Saturday, October 22, 2016

Shooting Video Interviews: Make Sure You Watch For This


Example of a good background

In this post, I am continuing in our series of 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews. So far 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. I 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. You also now know where you want to place your interviewee and what you should have them wear, or not wear, to the interview. You learned some tips for making shooting a side-by-side interview easier on you and also why the interview also needs to sound good and what you can do to make that happen. Then in the last post I tackled another technical subject that a lot of people struggle with: lighting your subject well.

Of course, you don’t want to spend all that time focusing on your lights, shoot then find later that there were things in the background that don’t look good, don’t fit the feel of your video, or downright distracting.

Here is where a lot of looking around your environment will pay off. When selecting backgrounds, consider where the camera will go and if the interviewee will have decent lighting AND good sound.

What should you be looking for?

As you did with deciding what your interviewee should wear, does the environment match the tone of your video? Shooting a video related to health care, are you interviewing a doctor in his/her office or hospital makes sense, shooting the same person near the beach would be odd. If you will be featuring a surfer for a surf video, the beach would be perfect.

Look for distractions in the background. Is it really cluttered? Will the light source change too dramatically during the interview?

Bad background - the lamp is coming out of head, there's clutter in the background.

Bad background – the lamp is coming out of head, there’s clutter in the background.

Look through your lens. Is there a plant coming out of a person’s head? (More on framing in my next post.) Is there anything that may take a person’s attention away from what the interviewer is talking about – like an inappropriate poster, kids in the background mugging for the camera, etc.? Don’t be hesitant to move furniture and other things around if you are allowed to. Sometimes a simple change in camera position will make all the difference.

An easy way to solve this would be adding a backdrop. I have a few nice backdrops in my studio plus I like to bring along a portable photographer’s backdrop whenever I’m doing a shoot outside of my studio. You can find a good selection at,, or Dark to medium gray is a good choice. If you order from a backdrop outlet they will also sell portable stands to hang them from. If you look at the lighting kit I mentioned in my post on lighting, it comes with backdrop and stands.

Another more complicated way of dealing with this issue is using a “green screen” which is a process that allows you to replace a solid colored background with a background of your choice. In getting this to look right, you also have to light it correctly to make it work well. You will also need an editing software program that will let you select out the background in order to drop in your other background.

Don’t forget the foreground either. If you want to shoot a person behind a desk, a messy desk may not be the look you are are going for so make sure you either clean it up or go with a different angle.

Action Steps:

  • Look around your environment for distracting background features and eliminate the distracting elements.
  • Set up your own backdrop to solve background issues.
  • Don’t forget to look at what is in your foreground.
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