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Light for free using natural light sources

Andrew Reid

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Imagine if every photo was lit using a flash gun, well the same goes for cinematic scenes. Often some of the most interesting and varied light is already right in front of you. Not everything has to be studio light rig based.

I don't think of 'lighting a scene' as always directly controlled, often it is wild. Lighting you can control is only half of the cinematographer's job and so many films make use of the sun as a key light. Terrence Malick has based a career on magic hour light!

The world of natural light is expansive and varied. As someone who has chased light a lot with DSLRs, and avoided the expense, power requirements and weight of having to carry lights around with me, here are some of my tips for a successful natural light shoot.
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EOSHD Pro Color 5 for Sony cameras EOSHD Z LOG for Nikon CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs
Hacked GH2 makes it possible to capture beautiful moving images with nothing other than a small inexpensive body and a decent lens (20mm pancake being my favorite). It makes it possible to show every day life, with natural light, that rivals the quality 'pro' cameras that costs 10-50 times more.
We often get discouraged not having the latest equipment, especially bulky expensive lighting setup. As Andrew states, light surrounds us always. We only know it well if we really see it, use it and embrace it.
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Great article Andrew!
Thanks for sharing these knowledge.
Something that could be also interesting for low budget filmmakers is to shoot in black and white with GH2 or any cam. Black and white means not to worry about mix any sources with differents colour temperatures. So for example you can mix natural light with tungsten. Even more you can dim the lights without notice colour shifts. Cinematographer Fred Kelemen used lightboard on Bela Tarr 's film "The Turin Horse"
Black and white is really beautiful and let us be free from colour, so shadows and light became more powerful.
Of course it is essencial to shoot black and white as an aesthetic choice.
At last, I like very much one source light. Natural or artificial.
Best regards.

Best regards.
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Great read thanks and absolutely agree that not everything must be artificially lit.

But I personally think that lighting is always controlled, at least if you do your job as a dp.

You say yourself that you shoot in a certain time frame so you are already controlling the natural light source with this simple choice.
And then with the placement of your subject, use of a reflector or diffusion, custom color balance etc you are controlling the light as much as you possibly can.

I think this makes the difference between bad/decent and great photography.

So I agree with your article about using the surroundings environment and lighting conditions but that does not mean you should just shoot as is, a little control with a reflector or a smart character placement will make a big difference imo
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This is a fascinating topic - one that could and does fill volumes. I will never stop learning about light.

I agree with KarimNassar. Controlling natural light for portrait/ interview/ dialogue setups with simple cut and fill methods is crucial for outstanding results. Background choice and talent placement are equally important.

Thanks Andrew, good read.
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Speaking of using natural light sources. Has anyone heard of CRLS (Cine Reflect Lighting System), aka the Berger & Bartenback system? It often uses a single 5000 watt light and a bunch of reflectors for an entire lighting system, though it can also use the sun. Not sure how practical it is, but it definitely takes bounce lighting to a new level.

Hear's the website explaining the idea and a little documentary about the process:
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