Lighting: Lighting Interviews


Terry O'Rourke


A basic 3 point lighting setup is a good place to start when lighting one person. Here are some tips on lighting interviews using 3 points that also include a 2nd person.

One of the things about shooting interviews is that frequently someone is late to the party, which can leave the videographer with too little time for setup, so it's best to keep things simple when planning any shoot, especially interviews. That means bringing as few lights, modifiers and accessories as possible so you won't have to spend all your time setting up lights.

Another thing to keep in mind is that locations change. Perhaps the 20x30 foot room with the floor to ceiling windows you were promised, has been reserved for a meeting and you now have been moved to the "task room" which is 10x10 feet and full of file boxes. Or maybe you have been moved to the lobby, and there are those pesky herds of people roaming in and out of your set. What if that beautiful courtyard you scouted is now completely soaked in rain, and you have to find a new environment on your own. The plans you had yesterday aren't always what you'll be shooting today.

With that in mind you need to bring just enough equipment to get the lighting right and bring enough experience to deal with the unexpected. So be prepared and stay flexible! If you are rushed and unprepared you become stressed, then your subjects become stressed which will reflect in your interviews. If, on the other hand, you are confident, relaxed and good-natured, everybody's job will be easier.

Gear to Have on Hand for Lighting Interviews

So what lighting equipment do you bring to an interview shoot? At a minimum, you should have at least three lights, any modifiers you are familiar with (softboxes, scrims, umbrellas, etc.), several stand-mountable reflectors, enough stands - including background stands - and any gripping device you may need, such as clamps, flags and gobos. You should also have gels and be familiar with them. That doesn't mean they all need to be out, but they do need to be there, organized and ready to go.

Any interview starts with an interviewer and the subject, and each needs to be properly lit, but it doesn't end there. There must be continuity in the lighting of each person. Imagine watching an interview where the subject is in direct sunlight and the interviewer is in open shade. It would look pretty silly to a professional videographer and confusing to the general public, so, when lighting your people, you should use similar lights and modifiers on everyone.

If you use existing light from the environment, such as you might find in a lobby or large conference room, and you supplement that with artificial lights, they all should be consistent.

Fill is the Key For Lighting Interviews


If you are in a very small room and are trying to control your own lighting equipment while using found practicals to create atmosphere, all of your lighting should match, not only on the subject and interviewer, but the practicals as well. It may sound complicated but it really isn't if you follow a few tried and true formulas that have been around for decades: Simple three point lighting. This time, though, in interview lighting two of the lights are exactly the same, while performing two separate functions. In traditional three-point lighting there is a "key" light, which as its name implies is the main light, and creates the overall look of your lighting. There is a "fill" which fills in any shadows created by the key and the "rim" which is a light that is above and/or behind the subject. The light from rim pulls the subject off the background and defines it, thus creating a three-dimensional look in your lighting.

With interview lighting where the people are sitting next to each other, you replace the fill light with another key/main light and cross each key light over each person, thereby creating both a fill and a key with the same light. All you need to do is add one rim light from behind the set which covers both subjects, and just like the BOGO sale at the mall; two for one. (see figure 1). Basically, each key performs two functions. It's a key light for one person, while acting like a fill light for the other, and the rim light covers both people.

When Lighting Interviews Use the Rim Light Wisely


With interview lighting where they are sitting across from each other you replace the rim light with another key light and cross each key light over each person, thereby creating both a rim light and a key light with the same light. All you need to do is add one fill in front of the set and just like our example above; a twofer! (see figure 2). In this scenario, each key light also performs two functions. While working as a main light for one person, it's acting like a rim light for the other, and the fill light from above the camera covers both people.

The great thing about these two lighting systems are their minimal footprints; there's only three lights, and two of them are exactly the same! It can't get much simpler than this and that's the key to successful lighting: Keep It Simple!

Terry O'Rourke specializes in retail advertising photography and videography for clients world wide.

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