From: Ric Edwards, Classroom Technology Specialist
This is a tip that veteran shooters will have learned long ago, but I hope it will help the newer photogs. I taught video production for several years and was always amazed at how many of my aspiring news photographers would come back with interview footage that had all kinds of distracting elements in the background.
One of the worst examples I can remember was an interview shot in someone’s office. In the background they had an office window which looked out on a hallway. Every passer-by was a distraction, not to mention the occasional curious onlooker who would press their face up against the glass for a closer look at what was going on!
When setting up for an interview, make sure scan *all* the elements that will be visible in the background. Do this before you decide where to position the subject and then again — through your viewfinder — once you are set up. If you have the luxury of a monitor, that’s an even better way to check the shot. Make sure that there are no distracting elements in the frame that will detract from the information coming from the subject. Of course, many times you *do* want to highlight an object in the foreground or background, providing it has relevance to what the person is talking about (it’s okay to show an office painting depicting a fighter jet if the interview subject is talking about military budget cuts, for example).
Bottom line: The background can be just as important as the interview subject. A distracting background can keep your viewer from paying attention to what’s important in your story.
One more thing.(again, veterans will have learned this long ago): ask if you can unplug the telephone before you roll tape. And if you or your reporter have cell phones or radios with you, turn ’em off. That phone always seems to ring in the middle of the exact response you needed for the sound bite!