You can easily create a YouTube tutorial space in any environment. Here’s what you need to know to add that little bit of extra production value.

YouTube allows anyone with a camera and an idea to present themselves and, hopefully, grow an audience. And while some choose to do so in a studio environment, it’s also entirely possible for you to do this in your living room, bedroom, or as I point out, a grungy garage. The key to any simple YouTube video setup is a paper backdrop.

Watch the video tutorial below to learn about backdrops and lighting them, and follow along with the written tips underneath. If you’re brand new to YouTube, check out our guide on how to start a YouTube channel for more tips on equipment, tools, and the knowledge you need to grow your subscribers.

Paper Backdrops

The paper backdrop is timeless and elegant. If you don’t feel comfortable showing your home in your YouTube video, or perhaps you don’t think you can create an exciting background composition, the paper backdrop is the perfect alternative. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the paper backdrop. It’s a seamless sheet of paper primarily used in photography or for interviews.

If you watch behind-the-scenes photography and video shoots, you may see that these backdrops extend quite a ways; however, you can also purchase a two-meter roll, which will help you set up this environment just about anywhere. You can find backdrop stands starting around $100-$150.

In my video example, you can see past the paper backdrop because I’m trying to create a DIY, frugal environment. I’m able to do this by using a 17mm lens. However, if you were to use a 50mm lens, or any focal length higher, it’s going to allow you to decompress the space between yourself and the camera, maintaining a composition level of your upper torso, which only includes the backdrop.

Self Portrait in Garage
By moving the camera forward or switching lenses, you can create a more intimate shot of the subject.

This is a somewhat formal and standard presentation. However, if you don’t have much space, you’ll need to bring the camera forward, and it’s going to become more intimate.

When you browse photo and video gear sites, you’ll see there are hundreds of color backdrops to choose from. The color of your backdrop is going to reflect the style of your content. If it’s yellow or bright pink, it’s going to convey a bubbly, fun video and suggest that you may be an energetic creator. A deep blue or dark red may suggest the content is going to be serious and educational.


Lighting a Paper Backdrop

As a result of the space constraints, you don’t necessarily need an abundance of light as you would in a large studio environment. As you can see in the video tutorial, I’m only using two lights. In a circumstance like this, you need to use soft light. Soft lighting comes from a larger source. The smaller the light, the harder it becomes.

Garage Lighting
Here, I’m using soft lighting.

I’m using a soft box on my key light. I understand not everyone has the resources to buy a soft box so, on my fill light, I’m using nothing but a few sheets of diffusion paper (essentially the elegant word for tracing paper). In a financial pinch, it does the job.

What about the lighting of the backdrop itself? In a studio environment, you could light from overhead to expose the backdrop. However, if you’re creating content from your living room, that’s not an option. So you can place the light on the floor, acting as an uplight, which will sufficiently illuminate the background for your YouTube content.

Light on the Floor
Creating an uplight.

Another frugal and space-saving lighting method to illuminate your background is to set a light at mid-torso level and position the light so it’s hidden by your body when standing in front of the camera.

This’ll create a gradient across the background, and although it won’t be illuminating the light across the entire backdrop, it’ll still creates depth between you and the backdrop.

Gradient Light
Creating depth between the subject and backdrop.

Of course, we need to acknowledge that having a studio space to install a paper backdrop is a lot more efficient, allowing a greater amount of space to appear more fully within the shot. However, when both spaces have been set up to film a mid-shot, you can’t tell what was filmed in a studio and what was filmed in a rusty garage — and that I love.


Looking for more video tutorials? Check these out.

Interested in the tracks we used to make this video?