Lighting your Interviews

Lighting is a crucial aspect of filmmaking and video production, especially when it comes to interviews. Proper lighting can make or break the visual quality of your interview footage. In this article, we'll delve into the world of interview lighting, covering the basics of 3-point lighting, when it's okay to break the rules, types of lights, the importance of diffusion, and what to do when using light fixtures is simply not possible.

    The Three-Point Lighting Setup

The foundation of good interview lighting is the three-point lighting setup. This classic technique involves three primary light sources positioned strategically around your subject:

Basic 3 light setup


  • Key Light: This is your primary light source and is typically placed at a 30 to 45-degree angle to one side of your subject. It provides the main illumination and defines the subject's shape and features.
  • Fill Light: Positioned opposite the key light, the fill light helps soften the shadows created by the key light. It should be less intense than the key light, usually by half its brightness.
  • Backlight: The backlight, also known as the hair or rim light, is placed behind the subject, aimed at their shoulders or head. It adds separation and depth to the subject by creating a subtle outline, making them stand out from the background.

    When to Break the 3-Point Lighting Rule

While the three-point lighting setup is a tried-and-true method, there are instances where breaking the rules can be acceptable, even preferable:

  • Natural Light: If you're conducting an interview outdoors or in a location with ample natural light, you can often forgo artificial lights altogether. However, you may still need reflectors or diffusion panels to control and soften the sunlight.
  • Creative Choices: In some cases, you may want to experiment with unconventional lighting setups to create a specific mood or effect. Just remember that creativity should always serve the narrative, and breaking the rules should be a deliberate choice.
  • Limited Equipment: When you have limited lighting gear at your disposal, you may need to improvise. This could mean using available practical lights or even just strategically placing your subject near a window for good natural lighting.

    Types of Lights

Choosing the right lights for your interview is essential. Common types of lights include:

  • LED Panels: Energy-efficient and versatile, LED panels are popular for interviews due to their adjustable color temperature and intensity. They also produce minimal heat, making them comfortable for the subject.
  • Tungsten Lights: Tungsten lights provide warm, natural-looking illumination but can get hot. They are often used in studio settings where heat is not an issue.
  • Fluorescent Lights: These lights offer a soft, even light output and remain cool, making them a suitable choice for extended interview sessions.

    The Importance of Diffusion

Diffusion is a technique used to soften and spread out the light, reducing harsh shadows and creating a flattering look for your subject. You can achieve diffusion by using various tools like softboxes, umbrellas, or even simple white bedsheets. Diffusion helps eliminate unflattering hard shadows and evens out skin tones, contributing to a more professional and polished interview.

    When Using Light Fixtures is Not Possible

In some situations, using traditional light fixtures may not be feasible:

  •  On-the-Go Interviews: When conducting interviews on the move, you may not have access to bulky lighting equipment. In such cases, rely on natural light or portable LED panels for a basic setup.
  •  Low-Budget Projects: If you're working with a limited budget, get creative with practical lights like desk lamps or even smartphone flashlights. Just ensure you maintain consistency in color temperature.
  •  Documentary Interviews: In documentary filmmaking, you often have to work with the available light. Embrace the challenges and use available sources to your advantage, creating a raw and authentic atmosphere.

With a solid understanding of the basics, a little creativity, and adaptability, you can achieve professional results. Remember the three-point lighting setup as your foundation, but don't hesitate to break the rules when necessary. Experiment with various light sources, employ diffusion techniques, and, when all else fails, embrace the constraints of your environment to craft compelling interview footage that tells your story effectively. At Rocket House Pictures we are equipped with a full grip truck with the latest lighting gear. No matter the mood and style you are looking for, we can create that cinematic look that will woo your audience.

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