Filming Outside

As I have never filmed outside or at all for that matter I decided to do a little research for some tips on how to film outside as most of my locations are outside. I am already pretty confident with a camera and with my photographer friend showing me basic tips I am well on my way to be able to film some good stuff, hopefully!

I have found a few videos that have given me advice on wind, exposure, reflecting, people in the background, noise, lighting and other stuff. One major part of my film is trying to minimise the traffic of people in the background of my scenes and also the lighting. As i am on location trying to film, prepare models and keep an eye on my equipment was already hard so lugging huge lighting kits with me would not be possible therefore I am relying on natural light for majority of my film which is probably not the best visually but unfortunately this is how it’s going to be.

Quick Tips. 5 Tips for shooting outside. Triune films. YouTube. Film riot. Available



IF YOU’RE FILMING IN HARD SUNLIGHT, WHENEVER POSSIBLE,KEEP THE SUN BEHIND YOU. It’s worth a mention here that I’m not saying you should never shoot into the light – there are many cases where shooting into the sun can be very artistic and really create a lovely atmospheric feel to a sequence – I’m just advising that 9 times out of 10, it’s going to look better with your back to the Sun.)

So, this helps in 3 ways.
1. It produces modeling and creative shadows.
2. It holds the colour saturation of the image.
3. You don’t get lens flares.

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail.

1. Modeling
Shooting with the sun behind you has another advantage – the light creates much more ‘modeling’. What I mean by that is when the light hits the subject (person, building, street etc) it enhances its structure by creating shadows; this makes the image far more interesting because it emphasizes its form.

When shooting exteriors you get the best modeling from hard sunlight, on overcast days the light is generally quite flat and provides little or no modeling at all… *sadface*

2. Colour Saturation
Finally the other main reason for shooting with your back to the sun is that it enhances the ‘Colour Saturation‘, or ‘Colour Vibrancy‘, of the image. If you shoot into the sun (i.e the sun is in front of you), then the whole image generally looks a lot flatter, colours can appear a little ‘washed out’ or de-saturated and if shooting on a digital format, you’ll most probably struggle to expose the sky and  your subject correctly.

 Having said all that, sometimes shooting with the sun behind you can create unwanted shadows, especially if the sun is low. You may set the camera up (even start to film) and as the sun gets lower in the sky, sure enough your own shadow, or the shadow of the camera, starts to creep slowly into shot. DARN! This is very common when filming interviews with an interviewee close to the camera. To remedy this one, try shooting on a longer focal length lens so you can have the same basic framing but lose unwanted shadows as you’ve increased the distance between you and your subject. Swell.)

3. Lens Flares
Lens flares are all to do with the light source and the characteristics of the lens. If the sun, or a bright light, is directed down the axis of the camera lens then you’ll start to get lens flares.

This can be avoided by having a Matte Boxon the camera (which has Bellows that can be extended to shade the lens). Alternatively you can hijack some well meaning person who is handy with a flag (no I don’t mean the type flying over Buckingham Palace when the Queen is in residence… God Bless her!). No,a flag in our business means something that can shade or block out light.

All this leads me nicely to Rule No. 2…


There are two types of flag, the first is a‘lighting flag‘: a large black panel that can be made from black material, plywood or even polystyrene sheets sprayed with black paint.

The other type is either a Matte Box (mentioned above) or a neat little gizmo called a ‘French Flag‘ which is basically a small sheet of black aluminum secured to a flexible arm. You can attach this onto the camera body and positioning it to shade the lens from the sun or your lights.


Clamp a sheet of Black Wrap to one end of the arm (to create the flag) and stick the other end to the camera body. Job done! Huzzah! For an extensive article on flags check out this blog.

“But Chris, I really want to/need to shoot into the light!”
Ok ok, no big deal! If it’s a sunny day and you are filming an interview with someone and you want to shoot into the light for whatever reason (maybe the background is of key importance and relevant to the interview) then you should always use a ‘Reflector’.


A ‘Reflector‘ is basically a white material of any kind, that reflects the light from the sun (or film lights/practicals) back onto the person you are interviewing (in fact it can be used to bounce light anywhere you might want/need it… rather handy!).

Reflectors can be the ‘fold up collapsible variety‘ like Lastolites – Lastolites are sort of spring loaded reflectors that fold away for storage. (Warning!Once unleashed into the world from the confines of their carrying bag they can sometimes simply refuse to be folded back again! It’s a bit of an art to fold them back up and it never looks good wrestling with a big white frisbee in front of your crew… it’s probably easier to find a camera assistant with at least 3 arms, even then I reckon they’d struggle with it!)

Or if you’d rather avoid the traumatising experience altogether, large sheets of white polystyrene also make great reflectors but are obviously far more difficult to store in a crew car. Trust me, I’ve tried… I’m still picking bits of broken polystyrene from behind my steering wheel.

If you’re looking for something creative perhaps you might want to consider…

The Silhouette Shot
A ‘Silhouette Shot’ is where the main object in shot (person, tree etc.), is black against a correctly exposed background, like the sky for example.
This shot is very simple to achieve by exposing for the sky and under exposing for the subject in shot. The best time for moody exterior silhouette shots is either dawn or dusk but you can actually shoot them any time of the day. They really create a certain atmospheric feel and can influence the perspective and expectation of an audience. But more on creative lighting in another blog!.. Onwards!


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