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Newbie question - Lighting a subject during harsh sun conditions


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#1 Yash Lucid

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Posted 14 June 2014 - 04:50 PM

Hi guys, I'd like some tips on how to properly expose an image. Basically we're shooting all scenes outdoors and I need to light my subject appropriately so that the both the background and my subject are exposed properly.

 

Right now I either choose between well exposed background and dark subject, or well exposed subject and overblown background.

 

My first thought was a reflector. Will this work, if so, how big should it be? 

My second thought was portable lights, I have an 500 LED light panel and battery but it doesn't kick well enough.

 

These videos are just for fun, no clients or budgets. Any tips would be awesome. Thanks!


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 June 2014 - 09:09 PM

First, you need a camera that records a very wide dynamic range, like a raw or log camera that holds over 12+ stops or so.  Second, you need to reduce the contrast between the background and foreground.  The first thing you should always do is not shoot against a bright background, try to frame dark trees or shadowed buildings, etc. behind the subject, and shoot when the sun is backlighting the location so that there are more shadows in the background.

 

Yes, you can use lights and reflectors to bring up the subject but little lights won't do the trick normally.  And often the subject might squint their eyes if there is a harsh light pointed at them and the face can look artificially filled-in if the light is not soft.

 

So the best solution is to avoid the situation by shooting at optimal times of day and framing against darker backgrounds.

 

Now if the subject is indoors against a window, you can try ND gel on the window to reduce the brightness of the view. A stretched scrim on a frame can also help a little but will blur and wash-out the background a bit.


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#3 Yash Lucid

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 06:01 AM

Thanks David Mullen. I'm using a Sony FS700 with a neutral picture profile, I have opted not to go super neutral and log like because 8-bit can be tough to stretch in post.

 

The reason I wanted to shoot against the sun is to try do an effect where the subject dances over the sun and then reveals it as he moves, creating an interesting but subtle effect.

 

This what we ended up creating. 
View on Vimeo

 

I'm going to try and see how a reflector works today :)
 

Thanks!


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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 02:05 AM

I think you did a pretty nice job given the available light. I really like the super wide angle shot shooting directly into the sun with the subject crossing in front of it. For this type of backlit exterior shot, you should be thinking of exposing more for the background and bouncing light back onto the subject. This would normally be done with a large diffusion frame with a reflective material stretched over it.

The size of the frame would depend on how wide your shot is, and therefore how far back the frame needs to be to stay out of the shot. You would generally use a 4x4' frame for a close up, 6x6' or 8x8' for a medium shot, and a 12x12' for a wide full-body shot.

Some common rags used for bounce lighting would be Ultrabounce, which is a white shiny tarp-like material with a black backing. Or Checkerboard which has alternating squares of white silk and silver or gold lame, which creates a mix of hard and soft shadows. You would use the Gold if you wanted a warmer bounce light. You can also use matte white material like Poly Silk or Bleached Muslin which will reflect less light but create a softer shadow. You can even used colored material like Day Blue Muslin to tint the bounce light with whatever color you desire.

For front lit subjects, you should diffuse the sunlight on the subject, which will also lower it's intensity to better match your background. You can use the same frames and use rags like Half Soft Frost, Poly Silk and Gridcloth to soften the shadows. I really like Half Soft Frost because it doesn't soften sunlight too much, just enough to make it pleasing. I've found this site to be a good resource for different types of rags: http://www.advantage...abric specs.htm.

Of course, you can get fabric like bleached and unbleached muslin at any fabric store. I have a DP friend who made his own large diffusion roll out 'frames' out of yards of muslin stapled to 2x4 lumber. He uses them for low budget shoots when there aren't enough experienced grips to fly large rags safely (they can become huge sails in even mildly windy conditions).
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#5 Yash Lucid

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 02:17 AM

Incredible feedback on this forum! Thanks guys!


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