Hello again, it has been awhile.
Recently, I shot FUERTE III and nearly the entire film is shot at night, outside. Those two words, “night” and “outside”, are some of the worst words a budding filmmaker can hear…if he/she is not prepared. Luckily, you can learn from my mistakes on this film to teach yourself how to conquer night shoots.
LIGHT, LIGHT, LIGHT (LIGHT!)
Good lighting is absolutely essential to making your image clear and thematic. Proper lighting is what will seperate you film from the others, as it will leave your image clean and sharp, instead of filled with noise and dark in unwanted areas. Blacks will be smooth and full, and your characters will be visible and well contrasted.
My rule of thumb (after shooting in poor conditions on the set of FUERTE: UNMASTERED) is to bring at least three good lights at effective angles to properly illuminate the shot. But, if you cannot get good lights, like this LED light, your smartphone’s flashlight actually can be quite effective (though not a long term solution).
SCOUT THE LOCATION LIKE A HAWK
Nearly every outdoors area looks good during the day in bright sun (or even under heavy cloud coverage). However, as you can guess, that changes at night. Once the stars come out, you’ll need to see where the best angles to point the camera are. Even getting the smallest percentage of light from a particular angle can mean the difference between a good and bad shot.
WATCH THE ISO
ISO is a setting on DSLR and other high end cameras which basically sets how much light can come into the frame. But, it can create artificial light to make up the, and thus give the image a grainy look.
An extreme example is shown below:
To combat that, only manipulate the exposure and aperture, and leave the ISO on AUTO. On my Canon T6i, the exposure is the wheel right behind the ISO button. The aperture can be adjusted by holding down the AV button on the back and manipulating the same wheel.
Very simple, but this is really all you need to know. Fix your camera settings, learn the location and get some light.