Lighting Breakdown: Filming an Interview Outdoors with NO Lights | Sony FX3 and FX30

Gear I Used In This Setup


Starting off, I exposed the cameras for the background, but it was a cloudy golden hour, so the exposure was inconsistent. Sometimes it was a perfect golden hour; then, a cloud would move in front of the sun and underexpose everything. That's where I tried to control the lighting the best I could, but we weren't allowed to use any lights here since it was private property, and we only had an hour to set up, shoot, and take down all of this. And we couldn't use lights or flashes.


The composition was challenging. We were literally in a parking lot looking at a building in Cleveland. With the limited time, there wasn’t an exciting scene that we were able to shoot at this time, so we had to make one. I leaned on the positioning of the car, Jake, and the buildings in the background for this shot. I positioned his car so sunlight would hit the far side, and shadows would hit the side closest to the camera. Then positioned him the same, and so his highlight side intersected the shadow side of his car for some contrast and breaking up the lines of his car. Adjusted the height and tilt so he would intersect the lines of the building in the background on both cameras and called it a day. Could it have been better, I’m sure - but this was what I was working with.


When it came to the lighting here, like I said - we were only using diffusion and negative fill.


For the key, I used the sun and some diffusion. This is a 6x6 scrim and I’m not sure what the actual diffusion cloth is but it cuts out a lot of light. This is a pretty affordable kit that I bought a while ago, it’s not the highest quality but it’s pretty fast to setup and breaks down to a small travel bag. It can set up a 4 x4, 6x6, or 8x8, and has a silk for each setup and ears for the c-stands. We were in a hurry, so we skipped a few bungees and it worked fine.

The moving clouds were difficult to work around, but that's where the negative fill helped with the contrast a bit.

Negative Fill

Using a floppy to help pull some light from his shadow side helped add more contrast even when the sun went behind the clouds. It doesn't get any easier than putting a floppy on a stand and opening it up. I should have used another c-stand here, but we were moving quickly and a light stand was put out, so I just put a grip head on the end and called it a day. I love this matthbounce, but if you will be using this, make sure to bring some clips to weigh down the bottom edge so it’s not flailing in the wind. I wish they put grommets or something on here to tie it down, but I’ve been using cheap harbor freight clips that work fine.

Getting The Subject To Sit Still

When the lighting changes and you’re setting up the cameras in a particular spot, keeping people from moving around is tough. Filming someone sitting is much easier than filming someone standing, so I set up an apple box for him to sit on and keep the composition with the car and building in the background. Standing up would have been a different angle looking down on him to get his car in frame.

I had the negative fill as close to him as I could possibly get while still being just out of frame, so I didn’t want him moving around. The 40x80 inch matthbouce is great for a single person, but it would have been nice to have a larger negative fill to remove even more light.


For audio, this was such a quick shot, I ended up going with a DJI mic with a wireless lav. This is by far the easiest way to set up audio as a one man band, since all you have to do is glance over at the transmitter to make sure the levels are still in a proper range.


For cameras, I was using the Sony FX3 with a 50mm 1.2, and a Sony FX30 with the Tamron 17-70mm. Each camera had a Freewell matte box or K2 filters with ND’s and a 1/8th glow mist filter. Had to go pretty tight with this one, since there was a giant tree on one side and a dumpster on the other, but going with a tighter focal length allowed me to get the negative fill closer to the subject as well.

Overall, I’m happy with how this turned out. We were fighting time, and limitations of the location. With this being such a short clip, we wanted to go in and set up, film, and tear down as fast as we possibly could.

About Keith Knittel

I'm a designer from Cleveland, Ohio and love to shoot photos & videos. I made my first website in 2004 to show friends photos & videos (before YouTube/Flickr/Instagram were things) and have been shooting and designing ever since! I have a deep passion for making and helping others create.

View my full About Me

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