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Can we save money by shooting outside?

Everyone is on a budget, so it’s reasonable to ask, “Can we save money by shooting outside?” After all, won’t it be simpler without all those lights?

You’re wondering if shooting your video outside can save you some money? Before we can answer that question, there’s another question we need to ask. That question is:

What kind of content do you want to shoot outside, b-roll or narrative?

If you need to shoot b-roll outside, then with some caveats, it’s probably not a big deal. But if you need to shoot a narrative, then…

There are 2 potential problems you’ll face when shooting outside: lighting and sound.

We’ll talk about sound next time, but for now, let’s focus our attention on the lighting challenges of shooting outside.

The Lighting Challenges of Filming Outside:

In order to understand the those challenges, we need to understand the 3 characteristics of outdoor lighting.

The 3 Characteristics of Outdoor Light:

  • Shifting Brightness

Natural light includes direct sun, overcast, and shade–each of which is very different in it’s brightness and can radically shift without notice.

  • Moving Angles

From the time the sun rises, to the moment it disappears over the horizon, it is constantly in motion. That means the angles of the sun and the shadows it casts are constantly moving.

  • Changing Color

As the sun moves across the horizon, the color temperature of its light also changes, so in essence the color outside is constantly changing as well.

It’s these 3 characteristics of outdoor light that make shooting a video with natural light unpredictable and inconsistent. But why is that such a big deal? Can you not just fix all of that in post production/editing?

A common problem with that is that…

A narrative film is usually shot with a single camera. The same scene is shot from different angles or set ups and at different times. Then when the film is edited (learn more about editing here!) all of those different angles are combined into a single story line. The way that works is all the wide shots for a scene are filmed first, followed by medium or close-up shots.

With all of that in mind, if the brightness, angle or color temperature of the outdoor lighting is different from shot to shot it will be very noticeable and consequently lead your viewers to be distracted and start thinking more about what’s wrong and the actual story you’re telling in your video.

The Good News:

There are ways to address all of these outdoor lighting challenges.

The Bad News:

It usually requires more planning, more crew, more equipment, more time, and more money. While we don’t always notice it, outdoor lighting is not consistent. It is organic and constantly changing. So, the short answer is, “no”. You usually can’t save money by shooting outside.


If you have questions about shooting your video outside, send me an email to

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