Film School: Working with Natural Light

The Last Song (2010) The Last Song (2010)

A roundup of tutorials about working with only natural or available light.

First: the concept. Documentarian and cinematographer Mark Bone first demonstrates how he uses the sun to backlight his subjects (or “lighting upstage”)…

… and then how he uses natural 45 degree lighting in a interview situations:

Cinematographer WanderingDP breaks down commercial examples of backlighting, which he refers to as “The Framework”:

Modifiers: An Introduction

Gaffer Jacob Geller explains how natural light is controlled and the tools used in this behind-the-scenes still:

In Depth Cine runs through Negative Fill, Bouncing, Diffusing and Shaping natural or available light

Using Basic Modifiers

In this case study, cinematographer and one-man-crew Danny Gevirtz demonstrates how he uses the sun to help him compose his shot:

Cinecom offers five more tips for shooting in hard sunlight:

Using Advanced Modifiers

Indy Mogul and guest Casey McBeath use cheap materials to tame super-bright direct sunlight into first a manageable, and ultimately a flattering, exposure:

Even lighting manufacturer Aputure has some tips for using natural light, with more sophisticated modifiers:

Cinematographer Lewis Potts tries out a more specialised alternative to the white diffusion of ultrabounce. Bluff Bounce has sky-, landscape-, and earthy-coloured segments to reflect (literally, if you so choose) the more varied tones of naturally lit environments:

Without Modifiers

Rob Ellis uses a sun-tracking app and careful scheduling to shoot using only natural light:

CamMacky makes the case against using modifiers (as in the examples later in this post) and demonstrates how harsh, direct light is used in fashion photography:

Commercial Work

Austen Paul demonstrates creating a high end commercial look only using natural light:

Further Viewing

Of course, what we often call “natural” lighting often involves the use of a bunch of artificial lights “motivated” by the natural light in the environment. In Depth Cine demonstrates four basic techniques in cinematic vs natural lighting:

Still not sure what’s meant by terms like “sidelight” or “backlight”? Check out our look at Media Division’s handy breakdown of Cinematic Lighting:

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