by K Brown, Consultant, Video Services, Baptist State Convention of NC


Keep the background clutter-free. The easiest thing is to plop someone in front of a bookshelf, but that usually looks really cluttered and they have all kinds of things coming out of their head and it can look like an Olan Mills photograph.  

Move the subject as far away from the background as possible. This will help eliminate shadows on the wall and give a more pleasing look. That might be hard to do if you’re in a small space but it will look better visually 9 out of 10 times.

Using Natural Light

If the session doesn’t last very long, window light is your best friend, but make sure the sun isn’t blasting straight in. There’s a reason painters love north-facing windows; there’s never direct sun and it’s always soft. If the sun is shining in, try to put up a sheer curtain or even a shower curtain to soften the sunlight. If it’s a long session (15 minutes or more) they’ll need to do something because the light from outside will change. You probably won’t notice if you’re sitting in your living room talking to someone, but put a camera on them and WHOA, what happened?

NEVER film with lots of bright windows behind the subject unless you have total control of the camera and lighting. Put the windows behind the camera or to the side.

Using Artificial Light

Keep lights at a 45-degree angle both to the left and right of the subject as well as raised up 45 degrees from the subject’s head.

This example shows two lights, which is a great situation,  but you can get by with just one. Two helps if the person has glasses that reflect the light source. The way to remove light from glasses is move them farther from the camera.

  • The simplest thing is to grab a shop light from a big box store. It won’t be very soft light, but if the room isn’t huge you can point it away from the person and bounce it off a wall or ceiling. We do that all the time on shoots with professional lighting equipment. The light is extremely soft and beautiful when it’s bounced. Amazon  Lowes.
  • Another option is to use LED lights, but you have to figure out a way to stabilize them so they don’t fall over. A bonus is there is no heat compared with the halogen lights. Amazon
  • Cheapest option – incandescent clamp light. Amazon