Video - Improve Your Outdoor Lighting Shots

By Barry Casson

View all articles by this author

You may recall reading the little pamphlets when you buy a roll of film that tells you about having the sun over your shoulder shining on the subject. Professionally this is almost the opposite of what we strive for. There is good reason for this thinking. Having your subject looking directly into the sun causes a person to squint and frown, add, "say cheese", to this and you get the "I'm trying to look good for the camera, so hurry up, I can't hold this much longer...  look".

Now obviously on a cloudy day you won't have this problem, as the light is coming from a rather large source, namely the big cloud cover that in essence is a big overhead soft light.  You tend to get better saturation of colour on overcast days and of course you don't have to worry about harsh shadows.

When you place the sun behind your subject facing toward you, your subject doesn't have to squint from the hard sunlight, In addition this creates a three dimensional look to the subject as the sun provides a nice hair and shoulder rim or backlight.  This rimming effect tends to separate the subject from the background.

If the subject is against a dark background it looks even better because of the contrast in the shot. Now take a piece of white art card or bead board (say around 4 X 4 ft) and hold it in front of the subject at a 45% angle, "bouncing" the sunlight into the subject's face to bring out a little more sparkle to the scene.  In the film biz. this white card is known as a "bounce board". Now this stuff is not rocket science. All good basic photographers using still or video cameras know this, and now so do you. Knowledge is a good thing, isn't it!

The other advantage to lighting this way is that now you create what we call "catch lights" in the eyes of the subject. This is to say that now the eyes have little white dots in them from reflecting the white bounce board. The eyes are alive.  Look for this way of lighting in any film that you see.  Images are almost always lit this way simply because it is more pleasing to the eye.

Watch out for this the next time you have the opportunity to see a movie crew at work outside on a sunny day. That big light coming from behind the camera is just filling in the subject the same way as a bounce board. It takes these big lights to compete with the Sun on wider scenes.

The big square frame in front of the light has what we call "diffusion material" attached and is just softening the light for a more pleasing look, similar to a bounce board. 

"May The Focus Be With You"...Barry

For more video shooting tips, go to and grab your copy of Barry's book, The Video Bible.


This article has been viewed 2425 times.

Post A Comment

Comments that include profanity, personal attacks, or antisocial behavior such as "spamming," "trolling," or any other inappropriate material will be removed from the site. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our "terms of use". You are fully responsible for the content you post. Senior Living takes no responsibility for the views and opinions of members using this discussion area.

Submit Articles

Current Issue

Search For Articles


Subscribe To
The Magazine