As I’ve written about before, I like shooting interviews, and it’s sort of the mainstay of my work. I know it’s odd, but I sometimes imagine the perfect interview setting, with the perfect wall colors, the perfect background props, the perfect lighting, the perfect audio, etc. It’s weird, I know. Someday I’ll reach this nirvana of perfection and it’ll probably be downhill from there, but until then…
When I was starting out, and my lighting kit was all tungsten (3200K) fixtures, the normal procedure was to walk into a room, close any blinds or window coverings, turn off all existing lights, and start from scratch. The darker the room, the better, as I felt there was nothing to “contaminate” our lighting. That’s changed a bit, since LED and fluorescent lights have gotten better and more affordable, and I’ve become less concerned with daylight creeping into the scene (obviously gelling tungsten lights is an option, but it can be a pain in the butt, so I typically avoid that when I can). Working with cameras with bigger sensors has also helped, as it’s easier to throw the background out of focus, instead of having to create the separation through lighting (although that’s still important).
I often find that I go through stages of how I light things, and recently I’ve been on a kick of using little to no additional lighting for interior, day-lit interviews. I do really enjoy figuring out the best lighting options and like the look of “lit” interviews, but sometimes the setting and mother nature work to allow you to leave all the lights in the car. The upside is that, when it works, there is a very natural look, but the downside is that you have somewhat less control. Here are some frame grabs from 2 recent projects, where each setup was all natural lighting, with only bounce (I think in one shot) or negative fill added. Then I’ll get into some things to keep in mind if you’re going to setup for day-lit interiors.
The first issue if you want to shoot with all daylight inside, is to make sure that the light is going to stay pretty much the same throughout the interview, scene, etc. Completely overcast days work well, and so do cloudless days. In the bottom image, that day started clear blue, but about halfway through the interview, clouds started to go in front of the sun, so the light level in the room changed drastically. This is my usual reason for closing all window blinds, so that any daylight shifts don’t effect the scene. But, if the weather works out, then it’s easy to pull these off, or if what you need to shoot is very brief, you can hopefully pull it off during breaks in cloud coverage.
The second issue is positioning the subject. I am very persnickity about the direction of the key light, and also somewhat nudgey about how the room “leans” in the shot, and when you don’t have control over where the key light (windows) are placed, you need to figure out your subjects position related to that. The third shot is a good example of the room “leaning” in (what I consider) the right direction related to their position, and we are keying from the correct side in reference to the direction they are looking. Anytime you have a long wall of windows, that type of shot is fairly effective and easy to achieve.
I found the setup for the fourth shot interesting because we had the wooden venetian blinds in the window to the subject’s right completely closed, and the only light was the sun hitting the white, wooden window sill, and bouncing onto the subject’s face. Paired with a pretty fast lens, I think that shot worked out pretty well and is one of my favorites, because from looking in the room it seemed like there was no way there was enough light in the room.
There are definitely times when this type of look/setup is not appropriate or possible, but when it works out, it can not only lead to quick setups, but also yield pleasing, natural looking interviews.
(Some technical specs: These were all shot with the Panasonic AF-1oo with the Olympus 35-100 f2 lens.)