Basic Lighting & Interview Hints When Filming

Key Light

A simple strong directional light gives the best modelling and structure to a shot. A key light provides the necessary exposure and brings out the three-dimensional aspects of the subject. When keying faces the decisions to be made are, where should the nose shadow fall or should there be a nose shadow? Are deep set eyes lit, does the angle of the key light suit the structure of the subject’s face, are there reflections in their glasses, and are there any facial imperfections exaggerated or concealed? Does it throw unwanted shadows on the background of the shot?


Wherever the key is placed, the strong shadows it creates nee to be modified to reduce the contrast range and normally to light the mood of the shot. This achieved by a fill light on the opposite side of the camera lens than the key. It is usually a soft source of light produce by a reflector or a diffused flood lamp or an overcast sky but not direct sunlight.


It is advisable to find some visual way of separating the subject from its background so that the viewers focus of attention is on the subject. A source of light directed from the subject to highlight the head. This will give a sparkle to the hair and rim light the shoulders. Try to avoid too high an intensity. The backlight should hardly be perceptible.

Background Light

To avoid persons being shot in limbo, some light needs to be directed to the space behind them. The aim should be to light sufficient background to provide some indication of location whilst avoiding overpowering the foreground. A lit background gives space and mood to the shot but on location, ensure that it conforms to the source of light.

Mixed Lighting

A recurring location item is the interior interview. It usually requires shots of the interviewee seated in their office or set interviewed by a presenter.

Interview Position

 There are a number of questions to be answered before deciding camera position and interview position:

  • Is there are a colour difference and balance between daylight entering from windows and the light provided by added lamps?
  • Do windows need to be in shot?
  • Does the interview position allow a variety of shot to sustain a long interview if required?
  • Is the environment of the interviewee important to the interview?
  • Does the background to the shot give more information about the topic?
  • Is there a comfortable distance between participants to allow them to relate to each other?

General Hints – Interviewing

Check out suitability of location:

  • Setting
  • Lighting
  • Sound (Background noise – Interruptions, Teleohones/Mobiles etc:
  • Interviewer to go through brief with interviewee.

Unless addressing the viewer ensure that all participants are instructed not to look into the camera or away from the interview. This is often a problem at the immediate conclusion of the interview when the participants move their position or start looking around.

In a single camera multi position shoot, position the camera close to the shoulder on the interviewer with the lens at approximately seated eye-level to get a good eyeline on the interviewee is an ideal shot for this scenario. Light for that position checking for a good fill and ensure that the background is adequately lit. As a general rule only reframe on interviewee during questions unless a move has been agreed. Check exposure, white balance, and voice levels and record the interview. Keep the camera recording after the interview has ended; often a usable comment is made. Instruct the interviewer and interviewee not to change their position or eyeline, or make any irrelevant comment after conclusion of interview. You often require additional footage at the conclusion of the interview to roll credits or fade out.

After determining that no more questions are to be asked, re-position the camera for a second shot checking that there has been no significant change of posture or any other continuity links between the first and second shot with the interviewer repeating some of the questions.

Re-position the camera to take noddies, reactions etc staying on the same side of the imaginary line between interviewer and interviewee.

Re position and relight for each change in camera position.

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