One of the best ways to instantly improve your video production quality is to learn how to light a video shoot. Digital video produces an image that’s pretty flat, so you need proper lighting to give your subject some depth and dimension. It’s not really that expensive to get good lighting equipment, and it’ll make all the difference in the world to your footage.

Some incandescent lamps with a few light modifiers (like umbrellas or soft boxes) are a good initial investment; choose 500- to 750-watt output. Bounce some bright wide lights off the wall and ceiling. Use a 2k Fresnel light as a rim light, and 1k Fresnels for key and fill lights. These are some basics that will get you started. If you can’t afford to buy a basic three-point setup, consider renting the lights from a video or filmmaking studio.

White balance is also important. Don’t rely on the auto white balance your camcorder provides. The auto sensor is too often fooled by mixed lighting and you’ll end up with washed-out footage. If you’re using incandescent lights, set the white balance for that type of light. Then get some color filters to match color temperature. If you can’t afford professional-grade filters, use colored cellophane. Diffusion filters are good for softening up the light on your subject.

It’s OK to play around with lighting and shoot a lot of video to see how different lighting techniques affect your picture. Tape is cheap; having to re-shoot a scene because the lighting was wrong, not so much. 

Another thought is to go to a local college or university’s video/filmmaking department and find a student with lighting skills who’d be interested in teaming up on your project. Knowing how to light a video shoot is a talent that’s in high demand; lighting can make or break a video production.