How To Light An Interview:

3 Techniques You Need To Know

“Lighting is to film what music is to opera.” – C.B. DeMille

As a filmmaker, especially as a cinematographer and gaffer, one can’t undermine or overlook the benefit of interview lighting. Just like any craft, the more experience one has the easier it’ll be to call upon that background to help in future situations. When it comes to lighting, the more faces that you light results in developing an understanding of how light falls on different types of faces.

Three point lighting is a standard technique that’s often the base for interviews that can be achieved and modified in many different ways. We’re going to look at three projects that included interview segments and see how our cinematographer and gaffer lit the talent.

In the first case study we’ll be discussing lighting an interview in front of a solid colored backdrop; in the second we’re taking the production outside and shooting in direct sunlight; and thirdly we’ll showcase a dramatic lighting design that’s atypical of most interview looks. To aid in gaining perspective we’re including a still frame of the interview, a lighting diagram, and the final video of the project.


Lighting For A Solid Backdrop: Erato Audio

The interview lighting set up for this project is twofold; one set up is for the white backdrop and the second is for the talent. This style of lighting uses three point lighting with the addition of a kicker light, often referred to as an edge or scratch, for creating a highlight on the talent’s right side.

The remarkable aspect of this set up is that it can be used for green/blue screen shoots since the two Kino Flo 4Bank fixtures lighting the backdrop produce an even spread. With this type of set up you have full control over the intensity of all the lights allowing for you to dial in your desired look.

Lights Used
Key light: ArriSun 1.2K HMI through poly silk
Fill light: Kino Flo Diva-Lite 415
Back light: Kino Flo Diva-Lite 415
Kicker light: Kino Flo 4Bank (2 ft)
Backdrop lights: Kino Flo 4Bank (4 ft)


Lighting For An Exterior: California Cowboy

Shooting in direct sunlight is troublesome due to the harsh quality of the light. For this project that was shot as winter was winding down, the sun was still in a favorable position in the morning. Knowing the trajectory of the sun by using Sun Surveyor, we were able to anticipate the sun’s path and set up a 12×12 poly silk to diffuse the light on our talent prior to his arrival on set.

Additionally, we used a shiny board’s soft side to bounce direct sunlight for a kicker on his left side. Knowing the position of the sun and understanding how to modify the rawness is the key to achieving a quality image.

Lights Used
Key light: Sun through poly silk
Kicker light: Shiny board


Lighting For Dramatics: Lowe’s Tango

The goal for this project was to produce an image that was stark. The approach we took was to remove the fill light and let the dark side of the face fall into shadow. The color of the backdrop is white and to achieve the mute tone we flagged off any light spill from our key and kicker lights. By focusing an ellipsoidal light positioned directly behind talent, we were able to create a circular gradient giving the backdrop a hint of aesthetic.

It’s not too often that a client asks for composition and lighting that’s not the norm for an interview. Embrace the request and take the opportunity to be creative.

Lights Used
Key light: ArriSun 1.2K HMI through poly silk
Kicker light: Joker 200
Backdrop light: Source 4 with 50 degree lens