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By Eduardo Angel |

Shooting Video in Noon Lighting

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Working with small crews—and sometimes even smaller budgets—video production crews often have to work fast with limited tools. A common situation is shooting B-roll the very same day you arrive in a new city. Understanding simple techniques like harvesting harsh noon sunlight or harnessing available shade can make or break a day on location.

Here are some tips for making the most of a location shoot in noon lighting.

Most photographers stay away from noon light because it can be contrasty and lack depth. Because the sun is perpendicular to us, shadows under a subject’s eyes, nose, and chin are deep and can be unattractive.

When facing a lighting situation like this, adding a small and extremely portable (and cheap!) collapsible diffusion disc over our subjects can greatly reduce the contrast and add some shade. This immediately reduces the contrast ratios, and brings detail back to the person’s face—all without compromising the background or requiring a lot of set up time, fancy tools, or crew.

What if we forgot our handy collapsible disc at home? Harnessing available shade under nearby trees also works well to reduce contrast.

In this case, we need to keep in mind that the leaves are filtering green light, which may throw off our white balance. And the patterned shapes created by them may or may not be something we want on our subject’s face. In this case, we could add a directional light with a portable light source like a small LED.

By moving the fixture very close to the subject’s face, adjusting the color balance to a slightly warmer setting than daylight, and perhaps adding a golden cover to our reflector, we can easily turn a harsh noon light into a beautiful sunrise scene. Just like that.

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We use light to establish a time of day, a sense of space, and a mood. We use it modify shapes, highlight texture, exaggerate our subjects’ physical features, direct the viewers’ attention to relevant details or objects, and even to queue emotions in the viewer. So it’s important to get it right.

The more we learn how to see, control, and enhance our lighting, the more we’ll expand our filmmaker’s “palette.”

For more tips, check out my course Lighting Design for Video Productions on lynda.com. It’s 46 minutes—the perfect length for viewing over your lunch hour or during your daily commute (assuming you’re not driving!).

Eduardo Angel is a consultant, instructor, and speaker on the subjects of photography, filmmaking, and technology. He has consulted with Adobe, Canon, McCann-Erickson, Sony, Panasonic, and more.

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