One of the staples projects for videographers is filming interviews. Most of us have had to shoot and light interviews at some point in our career and many times when you’re just starting out you won’t have a team to help with the lighting. Depending on the scenario there are a few basic setups that will have you covered for most talking head situations. Let’s take a look at and break down some of those setups.

Before going with a set up, answer some preproduction questions:

  1. What is the size of your shooting area? Does it have tall ceilings?
  2. Will your shooting area be somewhere where you also have sunlight or ambient light?
  3. Is your space full of color or does it have a bland background?
  4. Will your location have the available plugs and power needed for lights.
  5. Do you have extension cords for your lights to give you the most freedom to move lights?
  6. Does your interview space have room to set up in or will it be a small area?
  7. How much time will you have to set up?
  8. If you can choose your location, you probably want to choose one with the most control and fewer variables in lighting you can’t control.
  9. Assess what equipment you will need and have access to for the shoot.


Many lighting set ups are an extension of the most common three-point lighting. 3 point lighting is a lighting technique used to help your subject look 3 dimensional and not flat. Using distance and intensity with three lights in triangle around the subject can give the right amount of light and shadow to your interview subjects. Your first light will be the Key Light which will be the most intense and create shadows. The fill will primarily aim at one side of the subject’s face. Often, it’s good to do this one first and then build around it. The 2nd light is the Fill Light (Placed on the opposite side of the face of the Key) that will help fill in the shadows that were created from the first light. The closer you get this light to the subject the more of the shadows it will remove. You do want some shadow because it creates depth. No shadow make it look flat. The last light is the backlight and rim. It will help create a light outline around your subject to keep them from blending in with the background. This often helps keep hair from blending in with background.

  • The Key Light – This is the main light used on your subject.
  • The Fill Light – The purpose of this light is to fill in the shadows created by the key light, preventing them from getting too dark.
  • The Back Light or rim light – Is to help separate the subject from the background.


If you are using a 3 Point lighting technique and your subject and background blend together too much then consider adding a background light or two. Consider using color gels, cookies, or flags to create interesting background textures and styles. Practical lights such as lamps can work as well.  

Check out this really helpful lighting set up guide from Kal Visuals to help gain some inspiration!


Sometimes you don’t have room for another light, or you want to bounce light from a window. This would be a good time to use a reflector. A reflector on a c-stand can create a nice fill light. Also get creative other things can act as reflectors. Walls, and low ceilings can all be used to bounce light on to subjects.


Sometimes the interview will involve two people (interviewer and the subject). You can still do a 3-light set up and the overlapping of lights can serve as keys and fills for opposite subjects.


Your lighting setup can get more and more complicated with the more subjects and more cameras. For example you can do two 3 light set ups with additional lights to hit the background. Consider using kicker lights to create a low streak of light to make an interesting background texture.  

As you can see, most of the setups we showed you were variations of the three-point lighting technique. When you have a chance, you should try various lighting set ups to find out what works best for you. How close you set up the lights to your subjects or their intensity will often need to change depending on skin tone, hair color, clothing styles and background. Feel free to also use flags to block off lights from going too far past your subjects. In all of these scenarios sunlight can replace a key or a fill so having people near a window gives you another option. Just make sure when using sunlight that your lights are the same color temperature otherwise; you’ll have odd conflicting colors in your scene. A reflector can be used to used to bounce sunlight as well. If you have low ceilings or close wall you may also want to consider using those to bounce light off of. They can act as reflectors if they are light colors. Good luck lighting!

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