This post contains affiliate links so that if you buy these things – at no additional cost to you – I can make a little extra cash for showing you how to inexpensively light your facecams.
So about a year back, I made a brief attempt at being a camgirl. (Don’t get excited, it’s was non-nude and I wasn’t cut out for it.) In preparing for that venture, I did a lot of research and learned that you’re expected to light your feed so that your viewers can actually see you. So I bought this lighting kit and assembled it in front of my desk. (I still use this kit for filming clips, and would recommend it if you need something for that.) It worked out pretty great until I wanted to rearrange my office and put the back of my desk up against a wall.
Before, I had plenty of space for these two giant umbrellas to stand in front of me. In my desk’s new location, though, there was no way to position them correctly. The only place to put one – and only one – was far off to one side so that dark shadows would be cast on the right side of my face in my feed. By this point, I had given up on camming, and instead of had decided to try Twitch. On Twitch, lighting is also pretty crucial because the facecam is an important part of connecting with viewers there too.
A thought then occurred to me: what if I just stick a selfie light on my webcam? Selfie lights are small, but give off enough light to take good cellphone pictures. They should be bright enough to light my face if I’m sitting a foot and a half away right? Most people take selfies from farther than that. Then I followed the next logical conclusion to that thought: I wonder if someone has made a webcam with a selfie light built in.
Yes, someone has. But they want $100ish bucks for it, which was more than I was looking to pay. I already had a webcam, after all, I just needed the light.
Eventually, I settled on this cat-shaped selfie light for it’s inexpensive price and the fact that it has cat ears. That’s fucking adorable. If you have the Brookstone cat ear headphones too (in a matching color even), it’s all the more purrfect. More to the point, they also have nine light settings: cool, warm, and neutral; each at three levels of brightness. I personally think I look best in bright-ass cool lighting, but these things are pretty versatile.
As an aside, I also want to point out how nice the packaging is on these selfie lights. Like, for something as inexpensive as it was, the unboxing was fkn luxurious. Seriously. Look at this.
Look at these instructions! Printed on this fancy parchment paper!
As awesome as this particular light is, though, you can use any selfie light, so long as the light quality is good. They don’t have to be shaped like cats.
Anyway, I bought that light, clipped it to my webcam, and tried to stream with it. I say “tried” because I was quite successful until about two hours in, when the battery died. Given the intended use of this device, I think two hours battery life is quite impressive, but it falls short of my needs. Additionally, though my face was better lit, I felt it could still be improved upon.
One of the things about lighting that I learned when boning up on camming was that the ideal scenario is you have one light on either side of your face and a third pointing down at you from above. This should prevent unflattering shadows from being cast as you have light hitting you from most angles. (Shadows from below are all right since they make you look better. That’s why people hold their phones up high when taking selfies.)
The answer to these problems is two more of the selfie lights, a USB hub, and a pack of three USB cables. I got these fancy ones with braided casing on them since I knew I wouldn’t be able to hide them entirely, but they’re still cost-effective. You can sub them out for any USB micro to USB A cables though, if you have them lying around already.
You plug the cables into the selfies lights, connected them all to the USB hub, and the connect the hub to your PC. Then you clip the lights to your monitor: one on each side and one on the top. Like so:
Now you’re well-lit, your shit’s fkn adorable, you don’t have half your room dominated by lighting umbrellas, and it only cost you $55ish. The hub keeps them charged so they don’t die in the middle of your stream and when you turn them off they glow Gamer Red until they’re back to full battery.
Here are some comparison shots so you can see the difference (also enjoy my Peggy Olsen hairdo.)
I have my webcam set to the side of my computer, so I still get a bit of a shadow on the left side of my face when I turn to it. When I’m staring vacantly into my screen though…
I am perfectly lit from all sides. So if your cam is dead center like most people arrange it, the three-point set up around the monitor will work perfectly.