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How to set up hair light for video?

A hair light for video can vary widely in size and can be placed in almost any position, as long as it's not directly in front of the subject. Its purpose is to enhance the appearance of the hair and/or to distinguish it from the background. The ideal size and placement are factors that help achieve the most visually appealing effect. But how to achieve it? In this article, we will give you some tips for setting it up.

An image example of only using hair light for music videos

Understand the actual function of hair light to better use it for video recording

Understanding the primary role of the hair light is crucial in deciding its placement, intensity, and overall aesthetic impact. While hair lights and background lights do aid in separating the subject from the background and prevent darker hair from blending into it, this is merely a secondary function. If there is a lack of shadow detail in the hair and inadequate background lighting or tonal/color mass, the hair light alone cannot compensate. It will only create an unappealing highlight on the hair without preserving detail and texture.

There should already be some visible detail in the hair before applying the hair light. The starting point involves careful consideration of exposure, lighting ratio, contrast, and dynamic range. The role of the hair light is to extend the glow of the key light into the hair, adding extra specular highlights and enhancing its glamour.

Invest in continuous light fixture to create hair light for video

For creating hair lighting in video recording, you need continuous light sources like LED constant light. In video recording, continuous lighting is typically used for creating hair lighting rather than flash. This is because it allows the videographer and subject to see the effect of the light in real time, making it easier to adjust the positioning and intensity to achieve the desired look.

To invest in the best hair light for video, you need to consider the following factors.

  • Control: The ability to control the intensity and direction of the light is crucial for achieving the desired effect. This can be achieved through the use of modifiers such as softboxes, grids, or barn doors. Therefore, you need light source that is compatible with most of modifiers.
  • Color temperature: Selecting a light source with adjustable color temperature can be beneficial for matching the overall look of the video and ensuring that the hair appears natural in different lighting conditions.
  • Consistency: Consistent output and color rendering are essential for maintaining a cohesive look throughout the video shoot.
  • Heat and Comfort: If the subject will be under the lights for extended periods, consider the heat generated by the light source and its impact on the subject's comfort.
  • Budget and Portability: Consider the budget and portability of the light source, especially if you will be working in different locations or need to transport the equipment.

By considering these factors, you can select a light source that best suits your specific needs for creating hair lighting in video recording.

Set up the video lighting equipment properly

You can mount the hair light for video on a light stand with a boom arm. As for how to position hair light for video, position it high and behind the subject in the same direction as the key light. The beam should skim the hair, as per traditional guidelines. However, you can deviate from this by placing the hair light on the opposite side if you desire more sparkle or glamour for the hair. In some cases, using two hair lights can be effective. For precise control, consider adding a snoot or barndoors to restrict unwanted light, and you can also use diffusion material to soften the light or reduce its output for better compatibility with softer key lighting.

When setting up a fixed hair light for groups, a strip-light softbox can be mounted high and behind the subjects. It's crucial to baffle the beam to prevent it from hitting the lens. Grids can be used to maintain tighter control over the beam.

Adjust the angle of hair light to offer the target effect

The hair light functions as an ACCENT light and must hit the subject at an angle that effectively produces specularity. To achieve this, it should approach from an angle rather than directly above the subject's head. It is crucial to avoid any light hitting the lens to prevent flare, spilling onto the background, or illuminating the subject’s forehead or face mask.

Control the intensity of hair light for video to avoid washout

When lights are positioned at steep angles of incidence (between 90 and 135 degrees from the camera-subject axis), even when set to the same output and distance. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that highlights in the hair are not washed out and retain detail and texture. You may need to adjust or lower the power output, change the distance, or lightly diffuse the hair light to prevent it from overpowering the main light while still providing an accent effect. In some instances, feathering—using the edge of the beam instead of the hotspot—can be beneficial.

Additionally, blonde, light, gray, or white hair requires less light compared to darker hair. Ensure that the hair light does not make dark hair look prematurely gray or white. Aim to add specular highlights and a touch of glamour without blowing out the highlights.