Tips for Lighting an interview 3 light setup that will transform your interview

Thomas Manning from light Epic Light Media, an Arizona based award-winning creative & film production company recently published this super useful tutorial about the right way to light an interview (and just for the record there are many possible ways and this video actually shows a few options).

There is a lot going on when it comes to shooting an interview (we have a few links to a number of tutorial on this subject later in this article), but in this video, Manning takes a look at a few basic tips for taking your interview from a boring poorly lit mess to a professional production level shoot.

Before he goes into the lighting there is one general tip which is super important – just like in real-estate – location, location, location. Try and find a place that will look good as a background for your interview, a place with decent lighting (or one that can easily be transformed using lighting into one, and try to avoid shooting against boring white walls. Also try and find a place that has some connection to the person/profession of the person being interviewed (lawyer – office, carpenter – workshop etc.).

Even if you are stuck shooting in one of those poorly lit rooms with a white or grey wall, there are things that you can do to improve the situation. Much of these have to do with lighting but you also need to remember a few subject positioning tips like placing your subject when he or she is facing the camera and leaving enough space in the direction in which they are looking (if they are looking to one side), using several camera angles and switching in post (this is super important for editing), shooting at eyesight and having the person talking to the camera look at the person doing the interview from the same hight (which should be the same as camera level).

Moving on to lighting – you have the 3 typical lights that you need to consider here:

  1. Key – your main light. This should light your subject face, typically above and from the side giving him/her depth and some contrast. There are many ways to do this but one of the more common ones and the one shown in this video is to place a strong light close and diffuse it so that the light will wrap around your subject to a degree.
  2. Fill – this can be done with a light or a reflector depending on the positioning of the key light and the look that you are after. In this video, the fill also changes the back wall lighting to a degree but it isn’t necessary (especially if your subject is far away from the background to create more separation.
  3. Backlight – There are many things that you can do with backlight, you can add a gel that will warm or cool the background behind your subject or even use and RGB (or again a colored gel) to add some color to the background, you can use hard light to create a shape using barn doors for example (a stroke of light is popular), you can use some sort of pattern on the wall using a cookie (ala as Wood Cucoloris).

Although you might be able to get decent results with a very basic setup like this (even by shooting on a smartphone or a budget camera and lens combo), the lighting itself might be a bit harder to set up using very basic “store” lights as you will need some very powerful lights, a good way to soften the light and hold everything together (it is possible you will just need to be a little more creative than Manning we guess).

We have looked at many aspects of shooting an interview in the past including the shooting interview 101, best light gear for filming interviews, how to set up lighting and audio for interviews and how to shoot a documentary style interview.

You can watch more HDSLR and video techniques on our dedicated HDSLR channel here on LensVid.