Monday, October 24, 2016

Shooting Video Interviews – How To Light Your Subject

Let’s do a recap of what we’ve covered in our series of 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews: 1) you have found out how to shoot better quality video interviews by learning why you want to make your interviewee comfortable and how to do that; 2) we shared why it is important to the quality of the interview to get acquainted with the person first before you start filming and what type of questions should be asked and how to prepare them; 3) you also now know where you want to place your interviewee and what you should have them wear, or not wear, to the interview4) I shared some tips for making shooting a side-by-side interview easier on you; and 5) why the interview also needs to sound good and what you can do to make that happen.

Today we’re going to tackle another technical subject and one that a lot of people struggle with: lighting. You need to think about the type of lighting you will encounter in your interview because the camera, even the top of the line camera, just doesn’t discern the nuances of light like our eyes do. Even if it does, you may want to change the way the your subject is lit to affect the look and mood of your interview.

If you are conducting the interview in your own studio, you’ll be more able to control it especially if you have invested in some basic lighting equipment. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a system that will be adequate for your needs.

However, if you are shooting somewhere else and/or on location, you’ll have more challenges. Here are some things to consider and tips for making your interviewee look his or her best in those situations.

Consider the Light Source

Some meeting rooms already have adequate lighting levels but it is from mixed light sources. If possible, bring your own lighting to either supplement or replace existing light. Again, a simple portable lighting system doesn’t have to break the bank.

Don’t forget to white balance your camera to the key light source.

If you are using window light and the interview is lengthy or the weather outside is changing, i.e., partly cloudy, the angle and intensity of the light will change. It may get too harsh or disappear altogether. If the sun goes behind a cloud, the lighting won’t be consistent within the scene. If you are cutting the interview up and skipping or rearranging segments this will be particularly apparent. Anticipate such problems and be prepared.

Large picture windows with bright backgrounds are tempting to use but can be very difficult to work with. If you don’t add fill light your subject will be a silhouette against the bright background. If you expose for your subject the background will be overexposed or as we say in photography, “burned out.”

The only way to save a shot like this is to add a lot of fill light on your subject, but beware of reflections in the glass.

A better idea would be to reverse the setup, putting the camera operator’s back to the window and let the light fall on the face of the subject like I show you in this image.

Interview-Lighting-Bad-Too Interview-Lighting-Good

Caption: Example of how changing your camera position improves lighting on your subject

Balancing Light Sources

Trying to balance indoor lighting with daylight is challenging. In these situations you have to match the color temperature (white balance) of your artificial light source to daylight. The new daylight balanced fluorescent lights help a lot in these situations.

If you are using tungsten lights then you’ll want to place a blue gel, known as CTB (color temperature blue), in front of the light source to bring its color temperature close to that of the daylight. You can buy these gels in different sizes and grades of blue, depending on the amount of correction you need to do. It’s a good idea to keep some of these gels with your lighting gear if you’re using tungsten lights. You can buy them from many sources online by searching on “CTB color correction gel.”

Shooting Outside

When you are shooting outside, nature gives you one of the largest lighting sources, the sun. It also brings with it different challenges.

 If it’s a bright, sunny day, you’ll be dealing with harsh shadows. Move your subject under a tree, you’ll get a speckled light due to the sunshine coming through the leaves. The best conditions I’ve found is on overcast days. You don’t have to deal with harsh shadows, changing light or cloud movement, and the colors really pop. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, many of the challenges of shooting on a sunny day can be overcome with the use of a reflector.

Next post we’ll be dealing with choosing your background.

Action Steps:

  • Take a good look around your environment and see how the lighting in the room will fall on your subject.
  • If you are shooting on location, bring along some lighting gear so you don’t have to rely on the lighting you find.
  • Shooting outside? Don’t forget to add a reflector to your kit. This simple tool will make a huge difference in the quality of your video.
  • Add gels to your light kit so that you will be ready for uneven lighting sources.
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