When you watch a movie you are more in tuned with the story, the actors, and probably the sound. Most people to not focus on how the movie incorporates lighting to help tell the story. Knowing how to light a subject and scene can really enhance your final product. I am sure you have watched a video and you say to yourself, “This does not look professional.” You can’t really put your finger on it but more than likely the video lacked proper lighting.
I shoot many interviews and lighting the subject correctly is one of my top priorities. Lighting is very important. It helps create the mood, and helps structure the story being told. I conduct several interviews and I continue to learn how to light better. When interviewing your talent most of the time you will have a key light (main light) a fill light (opposite side of key light) and a hair light. The key light should be on the side of the camera where you give your talent more nose room (look at this example). Notice the shadow on the left side of his face.
This light is the main light and should be just above your talents eyes. You can play around with the height, especially if your talent wears glasses. Glasses can show the light in the reflection of the lenses, so be careful where you place your key light. I have had good outcomes when I place the light a bit higher than normal with folks who wear glasses. The key light is usually 45 degrees between you and the talent.
The fill light will be on the opposite side of the key light. The main job of a fill light is to fill in the areas of the face that the key light does not cover. You do not want the light to be as strong as the key light either. By lowering the output of the fill light you are able to create definition on the talent’s face. However, if you were telling a happy story you may want the fill light to be almost if not as bright as the key light. But most dramatic stories have lower output light from the fill light. (This example show just a fill light and a background light).
To separate your talent from the background you can do a few things. You can place a light behind your talent. This light is high above your talent and focused on their shoulders and head. By putting a hair light on your talent you are separating them from the background, which in return gives a three-dimensional look. You can add to this by placing a light directly behind your talent low to the ground. The light should be pointed at the wall directly behind the talent. If you have a colored gel you can place that on the light to give a different color look to the background. (This photo shows all four lights. Key, fill, hair light, and background. In this example the hair light is too strong, the light spills on to the wall, which I did not want.)
For a more dramatic look you can simply use a key light, background light and no fill. (See example below).
There may come a time when you need to interview someone, but need to hide their identity. You can use a background light and that is it. Make sure you iris down on your camera so you do not expose the talent's face.
There are so many more things to lighting than what I covered here in this blog, but I wanted to show how you can start improving your lighting skills for interviews. I am constantly learning and hope to master lighting in the future. Thank you for reading this blog.
I have been working in television and media for over 18 years. My experience includes news photojournalist, editor, producer and storyteller. I am a five time Telly Award winner.