How I Made This: Working with Natural Light

November 5, 2020

How I Made This: Working with Natural Light

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As a documentary filmmaker, Mo Rodman is very familiar with utilizing her environment to capture great video. She is particularly fond of working with natural light. You can see the beauty of this in a series of shots from her new collection with Storyblocks. While using natural light may seem like the most simple solution, there is a true skill in understanding and managing it.

Here’s the 1-minute rundown of how she worked with natural light to capture these shots.

My favorite shot from my collection is when I had the two women standing on the balcony, and there was a thunderstorm rolling in, which wasn’t actually planned. — Mo Rodman

Step 1: Learn the Tricks of Natural Lighting

When working with an uncontrolled lighting source, like natural lighting, it helps to know the various effects a light source can have on your subject or scene. Sunlight can be an effective bright light source, but when it is intense and unfiltered, your shots may turn out overexposed or result in harsh shadows. During Mo’s shoot, she noticed a ton of clouds were forming in the sky and knew clouds would create a cool, soft filter over her subjects’ faces. You may not be able to control natural light, but you can plan ahead. For example, cinematographers and photographers refer to the period shortly after sunrise or before sunset as “golden hour” because of the warm, soft nature of the sunlight at that time.

Step 2: Mix Light Colors

Mixing light colors can add dynamic visual interest to a shot. To create this effect in the balcony shot sequence, Mo simply utilized string lights. Natural light was the primary light source, creating a cool, blue tone in the scene. The string lights added these little pops of warmth in the foreground.

Step 3: Work With Nature

How was Mo able to plan for the soft, serene lighting in these shots? She didn’t. It was actually timing and a little bit of luck. “We didn’t know there was going to be a thunderstorm. We were working around the house, and then once we saw the clouds come in, I thought, why don’t we just take this outside?” Mo shared. She spotted the opportunity and rolled with it. A lot of production requires flexibility, even more so when you’re working with natural light.

Mo believes the sun is probably the best light source you can work with. You just need to figure out when to use it and how to use it. She says, “being able to craft it so you can make the light look the way that you want it will really make anything look good.” Check out these shots and the full collection here.

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Kaitlyn Rossi

Senior Video Producer

Kaitlyn Rossi is a seasoned video producer and a hobbyist photographer and painter. She swoons over stunning imagery and encourages everyone to tap into their inner creator.