Our world revolves around it, and so does an outside shoot.

There are several ways to work with the sun when shooting outside, but we find that simple modifiers often work best — they’re lightweight, quick to set up, and much easier to travel with than a light kit.

Now, depending on how bright the sun in shining on the day of your shoot, the modifier setup is going to change. On an overcast day you’ll have softer light to work with, but on a bright sunny day without a cloud in the sky… you’ve got some work to do in order to soften that light.

In this tutorial, Patrick covers how to modify light in both bright sunlight and overcast, cloudy light.

On a bright and sunny day…

Often you will find yourself trying to shoot outside under a big vibrant sun in the middle of the day. Along with keeping you hot and sticky throughout your shoot, the sun will also give you light that is way too harsh, and you’ll need to soften it.

Depending on your story, the setup you use will change, but below we’ve got a few simple techniques and tools that will help you soften, cut, and bounce the light for your outdoor shoot.

1. Use the sun as the key light.

Grab yourself an 8′x8′ Scrim Jim and hold it up in between the sun and your talent, and attach a range of fabrics depending on your shoot.

How do you want to modify your light?

  • A full flag will block off light.
  • Bounce some light back in with a solid white reflector.
  • Use a 3/4 or 1+1/4 stop to soften the light.

Note: Choose a background that will look good out of focus, since your Scrim Jim usually won’t be big enough to cover both your talent and your background.

Here’s how ours turned out:



2. Use the sun as both the key light AND the hair light.

The sun is a very powerful tool! You can get more out of it than just a key light, but you’ll need to be crafty.

Here’s how:

  • Have your talent face away from the sun, so it hits the back of their head.
  • Bounce the light back in with a solid white 4′x4′ Scrim Jim, and raise it up or down to adjust the direction of your key light.
  • Cut down the hair light a by hanging a double net in between the talent and the sun.

Here’s what that setup will look like:


And the resulting image:


So, we’ve given you a few techniques we use all the time to modify sunlight and soften the harshness… but what if harshness isn’t the issue?

Partly cloudy, with chance of not having enough shape…

An overcast day is usually going to give you nice, soft light — but there’s also a chance that you won’t get enough shape to that light if it’s too cloudy. Once again, modifiers will come to your rescue and allow you to avoid any elaborate lighting setups.

To get more shape:

  • Bust out your 4′x4′ Scrim Jim and attach a solid black flag.
  • Place this on the opposite side of the key light.
  • Keep it close to your subject to prevent any light from coming in on that side.

Here’s our subject after following the steps above:


Now he has much more shape and depth to his face, and all it really took was a negative fill on one side.

Never underestimate the power of stepping into a Scrim Jim!

Our quick tips for modifying light outside work for all kinds of shoots — not just interviews.

As long as you’ve got an 8′x8′ Scrim, a couple of different fabrics, and a sunny day — you can pull off a number of outdoor shoots without a light kit.

Do you have any crafty techniques for modifying sunlight?

This article was originally posted on StillMotionBlog.com

Westcott Gear in Action

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.