The most interesting marketing videos often include people.

Specifically, in the age of social media, marketers are looking to humanize their company, speaking directly and honestly with viewers about who they are, and what they offer. Video interviews, which feature actual people sharing their knowledge and experiences, are a great way to do that.

Today, online video is a marketing non-negotiable. Over 70% of B2B marketers use it, and consumers between 18 and 49 spend more time watching YouTube than every cable network combined. Marketers need to meet that demand, and video interviews are a natural fit. After all, how better to humanize your brand than by showing the actual people behind it?

All this means that marketers are spending a lot of time thinking about how to make their companies’ people look great on video.

Well, great video interview backgrounds come down to one thing — light.

Your interviewee could be the wittiest, most likable person on the planet, but if your interview isn’t well-lit, the resulting footage will be a dark, grainy mess that no one’s going to bother watching.

If you want the time and energy you put into producing video interviews to be well-spent, you’ll need to get your lighting figured out. Here’s how to create amazing video lighting for a video interview, that will get you a crisp, clear, and gorgeous end result!

Why lighting matters in video marketing

Lighting is pretty much the defining factor in how well a video will turn out. Think of light and shadow as being to video (and photography) what oils or acrylics are to painting — it’s quite literally what creates the image you see.

That’s why great studio lighting is so important, especially so for a corporate video interview. You need your subject to look genuine, relatable, and trustworthy. If your lighting is weird, shadowy, or even spooky, that’s not the effect you’re going to create!

But finding the right combination of lighting equipment can be tricky. That’s why film industry professionals spend so much time, money, and energy getting their techniques just right. They use tons of special video equipment, like a light tent, special lense, boom stand, or softboxes. But you don’t need that to get great results on your own.

💡 PlayPlay Pro Tip

You just booked a video professional to get inhouse footage but it's not enough? Keep in mind that you can always use stock images. Even if you're looking for footage on a quite specific key word, you'll find corporate visuals. And you don't need always to pay for it! Check out this list with royalty-free images!

Don’t get us wrong — there’s definitely a learning curve. But the good news is that creating a great lighting kit is absolutely within reach for marketing professionals — no Hollywood background required!

Keep reading, and we’ll run through the basics of interview lighting, from soft light to white balance to diffusion.

5 steps to a perfect lighting for video interviews

1. Location, location, location

When you’re planning to film an interview, start by considering the location.

Any setting will come with its own ambient lighting to consider. That ambient light can make your job much easier, or a whole lot more challenging, depending on the setting you choose. Pay attention to the backdrop, too. Is there anything reflective, or with the potential to create distracting glare?

You need to know what you’ll be working with — never go into a filming location blind, completely unaware what kind of lighting it has. For example, you’ll be headed to company headquarters to film with the CEO, ask for as many pictures as possible of the location where you’ll be expected to film.

If possible, let the room do the work for you by choosing a space that has plenty of natural light.

2. Natural light — the gold standard

That means that optimizing your lighting setup will be about making the most of the natural light you have, or recreating it using your own lamps, bulbs, and lighting sources.

  • If you’re filming outside, make sure to shoot with the light behind you as you’re filming, so that it’s directly illuminating your interview subject.
  • If you’re indoors, film with your subject facing a large window if you can.

However, you won’t always be lucky enough to film in the right time and place to have access to plenty of natural light. That’s where your lighting setup comes in.

3. Three-point lighting — a beginner’s guide

A 3-point lighting setup provides you with everything you need to make sure your subject is well-lit from multiple angles. That’s what creates bright light, and a beautiful video.

The three ‘points’ of your video lighting kit are the key, fill, and back lights. Here’s what you need to know about each.

  • Key light is the main light source that provides most of the illumination on your subject. It’s placed directly in front of the person you’re interviewing (although not too close), and will be the brightest, most powerful light source you have. If you’re lucky enough to be filming in a room with plenty of natural light, a window makes a wonderful key light. Ring lights are one very popular key light for interviews that makes your subject look great.
  • The fill light does just what it sounds like — it fills in any harsh shadows or dark areas cast by your key light. Your fill light should be softer, and more diffused than your key light. It’s even possible to use one light source as both, by using a reflective surface or bounce card to catch some rays from your key light, and shine them back on your interviewee from another direction.
  • The back light, just as you might think, sits behind your subject. It’s sometimes referred to as a hair light, rim light, or edge light. The back light will help your captured image feel a little more dimensional, and create a good depth-of-field to separate the person you’re filming from the background. Without background lighting, things can start looking a little flat.

A well-lit interview comes down to finding a good balance between your fill, key, and back light.

4. Find the balance

Once you’re all set up to film, don’t be afraid to take your time and adjust your lighting sources until they’re perfect. You’ll likely want to tweak the brightness, positioning, and softness of your lights — and if you’re working with natural light, that could be as simple as moving closer or further away from a window.

Here are a few things to watch for when you’re trying to get that balance just right.

  • If the balance of your key, fill, and back light is off, the lighting on your subject can appear either harsh, too flat. Harsh lighting is caused by a keylight that’s either too bright, or too close to your subject, casting harsh shadows that your fill light can’t possibly smooth out.
  • On the other hand, if your key light isn’t strong enough, your interview subject will look drab and one-dimensional. They’ll be lit more by the ambient light in your filming room than the lighting kit you worked so hard to set up.

Getting the right balance is just a matter of adjusting that key, fill, and back light until whoever you’re filming looks great on screen. If you want to give yourself an extra leg up, consider getting a light meter. This is a tool that measures the light levels wherever you’re filming. To make it easier to adjust your video lights, you might want a light stand or tripod so that you can position them at whatever height and angle you want.

Lighting design is more of an art than a science. So be patient with yourself, and make sure to build in a little extra time on filming day to adjust the lighting.

5. Hard and soft lighting

It’s not just the positioning and wattage of your lights that matters — it’s also whether they’re hard or soft. But since light is an intangible wave (and/or particle), what does that actually mean?

Well, it’s to do with the size and shape of your light source. Hard lights are small and bright, emitting a single point of light. These may or may not come with a lens (like a Fresnel lens) that can be used to focus and angle the beam of light. Different types of lights will have different levels of hard or softness, such as fluorescent (or compact fluorescent) halogen, LED, or incandescent light.  

Soft lights are larger, usually square or rectangular light panels. The light they emit is more diffuse and flattering, so they will be your go-to for key lighting. The larger your soft lights are, the more gentle, radiant and non-directional their glow.

However, hard lights can actually do double duty. If you filter them through a tool like a diffuser, softbox, light reflector, or even silks, they’ll soften and become your principal key light, too. Some videographers use specifically designed tools like a beauty dish or umbrellas for this purpose, too.

Because hard lights are so versatile, not to mention smaller and more portable, they might be your best bet when you’re first building your lighting kit. Try checking out the hardware-store when you’re looking to get the basics!

Let’s get lit

There you have it — great interview lighting is your golden ticket to an amazing video interview.

Good lighting is what sets the stage for your interviewee to wow your audience, hold their attention, and keep their eyes on the screen. It’s the secret ingredient to let their unique voice and personality truly shine through.

Of course, once you’ve got some amazing, well-lit interview footage, your job isn’t quite done. It’ll take a bit of post-production magic to get your video web- and social media-ready. If you’re looking for an easy, accessible way to jazz up your video with fun titling, transitions, and even animations, try PlayPlay. It’s an intuitive video creation platform, designed specifically for the needs of in-house marketing teams.