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Lighting Two-Shot Interviews In Offices

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I'm wondering how you'd solve this problem.


During interviews for documentary shoots, I am sometimes required to shoot in small office spaces, with the interviewer and the subject in a single wide shot. (Not my choice -- it's what the client wants.) Since the office spaces are so small, it's inevitably shot against a wall or bookshelves, which means it is very difficult for me to get any depth in the lighting or focus. And since the walls are usually white or other very light color, the shot looks extremely flat and harsh. The lights I usually have available are Lowell Omni with umbrellas. I shoot with either C100 or 5D.


If it were up to me I'd use a larger room so I can separate the people from the background, but it's not up to me.


Do you have any ideas on how I can make the most of it? What would you do in this situation?





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You could try controlled hard lighting, which keeps the light off the white walls. I did some stuff with a director who insisted on black walls (often more dark grey in practise), but it did look quite stylish. You do need to be careful about light placement and I'd be careful about your camera's detail setting.

Edited by Brian Drysdale
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When I do doc style interviews in offices, I've started filming people sitting in front of their desks rather than behind. I am often shooting from outside their office. This gives much more depth and it generally looks a lot better.


Your set up sounds nightmarish. Profile 2 shots of an interviewer and subject against a white wall? Yikes. Are they facing one another or sitting in an L sort of arrangement?


When it comes to bad rooms with bare white walls, I've started locking my camera and not worrying about it much at all. You can do all kinds of grading to an otherwise flat image later in post and create slashes, window patterns etc. on the walls in the background. As long as your camera isn't moving much, consider that an alternative to going out with a truckload of C-stands and flags.

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