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This post was most recently updated on November 13th, 2022

When shooting a video, the lighting is key which any streamer or cinematographer will tell you. The type of light you select typically depends on whether you want to shoot indoors or outdoors, and also on the kind of shot you want to achieve.

There are two main types of lights: ring lights and key lights, but which one should you use for your streaming? A ring light is a softbox that creates a halo-shaped diffuse glow around the subject.

This is useful for giving objects a healthy glow in a consistent, beauty-portrait effect. Key lights are often used for outdoor shots, where they can create a sharp, defined shadow from their rectangular shape. 

Both types of lights are effective at their intended purpose for streaming, but each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Only one type of lighting may be ideal for your style of streaming so bear this in mind when deciding which one to get. In this article, we’ll compare the pros and cons of both types of lights.

What Is A Key Light?

If you have gotten familiar with using softbox lighting then a key light should seem quite handy. They tend to be more petite than a ring light and do not require any additional equipment to get them up and running.

These rectangular-shaped lights have been proven ideal for streaming due to their size and how well they work for desktop lighting. They can drop a very soft light to keep you in focus though that light fails to look harsh when reproduced.

Key lights can also be controlled with settings like the brightness and light temperature that can be adjusted. This customizable output may be ideal if you want to mix up your streams every once in a while. 

The Pros And Cons Of A Key Light

One of the obvious pros with a key light is how economical they are with space. Simply hook it up to the computer and find a small space to prop it. This may be on the wall, above you, or with a tiny tripod, but they fail to take up too much room, which may be ideal if you have a cluttered desktop.

That square shape is crucial for the light to illuminate the background without being overly conspicuous as a spotlight would be.

Key lights do tend to be expensive for such a small piece of kit. Though they save room, the light can produce a harsh shadow with some glare. If you did want to fill in those shadows, you would require another light which can become complicated.  

What Is A Ring Light?

Should you watch a lot of streaming yourself you may have noticed that ring lights have gained in popularity across all spectrums. Their versatility means that podcasters, beauty experts, YouTubers, TikTokers, and game streamers can all use one for their all-around way of illumination.

Similarly, they are also easy to set up and produce a halo-shaped light which can prove ideal if you wanted to prop your smartphone or camera into the gap.  

The Pros And Cons Of A Ring Light

The Pros And Cons Of A Ring Light

Due to their shape, the ring light does produce an even distribution of light around you when used for streaming. This feature can greatly improve how your stream looks and helps with the light temperature.

The more uniform shape also tends to come with a lower price tag than a key light so get yourself a decent model. Unlike the key light, a ring light can get rid of shadows instead of creating them so you can capture more details in a more presentable style. 

Ring lights do tend to be larger than their counterparts so you will need to make space in the room you use. You can opt for a smaller model and you could clip it onto an object or surface which is a good option to have yet the size is a drawback.

While they are cheaper than key lights in general, make sure you do not go too cheap as the design may prove flimsy and you do not want one to drop during a stream.

Which Light Should You Use For Streaming?

A key light is ideal for streamers who need that extra light without having to drop in additional lighting as they do cover more area on their own. They do tend to heat up noticeably quicker too due to that extra brightness when compared to a ring light.

If you are streaming for hours without an open window or functioning air conditioning then your key light may prove uncomfortable, in which case a ring light may be preferable.

The major consideration should be based on how much you are willing to spend to light up your stream and where you use it. If your streaming is valuable to you and more than just a hobby with friends then opt for a high-end key light.

That pro-look can set you apart from the competition and your streams will benefit.

Key lights are also easier to set up due to their limited size. That feature may come in useful if you stream while on the move as you save on room in your luggage. However, if you remained in the same room and needed a consistent setup that will not distract you then use a ring light. 

Final Thoughts

Both ring lights and key lights are popular for streaming as each has its advantages and disadvantages. When researching which one you want for your streaming, think about the environment you are to use it.

If you stream from the same room for hours on end then you want an easy, consistent setup which you can find with a ring light. Simply clip on your smartphone or camera into the gap and off you go. 

Key lights are great if you find yourself on the move as their more compact size can prove invaluable when you quickly need to produce a video or travel log.

The level of brightness can help illuminate your face when you are presenting and also help convey the scene that surrounds you.