5 Essential Strategies To Lighting Day Exteriors
(Cinematic Lighting Lesson 12)
Summary: Day exteriors can feel intimidating to light, but it doesn’t have to be. In this video, Ryan shares with you five essential strategies that will set you up for success on all of your day exterior shoots.
Length: 8:54 minutes
Interiors are easy, right? We can control and shape the light exactly how we want it. But where do we begin when it come time to controlling the sun? Is it even possible to get great looking footage outside? Fortunately it is. In this video, I’ll share with you the five essential strategies to lighting a day exterior.
Prepping and the Virtual Scout (Strategy 01)
The key to shooting day exteriors lies in the pre-production. If you just show up to the shoot hoping to get something magical, you’ll be disappointed. That’s because if you don’t show up prepared, you’ll just be reacting to the situation, rather than controlling it. Remember, the best images are a result of being proactive in your lighting. One solution — something I did back in my earlier years — is to visit the location at various times to see how the light played throughout the day. I would take photos of how the light changed, then would use these as reference when planning out the shots. This habit also will help train your eye to see various aspects of light and how it can dramatically change the mood and look of a location.
Unfortunately, these days everyone is rushed to get the project done, so scouting trips often get the axe. Other times accessing the location isn’t possible until the day of the shoot. For these situations the next best alternative is our good friend Google.
Once the location is locked, I’ll use Google Maps and move around the location using street view and 3D view. As I take this “virtual scouting trip,” I’ll look at where the sun is positioned and how it makes the location look. My focus is to see how the location is oriented to the path of the sun, and what features in the space could affect the look. Maybe there is a tall building or tree that will cast a shadow I don’t want.
There is also another handy little feature I’ll use: the time clock. On street-view, underneath the address, there is a little clock. Clicking that reveals the street-views taken over the years. There are usually enough weather variations in there to see a range of looks, from sunny, to cloudy, to overcast.
If I want to take my virtual scout even further, I’ll pull up Google Earth. I’ll bring up the location, move into street view, then click on the building icon to go to ground level view. Now for the cool part: I’ll click the sun icon to turn the sun on. From here I can scroll through the day and watch the position of the sun in relation to the location. And if Google has converted it into a 3D environment, I can figure out exact times when the sun will clear buildings or be in the position that I need it to be in. Even if it isn’t a 3D environment, I can still get a rough sense of timing. If that still isn’t specific enough, I can also enter a future date and see where the sun will be on the day we’re filming. It’s pretty impressive what we can do with technology these days.
Now that we have virtually scouted the location and know the path of the sun, let’s look at the best strategies for making the most of our day exteriors...
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Camera / Audio
- Sony Alpha a7S Mirrorless Digital Camera
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
- Fotodiox Lens Mount Adapter – Canon EOS (EF / EF-s) to Sony E-Mount
- Bright Tangerine Misfit Matte Box
- Tilta FF-T03 15mm Follow Focus with Hard Stops
- Sachtler Panorama 7+7 Head 100mm (similar head: 1006 DV 10 SB Fluid Head)
- Sachtler Carbon Fiber Tripod (similar tripod: Carbon Fiber HD Tripod Legs)
- MYT Works 4′ Medium slider w/ HiHat
- Hollywood Beefy Baby Stand (8.5′) (two, to raise the MYT Works slider)
- Movcam Cage for Sony A7S
- Sekonic L-758Cine DigitalMaster Light Meter
- Sekonic C-700 SpectroMaster Color Meter
- Wooden Camera A/B Gold-Mount Plate for Sony A7, A7r and A7s
- Audio Technica AT835b Shotgun Microphone (similar microphone: Audio Technica BP4071 Shotgun Microphone)
- Wooden Camera DSLR A-Box
- Delkin Devices 64GB SDXC Memory Card 600x UHS-I
- DSC Labs One Shot Reference Chart (Matte Finish)
Behind the Scenes (BTS) Cameras
- GoPro Hero3 Black (similar camera: GoPro HERO4 Black)
- Motrr Galileo: App-Driven Motorized Head w/ GoPro Mount
- Sony Alpha SLT-A57
- Filmcity DSLR Camera Cage Shoulder Rig kit (FC-03)