Being successful in the film and video industry means mastering lighting and setting up interviews. In this video, learn some tips for capturing great-looking interviews.
I’ve spent the majority of my career shooting interviews. It’s something that seems so simple, but there are so many frustrating minor things that can make or break the look.
I think the hardest part of lighting and shooting interviews is nailing all of the specifics regarding where to place your lights — especially as it relates to each specific subject. You don’t want to light every interview the same way, but what does that even mean?
At some point, you’ll get to a place with interview lighting where, as each new subject sits down, you’ll know exactly where to place the lights to get the best look. To get there, you need to know the basics — and you’ll need some practice. Get started with the video below.
The biggest thing to take away from all of this is that there are really no specific rules for lighting. What makes someone a well-known cinematographer or filmmaker is just developing a personal style.
The biggest thing that will get you to the interview-lighting promised land (which might not even exist) is practice. So experiment and find out which looks you like. Here are some methods to play around with.
Start By Scouting Your Location
This may sound somewhat obvious, but it can make a really subtle and major difference at the same time. For years, when I’d arrive to shoot an interview, I’d grab as much gear as I could on my way into the location.
This, to me, is the worst way to start the day. This means that when you meet your client or subject, you’re going to be sweaty, stressed, and probably banging into walls and doorframes trying to carry your gear in.
Instead, figure out your first frame and meet the subject or client inside the location before ever touching a piece of gear. This starts the day the best way possible.
To help me determine my placement and lenses without even touching my camera, I use an app called Cadrage. It’s a fantastic app with tons of functionality. You can choose from different focal lengths, cameras, sensors, etc.
Build Your Own Interview Kit
If you shoot a lot of interviews, it can be a pain to lug around a bunch of gear all of the time.
This is why I suggest putting together a single, rolling, travel-friendly case that has all of the lights and stands that you’ll need to light your interviews.
In the video, I list out all of the gear that I have that works for me, and I’ve taken that one case all over the world to shoot all kinds of different interviews. I’ve found a system and a collection of gear and lights that works for me. Yours may be different, but spend some time thinking about how you like to light, and buy some gear and a case that will fit that style.
One of the first things you’ll learn if you go to film school is three-point lighting.
The basic idea is that you have a key light (the main light for your subject), the fill light (which fills in the shadows created by the key light), and the hair light or back light (which provides separation from the background for your character, and generally gives the hair a nice specular highlight).
There is also the classic setup wherein the fill light goes on the opposite side of the camera from the key light. However, this isn’t a rule — you can put a fill light wherever you want.
For instance, my favorite placement for a fill light is right next to the camera on the key light side. This retains a good amount of contrast and fills in the shadows. It also creates a nice-looking catch light in the eyes (the little specular highlights you can see in most interview setups).
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