How to Light a Scene with Sunlight at Different Times of Day

Shooting an exterior scene but not sure how to light it? Then you should check out this video.

Many times exterior shots turn out to be some of the most difficult ones to control. But even though your production is kind of at the mercy of Mother Nature in this kind of situation, knowing your way around light modifiers can really help you take full advantage of that amazing, 100% free key light fireball in the sky: the sun. In this video by Aputure, David Carmichael of Corridor Digital offers up some tips on not only shooting outdoors with nothing more than a few reflectors, but on how to do it at different times of day. Check it out below.

The tricky thing about shooting outdoors, and the main reason people don't like having to do it, is that there are lots of environmental factors that change the light of the sun. Clouds, trees, buildings, the Earth's rotation can all affect the intensity and consistency of the daylight, so planning ahead and being prepared are integral for having an as-smooth-as-possible shoot.

This is why it's important to know how sunlight behaves at different times of day, so you know how to counteract, say, the very bright, very harsh light of the noonday sun, or the very soft and colorful glow of golden hour. There's a chance that you might need a separate light to use as a hair light or something similar, but for the most part reflectors and diffusers serve as excellent fills—and they're a hell of a lot cheaper than a complete lighting kit.

Do you have any tips on using modifiers to light exterior scenes? Let us know in the comments below.     

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Your Comment


Those lighting techniques are great for subjects standing still. But what if the scene has the talent walking or jogging a few feet up to a specific spot before he/she begin their dialogue. How do you light that moving talent, using the same lighting technique?

November 22, 2016 at 11:36PM, Edited November 22, 11:36PM


I'd say break up the shots with plenty of coverage so your close ups are controlled but the wide is natural, have them end on a mark that you lit for.

November 23, 2016 at 10:01AM

Stephen Herron

Is it just me, or does David Carmichael look like Edward Norton?

November 23, 2016 at 2:42PM, Edited November 23, 2:42PM

Drew Echo
Writer / Director

Thanks guys great video. Every example appeared to be a tight shot. When trying to get a wider shot how can you successfully manipulate the light for the scene? Is everything just farther away and on a bigger scale? For example, does my silk at 12:00 need to simply be lifted in the air higher and be 5 times bigger?

November 23, 2016 at 3:05PM


Golden Hour always looks amazing

November 24, 2016 at 1:09AM, Edited November 24, 1:09AM


The hardest part is during the middle of the day, when the background is completely blown out. :(

August 5, 2018 at 8:03AM, Edited August 5, 8:03AM

Sameir Ali
Director of Photography