Quick Tip: How to Light an Interview With a Single Light Source
Quick Tip Lighting Interview Featured.jpg

In this short tip video, you will learn the basics of lighting a classic interview created with just a single light. I'm talking about how the position of the one (key) light affects the look of the video and how it can be thrown back to create a fake fill light. I mention the use of a window as an additional light source, internships and so on.

You may have heard this before, but let me say it again – light affects the overall look of a video much more than the camera or lens used. Having filmed numerous interviews over the past few years, I decided to make a short tip video about how to light an interview with a single light source. Since lighting in general is a very complex subject, I focused on interiors with only one light. For more information, see our older article on the subject.

Three-light interview lighting. Image credit: CineD

The purpose of the video is to give you a quick tip on how to work with limited devices. Light settings for filming an interview can get complex and contain many light sources. Typically, interview light setups consist of at least three lights – key light, which is your main light source, fill light (which fills in the shadows on the other side of the talent's face), and a backlight that creates a nice border around and separates the talent's head or they from the background. Ideally, the background itself is also given separate lighting.

Light an interview with just one light

Interview lighting setupLight an interview with a light. Image credit: CineD

If you only work with one light source, it will automatically become your main light. In a traditional two-way conversational interview, the talent should look across the broad side of the picture into the room. The position of the button light should be next to the camera on the same side as the interviewer is sitting on. The light should come from the broad side of the picture on the talent's face.

Broad side and short sideLight an interview with a light. Image credit: CineD

When choosing the location for the interview, try to leave as much space as possible between your talent and background. First, it's easier to keep the background blurry and visually separate your talent from the background. Second, the background is unaffected by your key light.

The location of the key light affects the shadows of the face

In general, when filming an interview you want to get soft shadows on your talent's face. There are many factors that play a key role in achieving soft shadows. I've highlighted two that I think are very important – the size of your light and its distance from talent. The shadows soften as the light source gets larger (this can also be achieved by bringing the light closer to the face). If you have a small source of light, you can bounce it off a wall or reflector to soften it.

Interview lightingSide key light for a dramatic look. Image credit: CineD

Since there is no fill light to even out the shadows on our talent's face, the key light needs to be positioned more carefully. Depending on the look you want, you can move the light further away from the camera for more shadows and a more dramatic look. Or you can move it closer to the camera for less shadows. Just note that if the button light gets too close to the camera, the talent's face will appear too flat.

To avoid reflections in glasses, you may need to adjust the position of your main light (or, alternatively, the camera). It usually helps to move the light upwards.

Reflect the light with reflectors

with a reflectorIlluminating an interview with a light – bouncing. Image credit: CineD

If you have a reflector available, you can try to reflect the light and create a fake fill light. You can play with the reflector and position it anywhere to fill in a darker area with a little more light.

Use internships

To shed some light on the background, you can try using internships already available on site. If you are unfamiliar with this term, an internship is a light source that is visible in the frame – for example, a home lamp, computer screen, LED strip, etc. Internships also have a decorative purpose.

Light an interviewIlluminating an interview with a light – internships. Image credit: CineD

Use the window as an additional light source

Depending on the location, weather, and time of day, you may also be able to use a window as a light source to complement your only available lamp. Remember that the intensity of light entering through the window can change quickly and ruin your shot.

Learn the rules to break them

As you gain more experience and follow the simple rules, you can break them and create a completely different lighting design depending on the look and mood you want to achieve.

What do you think of my quick tip video? Did you find any of the pieces of advice helpful? Did I miss something important? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below the article.

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