Lighting Tips and Tutorials

If you don’t have a lighting kit, you can use natural light to improve the quality of your videos and photos. Pay attention to where light is coming from and the shadows it casts.

The best light is diffused sunlight. This reduces shadows. You can easily defuse sunlight by placing your interview subject inside with their face toward a window or sliding glass door. Avoid setting up your interview subject with their back to a window unless you can add a ton of light on their face. If you don’t have a lighting kit, I suggest you avoid this all together.

Take a look at the first photo for an example of a backlit interview. There’s not enough light on my face to fight the light coming in behind me. I could open my camera iris to better see my face, but then I would overexpose the background even more.

The second photo is taken in the exact same spot. I simply spun around to face the light.

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Another error many beginners make is setting up an interview outside in the middle of the day. When the sun is directly above people’s heads, it casts unflattering shadows on their faces like this:

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You don’t need a lighting kit to light your interview if you have diffused sunlight. But what about when you’re inside a building with no natural light source? Most light from lamps or light fixtures in offices or homes isn’t strong enough to look great on camera. That’s where lighting kits come in.

Three-point lighting kits are the most common. They contain a key light, fill light and back light, aka hair light. But I just told you not to backlight your interviews right? For most interviews your key light and fill light should be much stronger than your back light. Most lights give you the option to reduce the strength. Or, you can move your back light farther away from your interview subject to weaken the strength. You want to use back light to softly add depth so your interview subject doesn’t blend into the background. But, your back light should not be so strong that it shoots into your camera lens and degrades the resolution of the person’s face.

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Your University of South Florida email will get you free access to Lynda.com. Here are some video courses on interview lighting:

Those go in depth. Here are the most useful videos from those courses:

Tips:

  • Don’t get burned. Some lights get very hot, very quickly. Wear gloves to stay safe.

Featured Image: Film Set by Alex Lang (CC BY-SA)

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