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Tips for Dealing With Low Natural Light

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/27/2009

Here are a few tips for how to deal with low natural light when filming digital video.

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    Going Natural

    A good digital video camera is one that can get a quality, usable image without much light. This also includes the right balance of receiving and processing both contrast and color. If you are not using any kind of artificial light, such as a portable light kit or a fitted Chimera, you will just have to go with what is on sight in terms of natural light.

    Natural light can be an enemy of the videographer because it creates an element in the image that you are not in control of. With this natural light ends up being an unpredictable force that you rely on, and at the same time you can never expect it to act perfectly. There are some ways, however, to deal with low natural light when you are in this kind of situation.

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    Light Reflectors

    When you have low natural light you can try and redirect some of the beams with reflectors. This can be a number of different things and if you want to use more direct and obvious beams you can employ foil reflectors. Many of these utilize different colors to alter the natural light and give it a tone that you may not have had before. For example, a gold reflector circle will give human subject a tanner look with the natural light. If you want a more subtle reflector, as when you just want to bring up the skin tone of human subject and of soft light throughout, you can just use a white card. This white card can simply be a white poster board and is often what you might use to white balance your digital video camera.

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    White Balance

    It is exactly that element that may be the most important. A proper white balance will correct the color of the image so that you can maximize the natural light. If you white balance at the correct, yet darkened, location that will exist as “true white” in the camera. This ends up lightening the entire image because the darkened white was told to the camera to exist as a proper white. White balance needs to be done in all situations, yet it is especially important when you do not have perfect light.

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    The easiest way to deal with dark natural light is to lower the iris. This will allow you to let even more light in, yet you have to make sure that you do not get any kind of light source in here and possibly even back up the camera from the subject. You can also lower shutter speed to lighten the image, yet this will lower the frame rate of the motion and make it appear blurred.