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How do you schedule your shots on a Sunny day, EXT.?

Josh Tree Park

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I'm about to shoot a tiny test project where a 3 page Conversation scene takes place at an open spaced parking lot.

Looking at the forecast, I expect our day to be a cloudless sunny day.


I just wanted to hear some of your techniques on working with the sun, precisely on timing & scheduling your shot. How do you work with the sun? I'll take all the explanation you got, but a few questions I would like to have them answered would be...


- Do you schedule the wide master on early AM or Magic hour?

- Do you choose to not shoot when the sun is directly above, sometime around maybe 11AM - 2PM if wide diffusing isn't an option?

- Do you try to backlight the actors as much as possible with the sun?

- If your wide was very contrasty, then do you try to match the contrast on CU, or will you ignore the consistency and go diffused instead?


Thank you all for taking your time to read this post. I'd really appreciate your opinions on this.

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A most recent shoot, was on the beach at about 8 am. Talent backlit by the sun, and exposure such that the face was not 'under', so the background was pretty bright. No dialog however...


I'm personally of the minimalist school of dialog. So, I'd cut the dialog to 1 or 1/2 page... unless of course one has no choice... but in one recent case, the directrix admitted that perhaps the dialog was a bit wordy, having seen her 3 pages on screen...


In So. Cal, I'd avoid 10 am to 3 or 4 pm like the plague unles no other option. I'd then think about some form of screen covering if possible. One gets quickly in to various supports and having to set that up...


The problem with bright sun along with constrast is talent squinting, which unless the script calls for it, usually doesn't 'look' good, despite that's what everyone does under those conditions.

Edited by John E Clark
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If you don't have the budget to work with 8x8 or larger frames with diffusion and bounce materials then continuity in the sun over a long period for shooting dialog can be pretty tough.


although if you are shooting MCU's and CU's and then just a wide you can do a lot with 4x4 frames



I'd go by pretty much everything you said, wides during golden hour and don't shoot with overhead sun..... you dont need to backlight though alot of people do that for conistency and then just fill in the faces which can tottaly work but there are other solutions. also keep in mind other variables like if the backrounds are in shade or trees or your next to a big white building where the sun is bouncing off ....there are alot of other ways to natrually get the light doing different things



I'd say from past experience the best thing you can when wanting to work with the sun for specfic times is prep really well know how long the shoot is going to take and make sure problems don't arise on the day and push back shooting. know the the window you want to get from the sun and make sure it'll happen else you can wind up loosing shots pretty easliy or shooting stuff that won't match

Edited by Albion Hockney
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  • 2 weeks later...

Sun as Backlight is the basic method.

Shoot wide shots in the best early light. Then shoot the CUs and turn the actors so that they're always backlit.

Use beadboard - as its softer and is thicker so its easier to hold in the wind.

You can often get way without matching contrast from the wide to the CU - but you do have to match the key direction - in otherwords, whichever side of the face is the brightest, it must stay that way in the CUs.

Use a suntracker app and plan your shots according to where the sun will be at what time of the day.

Use a flexi-fill with gold/silver strip, so you can match the color of te morning sun. You can use the late sun as if its also the morning.

I have never had the luxury of being able not to shoot during mid-day. We've also done it, using a butterfly or at the very least, shooting ECUs and keeping the camera low looking up into the sky and sun.

Good luck

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