Show Us Your Shot: Lighting Interiors with Daylight


In this segment, Chris Seivard shares with us how he pulled off a professional shoot for a client, using mostly natural daylight streaming through the location’s windows, supplemented with two LED fixtures to light the interior. Watch the video, as Seivard explains his setup, and be sure to study the lighting diagram.

This project was for an insurance company. The goal was to give investigators a feel for what the deposition process might be like, after an incident investigation.

The principal source for this scene was sun through the windows, which we used to back-light the characters with their backs to the window, and key the other side. We used show cards to reflect the sunlight back to fill and edge the characters on the window side of the table, along with two 1'x1' LED panels

“The location’s windows faced the sun, and sunlight streamed into the room. The opportunity to use the sun as a source was too much to pass up. In our favor, the window exposure gave us the longest possible time for usable light, and there were very few clouds to contend with. In the room, the walls were dark paneling or books, so I knew the light would not ‘fly everywhere’ once it came through the windows. One window was in the shot, and needed to have its blinds down to keep from going too hot. The other wasn’t in the shot, so we could let the sunlight come through and hit our show cards for maximum effect.

“We set some shiny boards outside, to maximize the sunlight coming through the windows. Then, on the interior, we had white cards on stands to push the light onto the two characters who did not face the window. While this light did a nice job, it was not quite enough to get us to the stop, as we were trying to get to at a 2.4-2.8. We added two 1 x 1' panel lights to the mix to establish the key side.

“To move fast, we were shooting with two cameras: a close-up on a tripod with an 85mm, and a wide with a 35mm on a Dana dolly. The wide shot gave us some nice crosses and reveals, and some much-needed motion for an otherwise static scene. The position of the Dana Dolly let us shoot moving shots and reaction shots during the same takes. It was a continual slow creep and pan. While there was some repositioning, the female lawyer had most of the lines. The close-ups of the other actors, and her static CUs, were handled pretty quickly. Once the lighting was set and we were rolling, my main concerns were clouds, and how soon would the sun move out of position.

“We were working in a practical location, the law library of a legal office, where such a deposition might take place. We shot with two Sony F3s, with the Sony prime lens set; 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm; all T2.4 wide open. All the lenses are very nice, and provide lovely, narrow depth of field. We also had a Dana Dolly, several 1 x 1' LED Panels, some shiny boards, and some show cards.”

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Chris Seivard's Bio

Chris Seivard has been a Director of Photography since 1993, and works in television, corporate, and political video. He shot seven seasons of So You Think You Can Dance, for FOX, and countless reality shows. Seivard’s early experience came in indie film, in New York City, as a Gaffer, AC, and DP. A 1986 graduate of Muhlenberg College, Seivard has been a freelancer for his entire career. He is a former competitive cyclist, a dedicated Philadelphia Eagles fan, and a member of Red Sox Nation. When not playing with a camera or his two kids, he can be found with an old car or motorcycle.


I gotta believe that adding lights and subtracting daylight is a better call. There's a video called 'How to shoot an INTERVIEW | Industry Knowledge' over on Epic Light Media youtube channel where they have a window in the background - he actually places a very bright light outside the window painting an inside wall and then properly adjusts exposure with ND filters so that outdoors is properly exposed. He then adds light to the subject to bring the indoors up in brightness. Also, the REAL reason I'm here commenting on the internet: why are the shots crooked? I'm looking at doors and paneling in the background and everything is off. Is that lens distortion or are we just crooked? Either could be addressed.

Hi Chris:

I certainly respect you as a videographer and film maker. I have been a certified legal videographer for over 25 years. Your set up that you were teaching/showing is not at all how we perform legal video depositions. Daylight lighting is a legal videographers nightmare. We prefer to control the light by closing the blinds and using the ambient lighting or using our own supplemental lighting. The sun going in and out all day long and changes our lens opening as well as our white balance. We also try to avoid shooting from the side, as you showed in your video. We mostly try to shoot straight on to capture the witness as much as possible. I can go on with point after point about how to properly shoot a legal proceeding, but that is not my place here. My suggestion would have been not to use this type of situation to display your talents. Stick to what you know best. I have traveled all over the world and have performed over 10,000 legal video depositions.

Hi Jeffrey, thanks for the comment, and it is a valid point to make. I have shot interiors using primarily daylight, and it can be nerve racking, and disheartening watching that beautiful daylight change as the across the sky. Still using daylight to light interiors, without using 18K HMIs is an exciting technique, if you wish to take that chance. However, Chris wasn't shooting a deposition, nor shooting a video on how to shoot a deposition, and I doubt that he would use exterior lighting for a deposition. The video is about how he shot an educational video to prepare investigators for what the deposition process would feel like, using exterior lighting sources combined with interior lighting. This is a bit different than discussing how to shoot a video deposition recording, which I'm certain have very stringent guidelines, and instead is sharing a creative way of lighting a scene. The ideas can be applied to many different productions. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments, please check out the rest of the Show Us Your Shot videos, and feel free to share your thoughts on them with the filmmakers.  Best

Great article, overview and work. Definitely very helpful and informative.

Hi Cathal, glad you liked it. Please check out the rest of the Show Us Your Shot videos, and feel free to share your thoughts on them with the filmmakers.  Best

Nice video Chris! 

How often do you move the cameras to have the shots you wanted it? Do you need to repeat the scenes to have multiple angles? Best Regards, Nancy

Hi Nancy,

   We had two cameras and prime lenses, so we could do a single at 85mm, and "wide" with the 50mm, at the same time.  The 50mm was on the dolly which gave us nice foreground crossing movement in the scene, which would have been pretty static without it.  We got coverage from each side with two lenses; basically letting the scene play while we dollied and followed the action.  We shot takes on one side until the director was happy with the pieces he saw, then we moved to the other side.  We were basically looking at each side of a table, and wanted to feel the presence of the "off side" with an over the shoulder feel.  I had other shots I wanted; hands, notes, XCU, but time was a factor because of the schedule, and the sun!  

   So to answer simply, we did repeat the scene several times from each side.  I drove one camera, and I had an operator on the other, we concentrated on specific moments during specific takes based on discussions with the director.  I would say what shots I really liked, but it was the director's call!