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Learn How To Enhance Your Film with Ambient Light

Joshua Noel

In this tutorial, learn how you can work with natural light to enhance the ambient compositions in your next film or video project.

Natural light can be a real asset for interviews and narrative films. With careful blocking and framing, filmmakers can pull off amazing shots with minimal lighting gear. However, just dropping your camera someplace without any lights may not give you the best results. In this filmmaking tutorial, we look closely at using ambient light and how to enhance it to look natural.

No Light, No Modifiers

A filmmaker must be strategic when using interior natural light. It’s all about how you position your talent in relation to window light. However, since there are limitations to where you place your talent, if you move far away from a window (like we are), natural light just may not be enough to pull off an amazing shot.

Learn How To Enhance Your Film with Ambient Light — Key Light

Add Keylight

In the initial shot, there was not much separation between the talent, Julia, and the background. Also, the natural light was not wrapping on Julia’s face enough to make her stand out. Adding a key light that can complement ambient light will give you the style you’re looking for. Just be sure not make the shot look unnatural.

Learn How To Enhance Your Film with Ambient Light — Negative Fill

Negative Fill

To shape light even further, we can add a black flag to absorb light and prevent light from bouncing off of the wall and back into our talent’s face. This will make the left side of Julia’s face darker.

Learn How To Enhance Your Film with Ambient Light — Backlight

Motivated Hair Light

To keep ambient light looking natural, we cannot add light that doesn’t have a clear source. By turing on a practical lamp in the background, we can enhance the image by adding a motivated hair light. Since the lamp is warm, we can create color contrast by making sure the hair light is warmer than the key light.


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