Artificial light might be easier to manipulate, but if you’re up for a challenge, using natural light might be more rewarding for you. While it won’t necessarily make your job as a director, videographer or filmmaker easier, it’s a great experience to have.
If you look through movie history, there have been successful directors and films who have shot everything using only natural light. One example is director, Terrence Malick. But of course, choosing to use only natural light means taking an extra bit of time to prepare to make sure everything in production goes smoothly.
Want to give natural lighting a chance? Here are several tips you can follow to get top-quality production values even when shooting.
Have the Right Camera and Lens
While the tools don’t necessarily dictate the final result of the video or film, it is essential to have the right gear that can adapt to your chosen working condition. Of course, there’s no one size fits all answer to this because it really depends on the type of project you are working on. For instance, if your video production requires you to shoot films outdoors during full daytime, you need a camera and lens that can capture a lot of dynamic range. This is essential so you don’t need to use additional lighting to capture details in the shadow area. A budget-conscious camera would be something like the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. If you do need it for night shots, then you need a camera that’s more sensitive to low lighting conditions like the 5D MKIII.
Use Flags and Reflectors To Your Advantage
Even if the ultimate goal is to use natural light in your video production, there will be times when you will need to fill in light. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of setting up lights, your next option is to use reflectors and flags. Go cheap and use foam core boards or use professional quality mirrors, it’s up to you. Remember, one of the great things about shooting with natural light is you can cut down costs and time in having to set up your own lighting. But, when you do need specific lighting, you can get creative and use the cheapest yet most effective tools to do it.
Transform The Sun into Your Backlight
If you look at any great film or video shot in natural light, you’ll probably notice one thing, many of the actors or subjects are shot with the sun behind them. There’s nothing more jarring to watch than harsh sunlight beaming down on your actor’s faces. This creates unflattering shadows and images. When you position the actors so the sun is behind them and not in front of them, it prevents them from squinting and eliminate that horrible sun glare. It also helps separate them from the background, giving depth and a good light rim around their heads or face.
Make Sure to Rehearse As Much As Possible
The trickiest bit about working with natural light is you only have a short window of time to capture that one light you want before it all changes. The sun moves throughout the day so you will only have a limited amount of time to capture the shot you need, otherwise, you try again the next day, which means more time and expense. Taking into account the location you’re going to use is also helpful. Not all locations will work well with natural light and you need to know this beforehand and plan your production accordingly.
Pick The Right Location
As mentioned, choosing the right location is essential. Spend time choosing the perfect location and deciding when is the right time to shoot. When shooting indoors on natural light, make sure there is enough light coming into the room so your subjects are properly lit. Figure out if there’s anything that would potentially block the light depending on what time of day it is. Also, make sure to pick a location that lends itself well to shooting without any artificial light. Some areas will just look flat even with good natural lighting.
Bonus Tip: Make Use of Practicals
Practicals are essentially lights visible in the shot. Whether it’s candle light, a lamp, a phone or TV screen, use them in your shot. Strategically placing practicals indoors and using the natural light can be done to great effect, and can create a more cinematic feel.
Producing a film or video using natural light can be tricky but when done right, you would be surprised at how natural and inviting everything can look. Give it a shot and see how you do.