Shoot an Interview: without Lights and with Good Audio

You need to shoot an interview. Maybe it’s for a documentary, a client video, a youtube video. How do you do it? Maybe you’ll shoot them in their house? Their office? Outside? Do you need lights? And what about the audio? What if you don’t know much about lighting or audio? What do you do?

Not to worry. Here’s a simple way to shoot an interview using no lights. It’s what I’m doing right now. You just need to focus on 2 main areas: a location with daylight and your audio.

If you get those two covered, you’re good


There’s one sun in the sky. When outside, that’s our main source of light, we call that our key light in the biz.

The sky itself, that’s this huge soft source of light and it fills in our shadows. We call that our fill.

Both the sun and daylight also light everything around us, our ambient light.

When you’re inside though, an interior vs exterior shoot, where’s your key light? Usually a window with daylight coming in.

The light bouncing off the walls from that window, that’s my fill. That’s with no lights turned on. Not bad. Find a room like this to shoot.

First tip, avoid direct sunlight if you can. You want what we call window daylight. Light from outside that makes your window the light source. If there’s direct sunlight, move your subject away from the window and that direct sunlight.

These windows face south, so I close my white Ritva Idea curtains to soften them up. The issue though is the sun moves through the sky, changing position and changing how it hits my curtains. If I’m shooting a quick interview, half an hour to an hour or so, I’m good.

For a longer interview, It’s best if possible to shoot in a room without any direct sunlight to avoid these issues so the light level from the window stays relatively the same.

What if it’s a partially cloudy day? That’s the worst. The light level changes up and down as the sun goes in and out of the clouds as if someone was dimming your light source.

You could shoot only when the sun comes out from behind the clouds for short interview but it’s a pain. Not much you can do here unless you brought in more lights but we’re staying away from lights for this video. This is one reason long interviews are done in a closed studio with lights and no windows. You have control. That’s one of the downsides of using available light, that loss of control.

One additional trick is to add some fill light with a bounce. Place a white card or photographers foldable bounce like this one, on the opposite side of the window, the fill side of your interviewee. That will reflect that window daylight onto their shadow side. It’s as if you moved a wall closer to bounce fill light onto them.


It’s an interview. You want to hear what they’re saying. Audio is important.

Here’s the most important tip. The closer the mic is to the person, the better the audio will sound. 
The farther away, well it starts to get bad.

You’re capturing their voice before it has time to spread too far out from them and you’re avoiding the sound bouncing around the room.

You see, as the audio of their voice travels, it bounces off the walls, floor, ceiling in the room. We call this “reflective” sound. It’s what makes a big room like a cathedral have that big sound. We call that reverb. Echo is also a form of reflective sound. One with a significant delay.

This is why if you use the mic built into your camera, you get terrible sound. It’s too far away and it’s capturing everything in the room.

Music recording studios use sound damping and absorbing panels on their walls, for this reason, to minimize the sound reflecting off them.

So the closest mic is called a lavalier microphone. You see them clipped to peoples shirts on talk shows all the time. Here I’m using a wireless one from Rode.

Make sure when you clip it to their shirt, the mic is pointing up at their face.

The wireless receiver sits on the camera and inputs directly into it. We record audio and sound together.

The next version is a directional mic that I attached to a light stand and put it right out of frame pointing at my face. This mic is called a shotgun mic and it has a tight directional pattern that it records sound in, pointing straight out of the microphone.

If you get reflective sound bouncing off the floor behind the interviewee, put a furniture blanket or any kind of thick material on the floor to absorb it.

Try to avoid pointing up into their face if you can as you’ll get reflective sound off the wall and ceiling behind them.

If that’s not possible, you could mount the shotgun mic onto of your camera. This is what I do when I’m shooting what we call run and gun, capturing footage on the fly. It’s not ideal but the shotgun mic is better than the built-in mics on the camera.

Here’s another trick that we’ve used especially for interviews at conferences. Recording audio on a separate device. Here we have a Zoom H5 recorder and here’s a smaller more affordable audio record. 

We position them as close to the interviewee as possible. Heck if it’s a run and gun situation, just hold it in front of them as if it was a microphone. I mean it is a microphone.

In this case when recording audio on a separate device, and only this case, I also record with my built-in camera microphone. Why? You just told me not to? 
 For syncing later. This audio recorded with the camera’s built-in microphone is what we call “scratch track” audio. We will scratch it off (mute it) later but initially, our editing software, Premiere Pro, will detect both audio clips and sync them up. We then mute the in-camera scratch track. Boom. We now have good audio from a closer microphone that’s synced to the video image.

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