Interview Lighting – A Complete Guide

Filming a high-quality interview comes down to a number of factors, including the location, the subject, the interviewer, and critically, the lighting. Proper lighting is essential in distinguishing a well-made project from an amateur one. Depending on the effect you are trying to achieve, you’ll need at least three light sources for a basic setup. To get you started, we’ve compiled all that you need to know about interview lighting in this complete guide so that your footage comes out exactly the way you planned.

Video interview lighting

Why is Good Interview Lighting Important?

Interview lighting is incredibly important to getting high-quality video footage that will look professional rather than like you’ve taken it on an old iPhone. If you don’t have proper lighting, then your image will lack depth and detail, which can be distracting and take away from your subject. Lighting is arguably more important than the type of camera or lens you use because, with poor lighting, you won’t be able to use the footage at all. Good lighting also makes post-production easier, so you can save time and energy by getting the right lighting and color to begin with. 

What are the Risks of Poor Interview Lighting?

Poor interview lighting can result in a number of outcomes, some of which are listed below. None of these are desirable effects and will give away the fact that you didn’t light the scene correctly. Dark shadows on the face of your subject

  • Your subject is squinting
  • Overexposed subject and backdrop with little detail
  • Color temperature is too warm or too cool
  • White balance is thrown off
  • Room appears dim or dark

Best Interview Lighting Setup and Techniques

Interview lighting typically requires a three-point lighting setup, which is made up of a key light, a fill light, and a backlight. Here’s what you need to know when setting up your lighting.

Necessary Equipment for Good Interview Lighting

Having the right equipment for an interview can make all the difference in quality. However, the type of equipment you need will depend on what kind of interview you’re conducting and where it is. In general, you’ll need at least the following:

  • Video Camera
  • Tripod
  • High Quality Microphone
  • Three Point Lighting Kit
  • Light Reflector
  • Headphones

What to Consider with Lighting 

When it comes to lighting, getting everything planned in advance is critical to having a great shoot. Here are the lighting basics that everyone doing an interview should know.

  1. Key Light

Your main source of light is called key light and it is the brightest and most direct light on the subject. Sometimes, you can use the light from a window as the key light. 

  1. Fill Light

The fill light “fills” in the holes left by the key light so that everything is completely lit. Your fill light will be across from your key light, on the opposite side of the subject to fill in the shadows. It should be half as bright as the key light.

  1. Back Light

Also known as a hair light, edge light, or rim light, the backlight is the lighting source that is placed behind the subject, usually above. Its purpose is to light the back of their head to distinguish them from the setting they are in so that they don’t fade into the background.

  1. Soft and Hard Lighting

Knowing the difference between hard and soft lighting and being able to adjust the balance between the two can dramatically impact how your subject appears on camera. Soft lighting is lighting that is less intense with fewer shadows. It is easier to produce with one large light source. Hard lighting, which comes from smaller light sources, will make shadows and details more defined. 

In general, soft lighting is preferable when it comes to interviews as it is more flattering for the subject, so seek out a large light source as your key light. In addition, you can do things like diffuse or bounce the light to make it appear even softer. To diffuse the light, you can hold a cloth or screen in front of your light. Bouncing the light involves having your light reflect from another surface onto the subject, rather than point directly at them. 

6.  Color Temperature

To explain color temperature, you need to know that all light sources fall somewhere on a color temperature scale, measured in degrees Kelvin. As the number goes lower, the light source becomes redder and as it goes higher, the light becomes cooler. Color temperature is a tricky component as you never know how all the light sources are going to interact along with the natural light on any given day. 

The best way to balance color temperature is to ensure that your light sources are similar in color before adjusting the white balance of the camera. This means having all one type of bulb, for example, LED, rather than some that are tungsten, some that are fluorescent, etc.

7. White Balance

Striking the perfect white balance requires that your subject have even lighting conditions on all sides. This can be difficult to achieve, particularly if you are moving between inside and outside locations. Your camera doesn’t automatically know what is truly white, which is why it’s important to adjust the WB settings on your camera before shooting. Here’s a trick to help you: have your subject hold a white card in front of their face and adjust your white balance settings to that. 

8. Position

When it comes time to set up, the position of your light sources will depend heavily on your environment. A good rule of thumb for setting up is to put your key light in your subject’s line of sight and your fill light directly opposite, on the other side of the camera but still facing the subject. The backlight is generally going to be above and behind so that your lights end up in a triangular formation.

Top Interview Lighting Options

Now that you know what’s important to achieving the proper lighting for your interview, consider the following light kits. Purchasing one of these, which includes all three of the aforementioned light sources, will make organization much easier on the day of the interview.

Interview Lighting Kits

Neewer Lighting Kit for Photo Studio Product, $173.99

Available on Amazon, this lighting kit has everything you need to create a great interview setup. It includes a light stand, two single lights, an umbrella reflector, two softbox lights, a muslin backdrop and clamps, and a background stand support system along with carrying bags. 

Pros: The included softbox is perfect for diffusing light and the bulb holder can be rotated 180 degrees to achieve the best angle. The backdrop means that you can create a green screen if you want.

Cons: The lightbulbs included in this kit do not last long, so be sure to pick up some extras. You also will need to steam the wrinkles out of the backdrop before use.

RALENO LED Video Lighting Kits, $139.99

This kit is a bit more basic in terms of extra equipment than the Neewer Lighting Kit. It includes a 2-Pack of 384 LED Soft Video Lights on 75 inch light stands that are foldable. 

Pros: If you need bare-bones equipment, this kit has just the essentials that are lightweight and portable for a remote shoot. You can use these two lights along with sunlight as your key light to get a beautiful, bright image. The light stands are height adjustable and the light holders can be adjusted 90° forward and backward to get the perfect angle.

Cons: While this kit has great reviews overall, some people found that the batteries died quickly. Just make sure the rechargeable lithium batteries are fully charged before turning on these lights and turn them off when not in use.

Key Lights

Neewer 2-Pack Dimmable 5600K USB LED Video Light, $44.99

If you only need a key light, consider this option by Neewer. It comes with 2 LED lights on adjustable tripods so that you can use one as a key light and one as another light source, or you can simply have a backup key light.

Pros: At less than $50, the price of this budget key light can’t be beaten. It’s also great to have the extra light in case yours fails or the battery dies while on set. 

Cons: The lights do not retain their settings once they are unplugged, so you must remember what they were set at.

GVM Bi-Color LED Video Light, $319.98

This LED Video Light comes with a lantern softbox and reflector to create the soft lighting you need for an interview. It also has a mobile app control system where you can control white balance and color temperature easily. 

Pros: With 180-degree rotation, this light is ideal for use as a key light as you can direct it exactly as you wish towards the subject. 

Cons: Some reviewers noticed that the adjustable bracket felt flimsy as did the lighting stand.

Fill Lights

GSKAIWEN 180 LED Light Photography Studio LED Light, $89.90

These LED lights are a great choice if you are in need of fill light. As there are two, you could use one as your key light and one as a fill light if you don’t already have a key light. Just be sure to turn your fill light down so that the key light is the brightest.

Pros: With a long design, these lights are very bright and will illuminate many spaces. You can adjust the brightest with the dimmer knob on each light.

Cons: Some people have difficulties in attaching these lights to the tripods, which are very lightweight. The lights also are not very soft as they do not have any sort of diffusion filter. 

​​Yesker LED Video Lighting Adjustable Fill Light, $61.99

Only need one fill light? This one will do the trick. It comes with high lumen LED beads, which provide a lot of light to a room. The brightness is adjustable from 20 – 100%, so you can lower or raise it as needed.

Pros: The LED beads can last for 10,000 hours, so you will be able to use this light for a long time without worry. It also comes with a soft lighting filter, which will be ideal for interviews.

Cons: While the light is excellent, the stand, like many in this price range, is somewhat flimsy. Just be careful not to bump into this light while you are shooting.

Back Lights

StudioFX 400W Continuous Lighting Hairlight Boom, $64.98

If you don’t have a place to suspend a backlight from the ceiling, you can always use a hair light that is attached to a boom, like this one. 

Pros: This light comes with an easy softbox with a diffuser cover to keep the light from being too harsh. The 7-foot boom stand should provide plenty of height to keep the light out of the frame. You can also swivel the arm to get the perfect angle overhead.

Cons: The light stand is very lightweight and can knock over easily.

WellMaking 40w Portable Continuous Light, $129.99

This portable LED light is small, yet durable and can be placed anywhere you need it to serve as a backlight for your subject.

Pros: It has a remote control dimmer so that you can adjust from afar while shooting. The high CRI results in natural-looking, bright colors.

Cons: This light gets hot quickly because it is encased in plastic, however, there is a built-in fan that keeps it from overheating. 

Making Your Final Decision

Now that you know all the criteria to look for as well as some fantastic lighting options, your choice comes down to knowing what type of situation you are going to be filming. Keep in mind that the time of day, weather, and your subject can dramatically impact the outcome of a shot. Any of the above lighting options will serve you well, so choose the ones that you think will work the best for your interview and go from there. It always helps to see the shooting location ahead of time and even practice with your equipment so that you know exactly what to expect.

FAQ

Do you recommend the same light setup for Zoom interview lighting? You do not need as much equipment if you are only going to be doing a Zoom interview. For a Zoom interview, consider using natural light or a small light source like a Ring light.

Would these options work for outdoor interview lighting? Yes, you can use the three-point light system for an outdoor interview. The main difference is that you can use the sun as your key light if you are shooting outdoors.

Is it better to film an interview outside or inside? The ideal lighting setup is outdoors on a cloudy day as this will offer soft, beautiful, and even light. However, when you shoot indoors you have more control over the light, so in many situations, it might be preferable.

Interested in learning more about equipment? Check out these articles:

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