SuPeRnOvA and SwEeTpAiN: Outdoor Video: Using Natural Light to Paint the Perfect Picture | SuPeRnOvA and SwEeTpAiN
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Outdoor Video: Using Natural Light to Paint the Perfect Picture

You’re going out into the wilderness. That shouldn’t ruin your video shoot. Most people think that the only acceptable weather to shoot in is sunny and cloud-free. Rarely does Mother Nature grant you such a gift on the day of your choosing. So, you need to be prepared to work with light, instead of against it.

How To Adapt

One of the first things you must learn, as a photographer or videographer, is how to adapt to different lighting conditions. It’s a challenge every photographer faces, and one that’s easily overcome with a little bit of ingenuity. You can’t always rely on your lighting kit, either. Sometimes, you just have to employ the art of patience.


So, for example, the sun provides a lot of the light for your shots. Sometimes, the sun is in the wrong spot for the best shot. But, in 15 minutes, it’ll be in the right spot. That’s how you adapt. You move through time and space and wait for the light to give the shot to you. Think of yourself as someone who captures light, and lets nature paint its own picture, rather than someone who “creates photographs.”

Live With The Dark

Darkness can be one of the most frustrating environments to work in, precisely because there’s often so little light to work with. But, it’s rare that there’s no light. Usually, light is sub-optimal or not focused on what you think you want.

The trick to adapting here is to switch focus. Don’t marry yourself to a particular shot. Nature might not give it to you. If you’re trying to capture a figure, or a thing, that’s shrouded in darkness or shadow, consider capturing just the shadow, and create a silhouette of the subject. You’ll end up with an amazing shot, even if it’s not something you initially hoped for.

Bring a Survival Kit

A survival kit could and should contain a variety of tools and equipment like lights, monopods, tripods, wet gear, and reflectors. Pack at least one external mic, and extension cables if you think you might shoot some video. Even if you don’t intend on shooting video, bring this equipment anyway. Bring headphones too, just in case you need to review an impromptu video shot.

If you know you’ll be doing some editing, bring your laptop, and a program like YTD, available through youtubedownload.altervista.org, so that you can convert any video as needed.

Bring Portable Power

Running out of power will ruin every shot, so make sure you’ve got backup batteries. Don’t leave your camera on all the time, either. At the same time, you want quick access to it for surprise shots.

Move Around a Bit

Move around a subject to get the right exposure. Most amateur photographers believe that early morning or mid-afternoon is the best time to shoot. But, the sun can be rather harsh during these times.

In fact, if you’re shooting a natural subject, like a plant or a tree, the sun may wash out what you’re trying to capture. You may need to move around the subject, find areas where the sun doesn’t hit it directly, and capture a “darker” photo of the subject, while allowing the light to backfill your image.

Wait For The Right Moment At Twilight

Twilight isn’t traditionally a great time to shoot video. The shadows are awkward. The sun won’t ever cooperate, and shots tend to be boring. But, with a little bit of luck, you can still get a good shot. A lot of photography done at twilight involves an intricate play off of shadows and whatever remains of the daylight.

Plan on shooting long shadows, high contrast between the sun and the subject - a sort of Film Noir, but for pictures.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Shadows

Shadows can be really frustrating for many photographers. They often cause you to miss great opportunities. However, they can also create opportunities. Watching each situation unfold can give you time to relax, understand what’s happening in the world around you, and get your timing just right.

Shadows often create contrast that makes for dramatic photos. Most amateurs under-appreciate this, and often try to “light up” the subject or create false or staged shadows. However, limiting yourself to staging sets you up for limited dramatic scenes, and always forces you to create photos that are contrived. There’s no sense of spontaneity, and it can easily come across in the photo - ironically, it ruins the shot.

Always remember to respect IP when using downloaded content.

Frankie Howard views the world through the eyes of his camera. A talented videographer, he enjoys writing about the tips and inspirations for capturing moments with today's technology on video and photography blogs.

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