August 9, 2011 \ Geoff Birmingham
3 Tips for Shooting Video Interviews Outdoors

We just finished 13 days of filming for a series of marketing videos for Explo, a summer program for kids ranging from 4th to 12th grades.  Much of the filming we did, both for activities and interviews, was done outdoors.  Fortunately, we had good weather, so we avoided getting wet.  But a sunny day presents its own challenges, which a cloudy, overcast day does not.

Most notably, bright sunlight that’s directly overhead looks rather harsh and unflattering on video, which is definitely something you want to avoid if you are interviewing someone outdoors.  So here are a couple ideas to avoid that problem.

1. Look for shade.  Try to arrange your shot so that both your interview subject and the background behind her are out of the sun.  If you put your interviewee in the shade but the background is bright, you won’t be able to expose for both properly.

For this interview, we found a background that was mostly shaded, and we placed our subject next to a large tree whose trunk blocked the sunlight from hitting her.  We also framed the shot a little tighter to eliminate as much of the sunlight in the foreground as possible.

Instructor at Exploration Summer Programs

Other solid objects, like buildings, also work well for providing shade.

Sarah, one of Explo's co-directors at Yale University





2. Position the camera so that the sun is behind the person’s head. Placing someone under a tree is often an obvious way to block out the sunlight.  Still, branches and leaves shift, which might result in light flickering across the subject’s face.  It’s better, therefore, to have the sun behind the subject so that the flicker hits her back, where the camera won’t see it.

With this young guy, the sun is landing on the back of his shoulders, but the light on his face is even.

A student at Yale University

3. Film early or late in the day. The sun will be low on the horizon rather than directly overhead.  As a result, it is less glaring and much more attractive.

Late day with an Explo student at Yale University