3 Strategies for Lighting Your Night Exteriors
(Cinematic Lighting Lesson 14)
Summary: Lighting a night exterior may sound intimidating to some, but it’s actually a lot of fun since you can control so many elements. In this video Ryan gives you three strategies for lighting your night exterior and then shares five tricks he’s learned over the year to making your night exteriors really pop.
Length: 5:55 minutes
Night exteriors can be a lot of fun to shoot because of all the variety they provide. Moonlight, streetlights, firelight, neon signs, just about any lighting source or any lighting angle can really work for a night exterior. But where do you begin? In this video, I’ll start by sharing with you three strategies to lighting your night exterior. And then I’ll wrap it up by giving you 5 tricks that will make your night exteriors really shine.
Embrace What Is Given (Strategy 01)
Convincing night exteriors are shot at night. While you can shoot day-for-night, it never looks the same; to me it always feels fake. Fortunately, modern cameras are getting more and more sensitive to light, letting us shoot at lower and lower light levels. So the first strategy to lighting a night exterior is to embrace the light that the location is giving you. If you’re limited on time and budget, and your camera is sensitive enough, then take advantage of whatever light is naturally there.
However using the light given to you doesn’t mean you can be lazy and just turn your camera on. If you are embracing the light, then it becomes even more important to work with the blocking and framing of your shot. If the blocking ends up with the talent in shadow against a dark background, you’re going to end up with an underexposed ugly image when you get into the coverage of the scene.
Instead work with the director to come up with blocking for the scene to allow you to still create separation and depth in your image while still supporting the mood of the scene. That may mean moving the action closer to a street or porch light so the talent can be lit for later shots.
Embracing the natural light at the location is especially helpful for wide shots, something that can take serious time to artificially light at night since you have so much ground to cover, literally. So if you can, start there. But if that’s where you end your lighting of your night exterior you’ll be missing out on the power of the next two strategies...
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Camera / Audio
- 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)
- Hollywood Beefy Baby Stand (8.5′) (two, to raise the MYT Works slider)
Behind the Scenes (BTS) Cameras
- GoPro Hero3 Black (similar camera: GoPro HERO4 Black)