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Paul Nixon October 9th, 2007 12:56 PM

Outdoor lighting help/recommendations
I'm a beginner moving from point and shoot to being interested in budget lighting. I've read a number of articles now about different kinds of lights and diffusion and how to do things on the cheap, but I'm wondering how much of this applies to outdoor lighting as opposed to indoor.

For example, I have a couple of the 500W halogen work lights, and I just tried to use a bed sheet over a light stand with the work light positioned about 2 feet behind. I could see no difference in lighting about 5 feet in front of the sheet. I could see some difference using the light directly, but surprisingly less than when I used two 100W flood lights directly. All of this gave an orange glow to my "actor" (7yo son) which would be fine except it didn't look natural. I'm reading and know I need a blue gel to adjust the tungsten to daylight and have a bid in on a new light with a 4-color pack of gels. No idea if it's the right "blue" or not but it's a start.

The "scene" I am trying to create is of my son sitting beside our pond. He's into karate and, at 7, also wants to be a super hero - Spider Man if possible - the black-outfitted one. In my "movie" he's not having much luck at being the super hero, and this particular scene will have a CGI character give him advice. It probably sounds more complicated than it actually is.

Anyway, right or wrong, good or bad, the location is in our back yard - in Phoenix where it's bright and sunny almost every day. Morning light in my chosen spot is what I'd describe as strong sun beams through trees from the left. Afternoon has the sun on the right, and there is a line of large trees which put the yard into shadow. I *think* afternoon would be a better time for shooting as the light is more even?

And how much light is too much? And how many lights? For example, yesterday I experimented using only two lights, both 100W halogen floods. Today I used only a 500W work light. These seem to produce lots of light but also cast shadows. Does that indicate I should move the lights closer, further away, reposition more to the sides, more to the middle, higher, lower? Is there a rule of thumb? What about a back light?


Brian Drysdale October 9th, 2007 01:23 PM

Outdoors you need more powerful lights, although in the early morning and late evening you can get away with less. Using tungsten lights you need to put on a full CTB gel ton convert it to daylight. However, if you're working on a budget it would be better to use reflectors rather than lights. These can be hard reflectors that produce a shadow like a mirror, or various types of softer reflector. You can easily make your own using 1" thick poly insulating sheets from your local DIY.

A 500watt tungsten light converted to daylight for an exterior isn't going much in full sunlight other than some fill on a close up. Even a 2K blonde struggles to do much more. To create soft daylight on exteriors you need large lights.

The usual lights used on film productions for exteriors are HMI daylight lights. The 575 watt HMI roughly produces a similar amount of light to a 2k tungsten corrected to daylight. They go up to 18k.

Seun Osewa October 9th, 2007 01:24 PM

For outdoor shoots, you should use a reflector.
You can't compete with direct sunlight; besides, it's cheap. ;)

Paul Nixon October 9th, 2007 02:05 PM

Many thanks! After more experimentation I'm glad I asked. I was starting to wonder about the lights for outdoors - the electricity bill would probably exceed my envisioned "budget".

A reflector - I've seen these in several "Making of" type videos. Poly sheets from the local home improvement store, eh? Hmmm, does the shape matter?

The reflector has a few other rather obvious advantages - light weight and more or less easy to handle, and since they require no electricity I can do some shooting in the park next door without a hassle.

Any idea how much of this material I might need? I know they sell it in sheets like plywood - 4'x8'. I think I've also seen smaller sizes.

Anyway, much appreciate the feedback.

Brian Drysdale October 9th, 2007 02:31 PM

Shape diesn't matter unless you see it reflected in the subject's eyes. For ease of transport 4'x4' is the easiest, although full sheets are commonly used.

If you paint the other side matte black you can also use it as a flag - just don't use it too close to a light. Also for negative fill - reducing the amount of fill light.

One problem is that they tend to blow in the wind, so you need plenty of support.

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