Six Videography Tips for Shooting in Bright Sunlight
In this roundup, check out some tips for keeping your cool and shooting quality footage in bright sunlight for your next video project.
Cover image by welcomia.
It’s hot in the summer desert sun. After driving a few miles out of town, the west Texas landscape opens up and seems to stretch for endless miles in every direction. Pulling the car over on the side of the two-lane blacktop, I crunch across the dry earth to the edge of a snaking barbed-wire fence post to set up my camera and tripod.
When shooting in middle of the day in bright sunlight, you have to be aware of more than the normal videography factors. Not only do you have your composition to compose, you also have to take care of yourself and protect your gear from overheating. From one solo videographer out in the fields to others in all types of bright light outdoor situations, here are some tips to keep in mind when shooting video in the bright sunlight.
1. Stay Safe and Cool
Number one: don’t die. Don’t get overheated, dehydrated, attacked by rattlers, or run over by a semi. Also, make sure your camera stays safe and cool as well. This means preparing accordingly and being ready for any setback or emergency. In the hot summer, shade isn’t just a style choice, it’s a precaution. In cold weather you can be more lax, but drinking and bringing plenty of water is always a concern.
For some tips on keeping yourself and your camera safe in hot weather, check out this article. Safety should always be your foremost concern.
2. Shade Your Monitor
After safety, your next biggest issue is visibility. For my trip, I was shooting on a Canon 5D Mark IV, which has a built-in monitor on the back of the camera. In bright sunlight, this quickly becomes a problem for viewing and setting your shots. Other cameras might have side-mounted monitors, which can turn or rotate. In any case, you’ll need to find a way to provide some shade so you can view your monitor optimality.
You have some options here, whether it’s some brand-recommended monitor covers, a portable monitor to move and shade remotely (here’s a great hands-on review of one option), or a DIY fix with a towel or extra shirt to cover yourself and the monitor to check your shot.
3. High F-Stop
If you’re new to this, you’ll quickly learn just how much bright light will push your camera’s F-stop to keep from blowing out your shot. Before applying some tricks to darken your light input (more on that below), you’ll need to know what this means for your shot. A high F-stop means a wider depth of field, which isn’t always a bad thing. For more information on what high and low F-stops mean for your shot, check out this in-depth resource.
4. ND Filters
Once you understand lighting and F-stops, you may want to consider using neutral density (ND) filters. Some cameras may have these built-in, while others screw on to the end of your lenses. An ND filter will do more than just reduce light — it can also help to bring out image color and contrast while allowing you more control of your depth of field.
5. Keep Track of the Sun and Shadows
You could say trudging out under the middle-of-the-day, 100-degree, Texas sun is a terrible idea, and I’d be quick to agree with you. First off, you’re putting yourself in the harshest and most dangerous elements. Secondly, your shots may not have all the beautiful dynamics you get during a cooler magic hour shoot. However, sometimes you may want that middle-of-the day look, which can actually provide some beautiful compositions without shadows altogether.
The sun is the most powerful dynamic in any outdoor daytime shoot. Keeping track of its location (and the shadows it casts) will give you more options for creating dynamic compositions.
6. Pick Your Spots
As with keeping track of the sun and any shadows, shooting in bright sunlight requires you to know what you want then find the safest and best way to get your shots. If you know you want magic hour, you may want to get up in the early darkness to trek to your scouted locations so that you can be done by the time the sun starts to heat up. Use all the tools and resources at your disposal to keep yourself safe and shaded and your shots dynamic and awesome.
For some more articles on videography tips and tricks, check out these articles.