Basic Lighting for Video Testimonies and Interviews

Carl Barnhill

Many of you, as Church Media Directors, are one-man bands. You are asked to do everything involved with any aspect of media at your church. Many churches can’t afford multiple production staff members. Most churches have one media staff member that does it all. What I find as I travel around meeting with Church Media Directors and leaders is that many feel like they are a “Jack of all Trades and a Master of None”.

Your specialty might be audio or it might be shooting video or editing video or lighting for the stage. But you are asked in your job to do a lot more than your ‘specialty’ area. That’s why I felt it might be beneficial to touch on some Basics of certain areas of media. My hope is that this post, and a few more to come, will help you in areas that may not be your area of expertise, but will help you shine in your position at your church. See what I did there, using the word “shine” and talking about ‘lighting’…you liked that didn’t you?

First up, Basic Lighting for Testimonies and Interviews. 

Check out some fairly affordable Arri Lighting Kits from B&H Photo and Video here.

The most common technique for lighting testimonies and interviews is a basic 3-Point Lighting Set Up.

Three-point lighting is exactly what it sounds like: You light your subject from three different sources in order to control the shadows and balance the contrast. Light in general enables you to see your subject, but three-point lighting is the easiest way to make sure your subject looks fantastic.

Three Light Sources:

1. Key Light: This is the main light source. It shines directly on the subject, usually from the front right or front left, and it establishes the overall look and feel of the shot.

2. Fill Light: The fill light provides balance to the key light by “filling in” the rest of the subject’s face with softer light. It should be positioned to the side that’s opposite the key light.

3. Back Light: The back light creates a flattering rim of light around the subject, separating him or her from the background. Sometimes the back light is called a rim light.

How to set up three-point lighting:

1. Start in the dark. Begin with all your lights off, and as little other ambient light as possible. This will help you differentiate among the three lights you’ll be turning on.


2. Turn on your Key Light. Your Key Light is the brightest light in the scene and the one that creates the overall feel of the shot. Adjust its brightness to your liking. Try angling the key light about 30 degrees the right or the left of the subject. You also should position the key light in a relatively high spot to reduce shadows on the face.


3. Add your fill light. The Fill Light should be on the opposite side of the Key Light, but still in front of the subject. Don’t make the key and fill lights symmetrical, the fill should be at the subject’s face level, and should get rid of any remaining shadows. The intensity of the Fill Light should be about half that of the Key Light.


4. Bring in the Back Light. Finally, the Back Light separates your subject from the background. It can be placed anywhere behind the subject, but make sure to keep it out of the shot! You’ll want to angle it down from a high position to achieve a sharp outline on the edge of the subject.

Check out these awesome tutorials on how to set-up Basic 3-Point Lighting for your Testimonies and Interviews:

What tips and tricks do you use when lighting a testimony or interview at your church?

About Carl Barnhill

Owner, Church Visuals

Carl Barnhill is a creative entrepreneur, motion designer and author. He is the Owner Church Visuals, a company that helps Ministry Leaders visually communicate the Gospel. He is the host of the Your Visuals Matter Podcast. You can find him in Columbia, South Carolina with his wife, Katie and two sons, Jacob and Wesley.

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