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Connor Adam

Shooting in Overcast Weather for a 'Cinematic' Flat Look

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I have a couple of questions that I'd greatly appreciate any help or advice with regarding shooting with natural light.


For an upcoming shoot, one of the scenes written is set on a beach and involves a simple conversation between two characters. The director would like it to be shot in overcast weather - he'd like it to look grey, miserable and "flat", but in an aesthetically pleasing (cinematic?) way. I'm concerned that shooting in overcast weather won't look good, and would love anyones input on how to go about this, or examples of films that have managed it well?


The area I am least knowledgable about is in using light modifiers such as flags/bounce boards/etc. Obviously the success of the shoot depends largely on the weather itself - something I can't control! Are there any particular shooting conditions that you would recommend for good results? (ie. is it better to shoot with clear skies and use diffusion/flags etc in a particular way, or shoot in overcast conditions?


Using artificial light sources is a possibility but ideally we'd like to stick with natural light only.


All the best,


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Really the only solution for the scenario you describe is to shoot in overcast weather. Using diffusion and overheads to soften sunshine works well for your actors, but leaves you with the problem of sunny backgrounds.


The good news is that, living in the UK, you should have no problem getting overcast weather for your shoot...


Bounce boards and reflectors don't do much without the sun on them, but you should have them standing by for closer shots, so that you can give a gentle lift to eye sockets and add a catchlight in your actors eyes.

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A beach is such a flat open space that it will look more obvious that the foreground is under a full silk while the background is in full sun. If I can't justify shade as if from a cliff or building or tree, I usually opt for something very light on the close-ups like a Half Soft Frost or 1/4 Grid.


In this case, I'd hope for overcast and then use some large negative fills to add some contrast in the close-ups.

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Thanks for your replies.

I will get a large butterfly frame (12x12 or so) with black solid and use that to create some negative fill. In terms of bounce, is there any specific material you'd recommend using to create the eyelight?

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A 4x4 beadboard with one side covered in Rosco #273 soft silver stipple would help to bring up the eyes for mediums and close ups.


You might also want to bring some grad filters for wide shots to darken the top of the frame and keep the sky from getting too hot. You can also use 2" matte black paper tape across the matte box for long lens wide aperture shots to create a subtle in camera vignette and draw the eye toward the center of the frame.

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For some examples of lower budget films that are similar to what the director is going for, I'd look at "It Felt Like Love" (DP, Sean Potter, Red Epic):




Of course there are many other 2 people talking at the beach during overcast day but this was the first I thought of.

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Thanks as always guys. Have bought some Lee Soft Silver, will have a play with that soon.

Sebastien - Thanks for the reference. Are there any others you can think of off the top of your head?

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