Should I light an outdoor beach scene?


New member
Hi, I'm new to the whole lighting thing. I'm filming on location at a beach.
Should I light it? I know the sun is often used as key light and then you use a fill light but does it make a difference?

Should I?


good question

good question

Great question cedrictonk,
The short answer is No...ish.
The more appropriate answer is:
When shooting in bright sunlight, I find it easier (and much more cost effective) to bring lots of white bounce-boards to bounce the sunlight onto your subjects. I use foam-board (like for your science-fair project). I'm never satisfied with "good enough" so I sprayed adhesive over the back & pressed aluminum foil to provide a shiny side for even more powerful lighting.

There are a few things I check for to ensure the best possible picture. My first step is to reduce hard shadows on the face, especially under the eyes. To achieve a sense of depth, make sure one side of the face is brighter than the other (aka key light). The shadows on the other side (fill light) give the greatest sense of depth. In this situation, the key light is the sun and the fill light is the reflected light from your bounce board. Remember, the viewer doesn't see *anything* outside the camera's view...take advantage of that hiding space to have someone hold (or prop-up) a bounce board, and you'll have it made.

As a side note, try to avoid partially shady areas. You'll never be able to get a good exposure in that kind of environment. Remember, you're the filmmaker and you decide where the action takes place.

With that in mind, it's important to not try to get rid of ALL the shadows...they play an important role in achieving a beautiful picture!

Happy shooting & best wishes,


New member
It's funny because Grips usually get giddy whenever they go out to do an exterior scene.... that's mainly when the cables are put away and it becomes more about controlling light.

On professional shoots you might see them lighting an exterior shot but that's mainly because they don't have the time to spend with changing light conditions etc. Lighting for daylight however is very expensive.

Like ryanfyffe said, Reflectors and bounce are your friends. However though the best way to "light" in exteriors is just to place the actors so the light looks just right on them. Also if you shoot early in the morning (for a regular day shot) or late in the afternoon (for a sunset shot) you will get the best effects. Avoid NOON like the PLAGUE!.

A nice trick is to get a bunch of PVC pipe and then put a large white sheet over it. You can use it as a tent to shield the actors from direct sunlight... it's a weird option but it works if you MUST shoot at NOON.

Also careful with the beach... SAND + Cameras = NO GOOD!


I 100% agree with this sentence "SAND + Cameras = NO GOOD!". But if you have a real good camera with auto color adjustment then I don't think so you will face any problem at the beach.
Hello Cedrictonk,

As many have said, there is no exact answer to your question. If your beach scene looks, and more importantly feels, right with no lighting done, then go with it. If there are cosmetic issues, or the light is not in the right place, then we must often "light" it. I, personally, try to do as little as possible with respect to lighting day exteriors, and so it then becomes more about anti-lighting. By anti-lighting, I mean the literal taking away, be it completely, or with a softener (silk, full grid, etc.) of unwanted light, and then beginning anew. This can be most time consuming, if it is even possible, and so might not even be an option. The trick for me then, as I stated, is to try to schedule the shoot so that you are looking in the right directions, based on sun, at the right times for what looks best for your dramatic needs...
Once again, really try to analyze your story, and emotional and dramatic content when determining this. You may be trying to make something look beautiful and romantic, which should be ugly and harsh to be in sync with your story...