Interview Lighting Setups

Last month, we brought you How to Set Up Three Popular Interview Lighting Techniques.  This month, we show you how those three techniqes work.

INTERVIEW LIGHTING SETUP 1: DEAD-ON

If your subject is looking right into the lens, you might often find that you prefer to have your key light placed as close to your camera as possible. The example below illustrates this style. I find that this combination of eye line and light placement works well for emotional, motivational pieces. We didn’t have a specific cause to promote for this sample shot … so we just made something up. It’s hard to say where the inspiration comes from, so we’ll just let the clip speak for itself.

For this setup, we keyed Steve with two lights: the Fiilex Matrix and the Westcott Flex 2×1′. Both of these lights were set to daylight balance and we “pushed” them through a 4′ x 4′ frame of 1/2 grid cloth. Since the piece we were making was intended to look a bit more serious, we decided to increase the contrast on Steve’s face by adding some negative fill to his right side. We did this with a V-Flat we had in the studio, but you can do this with any large black fabric. Finally, we gave him a backlight by using one of my favorite tricks. We took a 1×1′ Westcott Flex panel, rolled it up into a tube and clamped it to the arm of a C Stand, which we rigged overhead. I use this technique a lot in smaller rooms because the rolled-up Flex panel will also give off a bit background fill in addition to giving your subject a nice backlight. In a room this big, the rolled-up Flex light didn’t do much to the background, but I figured “some” was better than “none.”


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INTERVIEW LIGHTING SETUP 2: CONTRASTY!

On the opposite end of the spectrum: Let’s say you’ve decided that you’d like for your talent to be looking off at an extreme angle, so you’re almost looking at him/her in profile. I’ve often found that in these circumstances, a key light that is more “side-y” instead of “frontal” looks better. Combine the eye line, angle of light, and maybe a slightly weighted framing, and you’ve got something that looks well-suited to an indie artisan documentary piece.


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For this setup, we were going for a more contrasty look, so we didn’t diffuse our key source. Since we wanted to expose for the window light, we stacked the Matrix on top of the Flex 2×1′ and angled it so that it was almost perpendicular to the lens of the camera. We had 6 stops of ND dialed in on the Canon C100, so our key light had to be pretty close to our subject. By bringing the key source this close, the quality of the light ended up being a little softer than you’d expect for two bright sources with no diffusion. To give a bit of lift to the shadow side of Steve’s face, we used the silver side of a FlexFill to bounce the sunlight coming from the window back into Steve’s face, as well as the wall behind him.

INTERVIEW LIGHTING SETUP 3: SOFT AND PLEASANT

Split right down the middle between these previous two examples is a style that I think you’ll find you use most often. In this case, we have our subject looking just off-camera and we’ve keyed them with a book light that’s just off to camera-left, leaving just enough room for our interviewer to squeeze in between the key light and the camera. This look, to me, feels like we’re talking to a cool technology company that’s about to launch an amazing new product.


Interviews03 For this setup, we set up a book light to key Steve from camera-left. We bounced both theand the Flex 2×1′ into bead board and then used 1/4 grid cloth on the other side of the lights, which diffused the source even more. We had to walk this setup in pretty close to Steve in order to get a good exposure on his face, and this setup also happened to fall exactly when the light outside the window was most intense. The blown-out windows work fine for the tone of this particular piece, but in an ideal world we would have used a brighter source to match the ambient light and adjusted our exposure to see more detail in the windows. We used the 1×1′ Flex as our backlight but swung it around so that it was catching more of the features on the left side of Steve’s face. This is a good way to fill in the shadow side of someone’s face without adding a third light to the mix.

SUMMARY: MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR SPACE

There are plenty of things that I didn’t cover in this article but I hope that my observations and tips prove useful to you as you go forward lighting interviews. If you’re looking for more lighting tips and tricks, take a look at our guide for the best low light cameras! The single biggest tip I can give is never to try to force a location to be something it’s not. You won’t be able to set up a book light in a conference room with an enormous, immovable table in the middle of it, so just think creatively about how to make someone look good given your location’s parameters. If you’re prepared ahead of time and think through what you’re trying to accomplish, all that’s left to do is try desperately to stay completely silent for the duration of the interview.

Oh, and don’t forget to sneakily take BTS photos while the interview is happening. The most important rule of filmmaking: if it’s not on social media, it never happened.