Achieving “natural” bounce result in a daylight scenario

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Home Forums Lighting Achieving “natural” bounce result in a daylight scenario

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    Max A.

      Hello Mr Deakins and all the members of this fantastic forum. First of all, I hope you Mr.Deakins and Mrs.James are well.
      I would like to ask if it is possible, a kind of “advice” when shooting under a high and direct sun.
      I agree with you about “avoiding” diffusion on subjects (except having the budget and ability to place them so high), but in some low-budget “commercial” products that I’ve shot some producer or agency tended to “suggest” me to have a soft light especially for women talents.

      My question though is about achieving a “natural” face exposure in a backlight scenario. Now, I know that it’s all about the mood and the contrast that we want to give to the scene and single shoots (sometimes we want to be totally under for a purpose) but I found that in some cases when I used bounces for give back the faces a bit of exposure (even muslin or bed sheets) this feels to me a bit “unnatural” both for the light that hit back the face and also because some talent squint their eyes when receive back a light bounce and I don’t like the result (the same sensation as for the diffusion close to the subject or overhead in a full daylight scene).

      In a low-budget feature that I’ve shot two years ago, I wanted that the direct sun to hit the subjects, and since the first shoot was a wide shot and the sun (related to the subjects’ positions) was in a position to be a side-light for everyone I used “big” reflectors frame (a 4X4 Meters and a 2X2 with some 2X1 poly in row) to wrap light on subjects face. The result was to me pretty decent and not unnaturally “lit”.
      So is the key to using big reflectors from a distance for this kind of scenario? Of course, the floor or the ground plays a big role in this situation, I often use black cloths under the subjects to limit the light under the chin that I don’t like.

      I attach some frames from different movies you shoot in full daylight situations in which I feel the result that you achieve is natural and “real”.

      As I said before I know that there is not one single formula and that every shot/situation/location and reflectivity/time of the day/skin/is different, I just want to ask you Mr. Deakins, and also who wants to join the conversation a sort of advice (based on your experiences) to feel more confident in this kind of situation.

      As always I want to thank you for your time and availability.
      I apologize for my bad English and If the question is too broad and vague.

      I wish you a peaceful day,

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    • #215620

        Great question, Max, looking forward to responses.


          Big sources really far away sounds like a good starting point. And then controlling the amount of fill to what feels natural and not too much.

          Sometimes I see light situations on the street which look pretty unnatural and lit on a camera to me. for example: the sun hits a bright white wall very close to a subject giving a fill or even a key light from an angle which doesn’t feel natural. Or the sun hits a highly reflective glass surface very far away thereby creating a strong beam of reflected sunlight on a subject at an angle and intensity which feels “not right” – even if it is, by definition, happening naturally.

          Roger Deakins

            Other than the fall-off of the light, a big source far away is similar to a small source close in. Only one of those references has a bounce source wrapping extra light on the face. And  am not saying which one that was.

            The blocking of a scene and the choice of the time of day are key. Why is one character backlit and the other in full sun? That is a conscious choice.

            Max A.

              I’m sorry for the delayed answer. Thank you very much for your reply Mr.Deakins.

              If I have to guess which shot has a bounce source maybe I would say the one of “True Grit”, but the fact that to me it is not so evident is proof of the natural result of the other shots that I uploaded as reference.

              Thank you for your lesson about the blocking and the “right” time of the day to have the “right” light, I also think it is the first aspect to consider during scouting, the second step is to talk to the director and “suggest” the right blocking for the light.

              If I can extend this topic, I would like to ask you, if it is possible, your narrative point of view about the choice to have one character backlight or full sun or backlight, etc.
              Of course, there is not a single formula or a single “convention” and more often (as was for me also if I have shot only two low-budget features) the story suggests inspirations, but do you always think about the narrative point that you want to achieve when choosing to have a character in a position related to the sun or sometimes (maybe if that point of the story doesn’t seem to request a “precise dramatic light”) you think about your subject and background to have a shot with a “nice light”?

              For instance, (and this is only an instance) why do you choose to have the character in a 3/4 backlight in the last still of NCFOM?

              As always I want to thank you for your time and patience, it is priceless.
              I apologize for my bad English.

              I wish you a peaceful Sunday,

              Roger Deakins

                We chose to shoot Josh and the river in the morning as it would then be back lit and fit more directly with the timeline of the sequence. It was only a matter of the time we made it to the location and the composition of the shot that led him to be three quarter back lit. I would have preferred the light to be shining on the river as a direct backlight.


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