Best key lights for streaming 2023

For content creators, there’s a lot of focus on cameras these days while proper lighting falls by the wayside. It’s a shame, too, since a few well-placed lights can boost a video’s quality and attractiveness tenfold. By illuminating the shadows, you can bring out the details, color, and visual pop in your creations.



Related: Best vlogging cameras: Expert tested and reviewed

And so, to help our fellow creatives and creators, we found the best key lights that the market has to offer. Our team of professional photographers, videographers, and tech experts have reviewed and tested tons of different options, but only a few made the list. Our picks have adjustable builds, customizable color temperatures, bright lights, and fair prices.

Best key lights: Our top picks

Litra Beam large

Amazon/ Pocket-Lint

Logitech Litra Beam

1. Best key light overall

Total control at the tip of your fingers

With a highly adjustable neck and buttons for adjusting the brightness and color temp, Logitech’s Litra Beam is a desktop key light that scores top marks in every category.

Pros

  • Super bright with great spread
  • Built-in buttons for setting the color temp and brightness manually
  • USB powered with surprisingly low energy consumption
  • Easy on the eyes
  • Fully adjustable desktop stand
Cons

  • Somewhat expensive, especially when buying more than one
  • The stand is for desktops, so it doesn’t have the height of tripods

When we first heard about Logitech’s Litra Beam, we were excited to try it out and see if it lived up to its glowing reputation. There was no doubt about it: The Litra Beam is the new king of key lights for streamers.

As a desktop key light, this is designed to sit on a desk alongside or behind a computer educador. But just because it’s limited to a maximum height of 24 inches doesn’t mean it’s stuck in place. The bar-shaped light panel has three mount points, allowing you to tilt, swivel, and rotate. The swivel is particularly important, since you can orient it vertically or horizontally to find the perfect angle. But however you orient it, the Litra Beam illuminates your space with its bright array of adjustable LEDs.

There are several buttons built right into the light bar. The color temperature controls offer a range of 2700 – 6500K, and you can fine-tune it by holding down the button for easy adjustments. The brightness also has five presets that can be adjusted, with a maximum brightness that can illuminate an entire bedroom. Most importantly, it boasts something called TrueSoft technology, which gives a greater spectrum of color to help achieve a cinematic look and natural skin tones.

Elgato key light Air large

Amazon

Elgato Key Light Air

2. Best professional key light for streaming

A premium key light ready for the big leagues

With an array of controls and an easy-on-the-eyes design, the Elgato Key Light Air is perfect for streamers looking to professionalize their set-up.

Pros

  • Great app for extensive wireless controls
  • Vast color temp range of 2900 – 7000K
  • Design is extremely easy on the eyes
Cons

  • Takes a while to setup and connect to the app
  • Expensive

Elgato is a big name in the world of streaming gear, with high-end webcams, microphones, and a renowned stream deck. And their product line shines even brighter when it comes to lighting solutions. The Elgato Key Light Air is our favorite, with a slightly lofty price tag that brings with it a slew of professional controls and hardware.

The maximum brightness of 1400 Lumens is more than enough to illuminate an entire desk space and still brighten up background elements. Still, it’s super easy on the eyes thanks to the wide lighting panel, ‘Edge-Lit’ design, and quality soft cover. Plus, even at its max setting, it’s not blinding should you directly look into the light.

The Key Light Air also has an exceptional digital control panel, which you can access wirelessly on smartphones, Macs, PCs, tablets, and anything else that can connect via Wi-Fi. Within the intuitive interface, you can adjust the color temperature (between 2900 – 7000K), the brightness, and even add other Elgato lights for complete digital control over your setup.

Meixitoy rechargeable clip video light large

Amazon

Meixitoy Rechargeable Clip Light

3. Best portable key light

Affordable, simple, and ready for the road

$36 $40 Save $4

Meixitoy’s key light may be a budget-friendly option, but it’s actually surprisingly bright enough to enhance your videos brilliantly without getting in the way.

Pros

  • Super budget-friendly
  • Surprisingly bright
  • Portable, versatile design
  • Extremely wide color temp range of 2500 – 9000K
Cons

  • Limited controls
  • Only three presets

Key lights in this price range are rarely bright enough, but Meixitoy’s clip light is the exception to the norm. This pick offers multiple light modes, a rechargeable, long-lasting battery, and a completely adjustable clip mount. It’s ideal for on-the-go vlogging, streaming, selfies, and remote work, but it can also serve as your daily desktop key light.

It’s certainly not the most complex and feature-rich option, but what it does offer is a versatile design that you can take with you. And just because it is small doesn’t mean it’s dim. The maximum brightness setting is more than enough to illuminate your frame, making it ideal for brightening up video calls and streams. It won’t fill an entire room with light, but as long as you have some ambient light from lamps for the filling in your background, you should be good.

The controls for changing the brightness and color temperature are built right into the side of the panel. They’re dials with precise rotation, offering ten levels of brightness and a color temperature range of 2500 – 9000K. That range is actually more than most high-end key lights offer. The clip mount is simple yet effective. It’s perfectly sized for mounting to a phone, laptop, educador, desk, and anywhere else that can accommodate it. It also offers tilting and swiveling, opening up greater possibilities for creating content that pops.

ULANZI professional key light large

Amazon

Ulanzi Desktop Key Light

4. Best price value for a pro key light

A professional key light at a bargain

This desktop key light from Ulanzi offers amazing bang for your buck, with all the features we look for like adjustable brightness and color temperatures.

Pros

  • LCD display on back indicates charge and color temp
  • Budget-friendly price
  • Compatible with batteries for wireless lighting
  • Highly adjustable stand
Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a battery
  • Heats up after hours of use

This option from ULANZI checks all the boxes for professional lighting without the premium price tag. It’s highly adjustable in both angle and intensity, and the build is durable. Better yet, it has a standard 1/4-inch screw thread for use with tripods. That’s why, although it’s marketed toward streaming, we consider this a versatile key light that can be used for everything from video calls to professional photography.

Another pro feature is the LCD screen on the back, which indicates the brightness, color temperature, and battery percentage. This does away with the need to download an app or guess which color temperature setting you’ve landed on. And speaking of color temperature, it offers a range of 3200 – 5600K, which can be adjusted steplessly. It also has a CRI rating of 95+, which is generally considered the most natural-looking color range.

Boosting its versatility even further, this key light can be powered by an NP-F series battery, allowing you to take it on remote shoots and even use it handheld. The battery isn’t included, but it’s another neat feature that attests to the professional build of this budget-friendly key light.

Evershop key light for streaming large

Amazon/ Pocket-lint

Evershop Key Light For Streaming

5. Best key light for a natural look

The easy way to achieve that organic look

$55 $70 Save $15

This pick from Evershop has a CRI rating of 97 and a wide color temperature range, meaning it can deliver the most natural-looking illumination.

Pros

  • Available in an affordable two-pack
  • CRI of 97 looks natural and organic
  • Large panel for wide light spread
  • Easy on the eyes
  • Circle shape adds similar eye reflection effect as ring lights
Cons

  • The tripod’s maximum height is only 60 inches
  • The remote has a pretty short range

In the world of lighting, CRI stands for «Color Rendering Index,» which is essentially a fancy way of measuring the similarity of a light source’s color range with that of natural sunlight. Rated on a scale of 1 to 100, anything over CRI 95 is considered extremely close to natural lighting. That’s why this key light from Evershop, with its CRI 97, is our top choice for achieving the most organic style.

Color temperature also affects the naturalness of a light, which is why this pick’s 3200 – 6500K range is more than enough to find a ecuánime white oscilación. And if you elect for the two-pack, you can experiment with different angles and color temps to add that cinematic blue to the darker areas.

It also comes with excellent hardware, including a remote control, a highly adjustable tripod stand, a phone holder, and an omnidirectional light mount. The tripod is a boon for those with limited desk space or temporary shooting sets, since it can be raised to 60 inches from the ground. There’s a lot to love about Evershop’s brilliant lighting kit, and the bargain price just sweetens the deal.

The bottom line: What’s the best key light?

While the competition is fierce, our favorite key light is the Logitech Litra Beam. This powerful light has a design unlike any other, with a bar shape that disperses light perfectly when set up on a desk. We were especially pleased with high adjustability, from the built-in buttons to change the brightness and color temperature to the tilting and rotating neck. The result is purely cinematic.

Another excellent option is the Elgato Key Light Air, which comes at a bit higher cost for a bit more features. For example, it has a massive temperature range of 2900 – 7000K, giving you greater flexibility in how you color your video. But if that’s out of your price range, we recommend checking out Meixitoy’s rechargeable video light, which can clip right to your phone, laptop, and educador to add illumination to your project without breaking the bank.

Litra Beam large

Amazon/ Pocket-Lint

Logitech Litra Beam

Editor’s Choice

How we chose the best key lights

There are tons of different options to consider, but we know what to look for. Our team of professional photographers, filmmakers, and tech gurus have years of experience with lighting. Through trial and error, we’ve learned what’s important when it comes to lighting a set, whether it be a massive film shoot or a bedroom streaming setup. That’s why the best key lights are versatile and adaptable.

Color temperature: In the vein of adaptability, it’s important that a key light has a range of color temperatures at its disposal. Color temperature determines the «coolness» and «warmth» of the light, with the cooler temperatures looking more blue and warmer temperatures looking more orange. It’s measured in Kelvin, and a good range to shoot for is around 2700 – 6500K. Being able to adjust the temperature within this range will give you greater control over the color palette of your video, and you can experiment with the various temperature options to find the most natural-looking or most striking.

Brightness: There’s no hard-and-fast answer for how bright your light should be, since the total illumination of your space is determined by other light fixtures, natural light, and the distance the subject is from the source. That’s why we recommend key lights with an adjustable brightness, so you don’t have to keep shifting the light’s distance to find the sweet spot. We typically choose options with a maximum brightness of at least 1,000 Lumens, which should be sufficient to illuminate an entire desk space.

Stands, mounts, and tripods: Lighting placement is super important, so we recommend key lights with stands that allow for adjustments to the tilt, height, and rotation of the light. Depending on how you intend to use your key light, however, compact clip mounts or desk stands may be preferable over tripods. The advantage of tripods, however, is that they’re often tall enough to be placed on the floor, and they can collapse down for travel.

Eye comfort: Nobody wants to stream their skills while getting blinded by harsh lights. Key lights almost always have a soft cover to help diffuse the light and make it easier on the eyes. A quality soft cover should diffuse the light enough to prevent discomfort should you glance directly at it. The shape of the light panel can also make a difference, since some options have a denser concentration of LEDs, which can be harsher to look at. Thus, we chose options with sufficient space between their LEDs and quality soft covers.

Should you use a key light or a ring light?

Ring lights are a type of key light. In this article, we review key lights with solid panels. Because they’re more traditional, we refer to these simply as «key lights.»

Both types have their pros and cons, and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. That being said, key lights are typically more space-saving than ring lights, and they’re a bit more versatile. This is because ring lights must be placed in front of you to achieve their effect, as their shape concentrates the light in a narrower angle. Key lights, with their solid panels, can illuminate a greater area and at wider angles. On the other hand, this also may require more than one key light to achieve the lighting that you want, since obtuse angles will produce visible shadows.

Many streamers choose ring lights because they’re generally cheaper and easier to set up, and they create a halo-like reflection in the eyes. Key lights can be pricier since you may need more than one, but they allow for greater experimentation to help you produce a more professional look.

How do I find the right color temperature for photos?

Changing the color temperature may be as easy as pushing a button, but finding the right temperature can be hard. Your best bet is to test the various settings until you find one that you like, since the warmth of the video is a question of preference. If you want to achieve the most natural look, you can hold up a white piece of paper to the camera and adjust the temperature until it appears white (free of a blue or orange tint). This is essentially setting the white oscilación, which you may also be able to do automatically within your camera software.

Por TERABITE

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