When it comes to amateur and small-scale film production, most people, especially those just starting out, generally do not have a large budget at their disposal to work with.  That's why it's essential to be as cost-effective as possible by using inexpensive techniques that emulate the look of film industry standards.  One of the most important aspects of a professional appearance is lighting.  Given that lighting in general is often a challenge, outdoor lighting can be especially tricky.  Having faced many of these challenges ourselves over the years, we are pleased to bring you some outdoor lighting tips and tricks we have picked up while in the field.

-When filming during the day, always know where the sun is.  Whether you want to light your subject from the front, side, or back, you should continuously remain aware of its position in the sky in order to keep the look of your shots consistent via simple positioning. 

-When lighting the subject from the front, keep the sun behind you whenever possible.  This will help you separate the subject from the background by producing creative shadows, allow you to hold the color saturation of the image, and avoid lens flares.

-When shooting into the sun to backlight the subject, use a lighting flag.   A lighting flag will get rid of unwanted lens flares by shading the direct light off of the lens.  One can be made inexpensively by using a dark bed sheet, plywood, or polystyrene sheets sprayed with black paint.  Also, the best time for backlighting is when the sun is at approximately a 45 degree angle.  

-For more even lighting, use a reflector or a diffuser.  A reflector can be made from white material of any kind, such as a foam or poster board, and can be held in whatever position necessary in order to bounce light onto the subject from whatever direction you choose.  This will aid in avoiding unwanted shadows on the subject OR help create a specific look to achieve a certain tone or style.  The reflector may also be used as a white balance card.  A diffuser takes hard light and softens it by acting as a filter between the light source and the subject and by distributing the light more evenly over the area it covers.  A large piece of white cloth or a simple white bed sheet are great options

-Shoot during the Blue Hour and/or the Magic Hour.  The Blue Hour is the short period of time right before or after the sun goes down or comes up.  This is great for shooting a short night time scene without using lights or light kits because there is enough light for your subjects but the environment around them will be dark.  Magic Hour is the the full hour directly after sunrise or before sunset.  This is ideal for shooting daytime scenes because it provides a soft, warm natural glow.

-When filming at night, utilize already existing lights.  Streetlights, landscape lighting, car headlights, and even natural moonlight can be used in combination with a reflector or diffuser to help cut the cost of expensive outdoor lighting kits.









-Blur out the background behind your subject.  Start by zooming in and focusing on your subject so as to get a shallow depth of field and, when you zoom out, the effect will further highlight your subject from the background.



-On the camera, use manual settings instead of automatic settings.  While automatic settings work great for mostly even indoor lighting, manual settings allow you to have greater control of each separate visual aspect, such as white/color balance, exposure, filters, and focus.  Managing and adjusting these settings individually will give you the ability to account for changing sun, cloud, and weather conditions accordingly.



-Prepare for all possible weather conditions.  Despite the fact that you may be shooting during a specific season with a somewhat consistent weather pattern, you can never be too safe from mother nature.  Pack a survival kit that includes umbrellas, tarps, and protective gear such as equipment bags or backpacks.  As an affordable alternative, or in addition to the other gear, large heavy-duty black trash bags can be spread out and used as make-shift tarps, cut in various ways and transformed into covers for cameras and lights, or provide extra protection for equipment when utilized in their original form and purpose.

AuthorChris Lawn