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Shooting in Summer Sun

The summer sun can be a real scene spoiler. High in the sky for much of the day, old Sol throws shadows so harsh that even run-and-gun videographers begin to wish they were traveling with a full kit of scrims, reflectors and HMI lights.

But it doesn’t always take a truck full of lighting gear to improve the look of interviews and other scenes involving close-ups of faces when the sun is overhead. One simple alternative is to choose a camera position that puts the sun directly behind the subject and adjust your exposure for a backlit scene. Standing back to the sun, the subject’s face will be free of contrasty shadows.

You’ll be able to keep the entire scene evenly exposed if you’re able to find a dark background, but don’t be afraid to over-expose the background and let the camera’s clipping circuits take care of that too-bright sky.

Shots made under direct backlighting can be easily enhanced by positioning a folding reflector above the camera and bouncing some indirect sunshine onto the subject’s face. Lens flare, an occasional problem in this sort of setup, can be countered by holding the reflector so it casts a shadow on the lens.

To fight lens flare when you don’t have a reflector—or even a free hand—a temporary flag can be fashioned out of piece of cardboard and fastened to the camera body or lens with gaffers tape. My favorite solution involves a strip of Velcro permanently fixed atop my lens hood and a complementary piece of the tape-backed sticky fabric (available at office supply stores) on a rectangular piece of black anodized aluminum scavenged from a cast-off barndoor.