Best Practices to shoot videos in Natural Light
We all have our own experiences in shooting videos in natural lights without the use of any artificial setup. Maybe you are backpacking as a vlogger for your first trip to the Himalayas or you have just started as a videographer with lesser capital to spare.
Either way, you must take heed of some of the best practices that the professionals follow to make their natural light shootings, flawless. Mostly it depends on the discipline of your preparation.
Preparation makes it suitable
Going out in the light is not an easy decision. Being prepared is the key to move forward. Knowing the place that you are headed is essential. Prior research never hurts. You get to understand the directions of sunrise and sunset. This way you have a wiser understanding of field placement, in terms of subject and the camera.
Noting the times of how much the sun lasts is an essential point. This depends on the location as well as the time of the year. You don’t have the same amounts in December and May. The location has to be right in order to support the warmth you intend to put in and the time of the day you will be shooting. Your schedule must be flexible to the lighting conditions to support your decision.
Knowing the location is extremely important when it comes to shadowing structures. A building or a tree can cast a looking shadow on a place where you don’t want it to be. Working in natural light challenges your skills as a keen observer. Having a good look at the location of the shoot, days before the d-day, is a professional ethic.
Best times of the Day
Working outside is majorly about how you manage the exposure. There are 4 golden times in a day when the shooting is absolutely perfect. First is the golden hours that happen twice a day, one just after sunrise and the other before sunset. The warmth of any setting is very subtle at this time and brings out a natural grace into the subject.
Then there is the blue hour. The ones we call the dawn and the dusk. This time is most appropriate to film any night scenes. There is going to be enough light that you can see everything and enough dark to call it a night scene (or probably for an easy edit).
Pick your arsenal well
Even though you are not arranging for any light setup, you are left with a lot of choices for accessories that suit the natural environment. Using your custom kit, you will probably make the best out of it.
A camera with a high dynamic range is a good choice on a bright sunny day. While a camera with higher sensitivity is perfect for the night scenes. A fast-lens or a high aperture lens is recommended for low natural exposure conditions.
Depth of field is determined by your aperture and that with a minimum ISO setting can prove to be very effective outside. As a thumb rule for setting the shutter speed, it must be reciprocal of double the Frame rate while filming. For example, if the frame rate is 30 FPS, the shutter speed must be 1/60.
Any kind of apparatus that can help you modify the light in your favor is welcome. Reflectors are commonly used to direct sun rays to your subject. Many people use these to light up a shadowed part to balance the frame.
Filmmakers often use diffusers to beat harsh sun rays. It broadens the light and softens the looming dark shadows that you don’t like. In contrast, flags of cardboard or foams are used to block light from covering specific areas of your scene.
You don’t need to carry a full setup, some small practical apparatus like desk-lamps and camera flash can make things work at times. These can be used to throw light on subjects sitting nearby. Things as small as a TV set, a computer monitor, or a flashlight can even help you get what you need with no extra costs. You just need to know your ways.
Direction of shoot
Sun acts as an awesome backlight. It must be used thoughtfully and at the right time of the day with a perfect camera angle. If not, it gives uneven exposure and often casts bad shadows. Positioning the sun in the backdrop of the subject without bringing it in the frame, brings a halo like glow on the subject. This backlight helps in separating the subject from its background.
Think on the walk
When shooting outside, life is full of challenges. You can do all the above and be all prepared as you want, or enjoy the shoot as it calls for improvisation. That is how you learn.