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

Video Lesson

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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 (LC114)

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.

Block Your Scene To Embrace The Light (LC114)

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.

Block Scenes Keeping Close-Up Shots In Mind (LC114)

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.

Start With Lighting Wide Shots Since They Take Most Time (LC114)

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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Lighting Diagrams

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Tools We Used

How To Cinematically Light A Corporate Video (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 20)
How To Light Quickly (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 19)
Lighting For Extreme Frame Rates (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 21)
12 Crucial Questions Before Lighting Your Set (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 15)
3 Strategies For Lighting Your Night Exteriors (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 14)
5 Essential Strategies To Lighting Day Exteriors (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 12)
10 Tips To Lighting Day Exteriors (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 13)
How To Light A Small Commercial (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 23)
Where To Begin Lighting Your Set (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 18)
6 replies
  1. Ahmedsalem
    Ahmedsalem says:

    Very great stuff, just I think every point in this post deserve to be in a separate tutorial, especially firelight, but really what I suggest as new member ( I do not if I have this right or not ), is to show the rigging and flagging process because this the most important for us

    • Tim
      Tim says:

      Yes, there are so many elements used in filming, and each element deserves its own lesson on how we did it. It will take time to film every little piece, but it is something we really want to give our members. So stay tuned!


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