Category: Beauty

Using Natural Light For Your Documentary Video Production

Quite often using natural light for your documentary video production is your only option. Bringing in lights and a lot of equipment and taking time to set everything up just isn’t feasible on many documentaries or docuseries.

That’s true for both feature documentaries and business docu-style videos where you’re filming interviews with busy executives and/or customers and you have a very short window of time to get your shot so you better move quickly! In these situations it’s essential to master the art of ‘using what you got’ which means making the most of natural light.

I seem to do a lot of shooting in natural light. Check out some of my photography.

Related: why your company needs a video series.

Making use of window light in a documentary video production

There are many aspects of using natural light, each deserving its own post. So in this article I’m going to focus on using window light. Why? Because a docu-style video is probably the most common and widely produced format of business videos. And what do just about all of them involve? Filming interviews in a room with a window!

3 different looks with window light

Depending upon where you place your subject and camera, you will be able to get 3 different looks using the light from the window. No matter the look you’re going for, you usually don’t want direct sunlight. That is, sunlight that comes through the window and directly shines on the subject. Unless of course, you’re going to use direct sunlight for a specific look.

Generally speaking though, you want indirect light which will give you the most pleasing results and provides more versatility, not to mention no additional exposure issues. The three lighting setups below are based on indirect lighting.

Side light

Side light enables you to create more form in the image as it produces the most shadows.

A man gives an interview to camera in a corporate documentary style video
Subject is lit by a big window on the right and is augmented by a soft light. An edge light is added on the left behind the interviewee

The subject has one side toward the window with the other side away. Depending upon the amount of light and where exactly the subject is placed will determine the amount of shadow.

Rotate the subject from 45° toward the window to parallel with it to 45° away from the window to attain the degree of drama you’re looking for.

Related: Hemp Already video docuseries.

a candid photo of a redheaded woman after getting her makeup done
In this shot, the window is on the left side with heavy shadows on the opposite side

Front light

When front lighting, the subject faces the window. The cinematographer or photographer has their back to the window, In other words, you’re between the window and the subject.

This set up creates very few shadows on your subject. When facial features aren’t defined by shadows it’s called “flat” lighting. Flat lighting may sound like a negative but it’s often a desired look like in beauty videos so you can see the makeup clearly. It’s also desirable in a corporate video production that wants a bright and happy feel.

Flat lighting is created when the subject faces diffused window light that is directly behind the camera


In backlit set ups, the window light is behind the subject and the camera faces it. This often results in the window light being blown out in the final image as the window light will be much brighter than the subject.

You can easily fix this by either bouncing light back on the subject with a reflector or by using a light. For interviews I usually don’t use a backlit set up and if I did, I would only do so when a more subtle backlight could be achieved.

Related: how to shoot beauty at the beach.

However, backlit shots are great for b-roll or other footage or images needed in your project. I certainly make use of them when the opportunity presents itself. For example, in the frame below we were filming a documentary video production about a musician at magic hour. The sun created a beautiful backlit scene for the conversation that was taking place.

The sun is behind the subjects and to the right, backlighting the scene and creating cool flares

So there you have it. Next time you’re scrambling to film your corporate video production with busy interviewees use the situation to your advantage and make use of natural light for your documentary video production.

About Gate5, a Los Angeles video production company

Gate5 is a creative video agency and full service video production company in Los Angeles producing high quality video content for the web, your social media outlets, kiosks and broadcast television.

We conceptualize, write scripts, secure locations and permits, cast actors, direct, film and edit commercial videos, narrative films, branded content, product and promotional videos, TV commercials, episodic content and live video streaming production.

Click here for Gate5 video samples.

If you have a commercial or a narrative project where you need a director and/or a video production company, feel free to contact me to discuss it to see how if we can work together on it.

Check out my photography here.

Best Beauty Videographer

The best beauty videographer in Los Angeles! Well, I suppose I should be more modest but that’s not good for SEO 🙂

I have a vast experience producing and directing beauty videos for makeup and cosmetics, hair and skin care clients. From big companies to small businesses, I can work with just about every budget level from simple social media productions that can be completed by a one-person crew on up to full productions for commercials.

Hire an Expert

My team at my production company, Gate5, are expert at creating video ads for Facebook and Instagram in addition to videos that will live on your website or youtube. If you’re looking to make videos to run on as ads on social media sites, it’s best to optimize the video and shoot and edit it with a square 1:1 aspect ratio on mind. Square videos on Facebook and Instagram have proven to get more views, likes and engagement than horizontal 16×9 videos do. The key is to film in 4k in the 16×9 mode, while maintaining safe framing for the 1:1 aspect ratio. Filming in 4k gives you a little more opportunity to reframe in editing for the square aspect. Then for your website and on youtube, we can then edit a 16×9 (or wider) version of the videos.

Need monthly social media content?

Need beauty videos on a monthly basis? We can provide cost effective monthly production plans for clients who need to post original and new content on a weekly and monthly basis. We can tailor a plan that fits your monthly budget while keeping quality high and communication with you easy breezy. Our aim as a top makeup videographer service is to have us feel like we are your in-house video production department!

Despite the cookie-cutter approach others may take, if you need monthly video content, there is no one-size-fits all. We’ll customize a solution specifically for you. As a starting point, check out the monthly plans I have on the Gate5 site.

For more tips and advice, this article from Falcon.IO contains some useful information to keep in mind when creating your video ads for social media. It has some common logic things, like ‘grab their attention early’ – really? Never heard that before when it comes to internet video but it’s a quick and worthwhile read.

About my production company Gate5

My video production company, Gate5 is a creative video agency in LA and full service video production company producing high quality sharable content for your social media outlets. We conceptualize, write scripts, direct, cast, film and edit viral videos, branded films, product and promotional videos, web and TV commercials, episodic content and live video streaming production.

Need a beauty video? Or other video? Contact me to discuss your project and for a quote.

Commercials and Fashion Films


How To Shoot Beauty At The Beach

How to shoot beauty at the beach – get a great model-actress like Hayley Pendergrass and get a great makeup artist like Thirati K! Problem solved.

Seriously, it’s hard to take a bad photo of Hayley. We went out to Long Beach with a vague idea for a short film and to shoot some beauty and fashion stills. We got lucky with it being overcast, which helped out for the beauty shots and later the sun came out just enough to help us out with the fashion shots. Thirati’s makeup perfectly complimented the mood and tone we were going for and the wardrobe. We used what we came across on the beach and used it for the improvised film we shot. It completely changed the idea we had in our heads but it worked out much better than if we had planned everything out. I was very happy with the film and the still photos. All-in-all a very fun and productive day.

It also gave me a chance to try out a 4k cinema camera that I bought last year but haven’t used a whole lot. I was very happy with the results and I figured out what I need to do to make it more ergonomic.

Got a narrative or commercial project? Contact me to discuss. I’d love to hear about it.

Check out Narrative stuff. Or Photography and Commercial and Fashion films.

Beauty Photographer

red lips on blonde model
female makeup model for beauty tutorial training video against dark background
female beauty model for makeup tutorial video

Beauty photographer and director Greg McDonald shot these frames for a cosmetics client in Los Angeles. The makeup video tutorials covered tips for makeup as well as for skin. Shooting the material in 5k and 6k resolution allows for the accurate representation of colors and detail of the applications and allows for still frames to be pulled from the footage for use in other marketing materials.

More in Photography. Commercials and Fashion films.

Want to talk about a project? Contact me.