Interview Lighting Setup Basics & What You Must Know

Interview Lighting Setup Basics & What You Must Know

Lighting an interview is something that even small business owners should understand as just about anyone will face a point in which they’re going to capture some style or type of interview on video. Everything from interviewing friends or family about upcoming events to asking clients for feedback and testimony on your products or services can essentially involve a video interview. The traditional interview lighting setup is based on 3-point lighting which includes key light, fill light, and back light. We’re helping you learn the basics of an interview lighting setup and what you can do to produce the best lighting for interviews that you conduct.

Understanding the 3-Point Interview Lighting Setup

Every interview should have a mix of lighting components available so that you can adjust and set your lighting for just the right depth, tone and visibility of your subject.

Essentially, you’re going to have with you Key, Fill and Back lighting. Any 3-point interview lighting setup will have at least those angles available. So think about them first!

The key light is your primary light source. Do NOT direct it right at the front of the interviewee! While this is certainly what a beginner might think to do, it’s definitely not correct!

Your key light isn’t always an actual light, though. For example, your key lighting might actually be the light that comes in from a nearby window and fills the room.  

The fill light is the source of light that you bring in to fill in any shadowed areas that are created by your primary (key) light. Sometimes, the fill light is not a light either — it may be reflection of light from another source or area. 

The back light is used to produce lighting behind the subject but it typically comes from above the subject so it is sometimes referred to as a hair light.

The purpose of this light is to create the depth between the interviewee and the background, so that the two don’t appear to fade together. Essentially, the back light produces a hard, more defined shadow between the subject and his or her background.

Hard Lighting and Soft Lighting

In addition to understanding the use of a 3-point interview lighting setup, it’s equally important to understand how hard lighting and soft lighting play a role in the interview. In fact, the lighting actually can sway the viewer’s perception of the speaker or interviewee.

In instances where the interviewee appears dark, with hard lines and shadows on his face, and distinct intensity, the viewer may feel like the individual is less flattering, they may be less likely to view them as someone they can trust, and they may even think the individual is harsh.

Likewise, soft lighting can create reduce intimidation, build trust, and improve the perception the audience has of the interviewee.

Hard lighting creates distinct shadows and sharper, defined lines between the subject and other elements on the set. Soft lighting reduces shadows and spreads the illumination of light across the subject to reduce the intensity of rigid lines or features.

Additionally, soft-lighting in an interview lighting setup will hide any imperfections and draw attention to the twinkle of the speaker’s eyes. 

Additional Interview Lighting Setup Basics

In addition to understanding the various types of lighting, key lights, fill lights, and back lights, it’s also important to understand the many different ways that lighting can be adjusted on the set to improve the interview or to further impact the viewer’s perception of the subject.

Lights can be softened, diffused, reflected, and all techniques combined for elaborate setups that do exactly what you want, exactly where you want. 

Just keep in mind that the position of the light, the way it is bounced or reflected and what is done with the light impacts several factors including the amount of total light output that is visible on the subject, the way the background will appear, and the way the subject may appear to the audience.

Learning essential interview lighting setup basics is important for every filmmaker and aspiring filmmaker that’s looking to produce interviews of any kind. 

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