May 15

Using Natural Light in Your Video Production

You have tons of options when it comes to lighting. My favorite? Take advantage of existing light. Shooting under natural light saves lots of time and effort. Done right, your video will still look professionally shot.

sunset sunrise

Taking advantage of natural light is very simple, lots simpler than lugging around a heavy light kit. Using artificial lights can give you a great look, but it also adds a lot of work to the process. I sometimes thought I was caught in an endless cycle:

  • Set lights up.
    Tear lights down.
    Lug lights around.
    Set them up.
    Tear them down.
    One more time.
    Drat, that’s just a two-prong plug and my adapter is not in the light kit case!

Yup, using natural light is a great strategy. But as easy as this technique is, I see people messing it up ALL THE TIME.

Here are a few tips to make the lazy gal’s strategy of relying on natural light work. First, take a look at these two pictures I took of an interview set-up using natural light from just the windows and doors.

Here is the back end video of an interview setup with natural light.  The window blinds were raised and the was door opened, so both could be used to their maximum lighting capacity.

Here is how the interview set-up looked from the front. Once the window and door are cropped out of the picture, the light falling on the interview subject (chair) is nice and bright.

Interview setting from the front. The light falling on the interview subject is nice and bright.


First, choose the brightest section of the room to shoot in. Where are all the existing windows and lamps? Turn on as many lamps as the room has and open all the blinds and doors to increase your overall light. But then, DO NOT PUT YOUR SUBJECT IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW OR LIGHTS. This creates a silhouette. I cringe when I see people doing this and they do it a lot. Perhaps you want a silhouette, but generally, that’s reserved for child molesters and others who want to hide their identity.

Here is an example of how light coming from BEHIND the subject creates a silhouette. Although it can be a very nice effect, it is usually NOT what you want.

example of silhouette back lighting.
Classic silhouette back lighting.

The light source should always be behind or to the side of the camera. The light should be on your subject, not behind them. Put your subject near the window where the light falls on them, not behind them. As you can see from the pictures of the interview, the chair is placed close to the window so the light falls on the person’s face. The window is to the SIDE of the interview subject.

Place your subject close to the window and then, crop the window out of your picture.

Common horizontal window blinds look hideous on video, crop them out. Video cameras really hate detailed patterns of straight lines, which is what window blinds are. Digital video is not good with highly detailed patterns of any kind; it’s simply too much information for the camera to handle.

lighting example


Relying on natural light requires you to study your surroundings. Using natural light helps your production in many ways. First, it’s easier and less time-consuming, and therefore cheaper. Two, your on-camera people will feel more comfortable without 10,000 watts of light blinding them and giving them a sunburn. The comfort of your on-camera people is more than just a courtesy, it’ll help them act naturally, which is usually best for the watch-ability of your video. If you have an extremely bright room naturally, your video will look great if you simply take advantage of your windows.

interview setup chair


Using natural light is also a good strategy for dealing with large shooting areas. If you’re going to be shooting a high school basketball game, don’t even think about lighting the gym artificially unless you have a huge budget. An area the size of a basketball gym would be very hard to light well, and you’re better off just shooting in natural light. If you tried just lighting one small area of the gym, then the video shot there would have such a different look to it that it wouldn’t blend in that well with the rest of the video shot under natural light. In a situation like this, zoomed-in close-ups might look a little dark, so try to stay on your wide angle lens which helps your shots look brighter.

Thanks for reading Video Production Tips

Lorraine Grula


video camera on tripod


how to make video, Lighting for Video, Quality Lighting for Video, using natural light, Video Production Tips, videotaping an interview

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