Sit-down interview situations require three or
possibly four lights: a main or key light, a fill light
and a hair light. The hair light can do double duty
and also light the background.
Keep in mind that the larger the light source, the
smoother the lighting, so make sure to have some
diffusion at your disposal to soften up all the lights
on your set.
The main or key light is the most important light
in your setup. This light is almost always directed at
the subject from camera right or left and angled from
above, pointing down at the subject like the sun. In
many cases, you can work with this light exclusively,
and this look is very popular for documentaries.
With this single-light technique, be attentive to
shadows that improper lighting placement can cause
and use a reflector to help fill the shadows.
Introducing a second light lets you apply lighting
ratios to achieve the desired look. A lighting ratio is
merely the difference in output between two or more
lights. For example, if the main light and the fill light
have the same power output, the ratio is one to one;
if the power to the fill light is half that of the main
light, the ratio is one to two. A one to two ratio is very
common, as it allows the scene to have a nice quality
of light with shadows that hold detail.
The third and/or fourth lights can be used in a
number of ways. Sometimes a third light will be
pointed directly at the subject’s hair or shoulders.
This type of lighting was popular in the 80s, when
everybody had big hair. A more contemporary option
is to aim the third light down between the subject and
the background for a sense of separation and depth.
A standard lighting ratio between the key light and
the third and fourth lights, is one to three, meaning
the main light has three times as much power output
as the lighting in the rear. Sometimes the third and
fourth lights can be used to throw a spot on the background for an on-stage look, but I always use that third
or fourth light to give separation.
One last essential tip: When shooting an interview on a plain white background, keep the lighting
ratio at one to one, so that your background has the
same exposure as your main subject, in order for
the subject to be well exposed and the background
to appear white. EDU