Tips and Tricks for Outdoor Productions
June 29, 2018
By Michelle Maslanka • Producer

Summertime lends itself to an increase in opportunity for outdoor productions. While we love the four seasons of Chicago weather, and each provide their own beautiful backdrop for video, summer gives us the longest daylight of the year and typically most consistent warm weather. In any season, however, there are challenges to filming outdoors. Here are some tips and tricks to consider to help your next outdoor shoot go smoothly.


Sound Advice: Audio

Capturing audio in any environment can prove challenging, but new obstacles arise during outdoor shoots. There is always going to be uncontrollable noise outdoors, from traffic to airplanes, and winds to birds/insects. These additional noises don’t necessarily need to be a bad thing, as it can give the recording a sense of place, but it does need to be managed. Wind noise can completely destroy your audio unless it is managed. Windscreens on microphones can help cut down noise and is a must on outdoor shoots. There are a variety of windscreens and your shooting conditions and budget may affect which one is best for your shoot.


Mother Nature is Not a Reliable Crew Member: Weather

Even in the summer, Chicago can have unpredictable weather. It is possible for it to be mild and sunny, and then cold and raining, all within the course of a few hours. Therefore, it is wise to have a backup location in mind. For instance, let's say that we intend to shoot a series of interviews on a golf course. If the clouds are rolling in, and suddenly decides to shower on a day that was slated to be only “partly cloudy”, is there an indoor clubhouse that the interviews can be relocated to? Having this backup already in place avoids the trouble associated with having to scramble the day of the shoot. Unfortunately, relocating a shoot may not always be possible if the scene is outdoor-specific. In this case, keep a close eye on the weather in the days leading up to the shoot. It may be in everyone’s best interest to reschedule the shoot in advance.


Light ‘Em Up: Lighting

Different types of lighting will affect the “look” of your video. You may be surprised to learn that the ideal lighting scenario for an outdoor video is often an overcast day. Shooting on overcast days helps achieve some of the best lighting. Sunny days can cause harsh shadows and can be difficult to manage. Pieces of gear such as flags, reflectors, and diffusion can be extremely helpful in controlling an uncontrollable light source (the sun). Often large artificial lighting will also be needed to complete an outdoor lighting setup.

The time of day will affect your lighting as well, and knowing when sunrise and sunset happen can be important to your shoot. “Magic Hour” is the time of day just after sunrise or immediately prior to sunset. During this tiny window, there is still light in the sky, but the sun is too low for its rays to strike the subject directly. Therefore, all of the light produced is indirect and soft. Additionally, the light at this time of day is warmer, as the Earth's atmosphere is filtering out much of the blue and green wavelengths. This additional warmth is something that many find aesthetically pleasing.

Pro Tips:

Pack Light: Things are almost always on the move and more spread out than a contained indoor shoot.

ND It Up!: It's a bright day, but the client still wants their shallow depth of field at a f/2.8! Block out that sun to keep images looking pretty and not overexposed with Neutral Density filters.

Extra Crew: Flags, silks, and diffusion become pirate sails in even the slightest wind, so extra sandbags and crew are necessary to keep everyone safe.


The biggest challenge when shooting outdoors is the lack of control. By keeping a few of these ideas in mind, you can set your next outdoor shoot up for success!