Advanced Video Camera and Editing

Shooting Interviews

Also useful, Conducting Interviews

Interviews are used in a variety of productions as a way to advance content in stories. A good interview comes from someone who is an expert or who is impacted in some way, directly or indirectly, by the topic. Interviews are effective for gathering information that is critical to our understanding of the story. But a successful interview also depends on how well it was shot. Does the person have enough nose-room or headroom? Can we see both of their eyes? Is the background appropriate? Is the lighting adequate for proper exposure? Is the audio crisp and free of distortions?

A badly shot interview is an unforgivable offense and requires that you get it right the first time.

Think of interviews as a three-way interaction between the interviewer, the guest and the viewer. As viewers we are silent witnesses to an otherwise one-way conversation.

In most cases the guest (and the interviewer if you use reaction shots) is framed using a 3/4 Profile shot, which shows them looking slightly off-camera. During conversations we're accustomed to seeing both eyes of the person, and we get uncomfortable if the face isn't entirely visible; we don't engage in conversation by looking at the person's ear. To achieve the 3/4 profile, the interviewer should be positioned close to the side of the camera. 

Also, if you're using a hand microphone try to frame the shot so the microphone isn't visible. However, to get clear audio, the microphone needs to be held close to the person's mouth. When using a hand microphone, the appropriate shot to get is a close-up, definitely not a wide shot. For wide shots, it's better to use a lapel mic, or lavalier. 

Range of shots
Interviews are typically framed as a medium close-up or a close-up shot. A wider shot can be used to establish the setting or provide a cutaway. You can vary the framing during the interview when the guest is talking about certain things. It might be a good idea for the
photographer to get tighter shots when the guest is talking about something that is personal or emotional. But it's probably not a good idea to get closer than a MCU on the interviewer because their emotions are not part of the story.


The wider framing of this shot might be good when asking general questions or setting up the context. The framing of this shot also requires the use of a clip-on mic.

The medium close-up (MCU) is used commonly in many interview situations. It also provides ample room for lower thirds.

The close-up (CU) is also used widely in interviews. This kind of shot is appropriate when the guest is talking about something personal or emotional.

The extreme close-up (ECU) pulls the viewer in much closer to the guest's emotional space. It allows us to scrutinise and judge a person's expressions. 

Sequencing Interview Shots 

A good way to start the interview is with a wider shot as the guest opens up with general information. But as the guest starts talking about their personal experiences or emotions, the photographer can zoom in. Usually, photographers will zoom in when the interviewer is asking the question. A good photographer anticipates the response and sets up their shot accordingly. Basically, wider shots for general information and facts, tighter shots for more personal responses.


  • Use wider shots if the guest uses significant hand gestures
  • If the interview will be used closely with other interviews, try to use similar framing


Backgrounds should be relevant to the subject, but make sure there's nothing in them that could distract viewers from the person speaking. Avoid backgrounds with signs where the wording might also be a distraction. Also, watch out for objects in the shot that might appear to be growing out of the person's head. Don't stand or sit the person directly in front of a wall, especially if the wall is blank or a solid colour. Put some distance between the person and the wall, which will help you achieve shots with a shallow depth of field. 

The eye might linger in a shot where both the foreground and background are in focus.

Using a telephoto lens allows you to achieve a shallow depth of field. When focusing on the person in the foreground, the background is rendered a soft blur. The eye remains on the subject in focus.


Audiences are less tolerant of bad audio than they are bad video. The quality of the sound is of vital importance. Audio should sound crisp and free of distortions.  Always wear headphones during interviews to monitor the sound quality. And you need to be mindful of the audio levels that show up in the meter on the camera. It's preferable to keep the audio levels more in the centre of the meter, although you will still need to do some tweaking in post production.

The camera's shotgun microphone should never be used to record interviews. 

The tendency is for the shotgun to pick up environmental noise that competes with the voice. Also, if the person is standing several feet away the voice sounds distant. Use the shotgun only if you're desperate, but it won't produce good interview sound like the kind you can get using a hand-microphone or a wireless lapel mic.  

  • Acceptable audio levels should fall between -20dB and -12dB. This gives you more flexibility in post to raise or lower the levels
  • The peak audio level should be -12dB in the meter
  • If the camera has a digital meter, but doesn't display decibels, then try to keep the levels near the middle 
  • If the audio levels are recorded too low, simply boosting the sound in post will raise the background noise, leading to hiss. 
  • If the sound is recorded too high, the levels will be over-modulated, which is distorted audio that can be unintelligible and uncomfortable to hear. 
  • Make sure hand-microphones are held close to the mouth just outside the camera frame. Of course, you need to compose a close-up shoot when using hand-microphones.

Basic Shooting Tips for Interviews

  • For important interviews that last longer than a few minutes, use a tripod to get the most steady shot.
  • When you start recording have the talent say and spell their name and to suggest a title that is concise for your lower-third graphics.
  • Level the camera at about the same height as the person to avoid submissive (camera looks down at the person) or dominant (camera looks up) framing. 
  • The photographer needs to make sure the interviewer is standing just to the side of the camera to achieve a nice 3/4 profile.
  • Make sure the eye-lines between the interviewer and the guest meet at the same level, again to avoid the submission and dominant appearances. 
  • If you use a hand-held camera (mostly for doing public opinion vox pops), zoom out wide and move in closer to the person 
  • Alternate the lead-space between interviews, especially when you do vox pops
  • If holding a mic, beware of handling noise. Always wear headphones to monitor the sound quality.
  • Finally, record 20 to 60 seconds of ambient (room) noise. You might find the room noise helpful when editing.

Watch the video below to get tips on shooting interviews. The video was produced by