you could use an offside key (a key light on the side of the subject that’s not directly facing the camera) to create more lighting depth in your frame. Which direction is right for you is completely dependent on your story’s direction and the emotion you want to convey.

Remember this: any of these rules can be “broken.” You can use high-contrast lighting to subvert expectations and make a typically scary scene look comedic. You could even use silhouettes to create a nostalgic feeling or show that a subject is part of its environment.


There are a million ways to light a scene, but really, there are two: the one that’s right for the scene and the wrong way.

So, before you grab your C-stands and start setting up lights, go to the script, and ask yourself, “What is the desired emotional reaction?” Then, decide how you can help get your audience there with light. Lighting is a great way to serve the story, but remember: the story always comes first.

If you want help crafting your brand’s story, please contact our video marketing team at BrandCraft today. We would love to help you bring your message to life and into the spotlight.

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