Filming in bright sunlight [How to achieve the Film Look]

Filming in bright sunlight [How to achieve the Film Look]

Shooting in bright sunlight can be a pain. Hard shadows and overexposed shots are quite common. In this video I will give you some tips one how too achieve the film-look in bright sunlight in a quick and affordable way.

The first step is to get the right exposure. Since I’m filming in 25 frames pr second, the shutter speed is set to 1/50 to enhance the film-look and the ISO is set as low as possible to avoid noise. So the only way I can make the image darker withing the camera, is to make the aperture smaller. When adjusting the aperture to a higher number, the aperture gets smaller, and less light passes through the lens. The image then gets darker, however the depth of field gets longer, and that kills the film look. We want a short depth of field to make the background blurry, so a lower number is prefered. Okay, so how do we solve this? A ND filter is the solution.

The main purpose of a ND filter is to darken the light hitting your lens, and thereby giving you the opportunity too lower the aperture without overxposing your image. There are different ND filters out there, with different strenghts. F.ex a ND 0.9 makes your image darker by 3 stops. So if your shot is perfectly exposed with aperture F11, you can attach this ND filter and get the same exposure with aperture F4.

Since the ND filter makes the shot darker, we can adjust the aperture to a lower number, which means that the aperture is more open. The more open the aperture is, the more light passes through the lens and a more blurry background we get. I recommend the Light Craft Variable ND filter. It’s adjustable, so you can adjust the strength of the ND without having to change the filter. You simple turn it around to make it darker or brighter.

The next step is too set the right picture profile withing the camera. One most cameras you can customize your own picture profiles. I recommend that you choose the profile with the lowest contrast, or adjust it your self. That makes the image more flat, and you get more details in the shadows and in the highlights. It’s then easier to colorgrade in post production.

So, the next step is to make the light softer, to avoid to much hard shadow. My tip is to use a 5-in-1 reflector. Then you can adjust the light in five different ways: Reflect the sun in a soft way, reflect warm light, soften the light, reflect a lot of light and to block the light.

For the first camera angle, I want to soften the light by using the soft part of the reflector. Find a spot outside the frame and hold the reflector between the sun and the subject. This won’t remove the light, but make it softer and remove the hard shadows. Since I’m the only crew member on set, I’m using a stand with a reflector holder. To save money, you can ask a friend to hold the reflector. After some adjustments, the shot should look much better. The hard shadows are removed and her eyes are more visible with this kind of light.

Now, let’s figure out how to light the other actor, sitting in the opposite direction. I noticed that is started to get a bit windy, and when it comes the setup I’m using and windy conditions, its easy fail. But don’t worry! Grab a couple of plastic bags and put them inside eachother to make them strong. Then fill them with sand to make them heavy. Place the homemade sand bags on the top of the legs, and the wind problem is solved.

So for this angle, the sun is hitting her back. Without the reflector, you will either get an overexposed sky in the background, or a dark and boring light on the subject. So for this scene, we will use the white part of the reflector, to reflect the sun, and bounce the light towards her face. Now we have figured out a nice solution for both angles.

Here is a link to where you can buy the reflector for the best price and it’s safe:

A reflector arm costs around 60 dollars:

Another time saver is too shoot your film when it’s cloudy. Then the clouds will soften the light for you.

Thanks for watching!
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Music by Thomas Leypoldt:


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