Outdoor Shots Gone Wrong? Avoid These Cinematography Catastrophes

Outdoor Shots Gone Wrong? Avoid These Cinematography Catastrophes

Outdoor cinematography offers a wealth of opportunities for breathtaking visuals, but it also presents unique challenges that can derail even the most well-planned shoot. From unpredictable weather to uncontrollable lighting, outdoor shoots require meticulous planning and a keen eye for detail. To help you avoid common pitfalls, here’s a guide to steering clear of outdoor cinematography catastrophes.

Out of Balance

Proper balancing is critical when shooting handheld, but outdoor elements like unfamiliar surfaces and unstable footing make it much easier to upset your camera’s center of gravity. Relying too heavily on cameras not designed for fieldwork also invites the shake. The ZHIYUN Crane 4 camera stabilizer helps address this challenge with features like precise balance calibration indicators. New intelligent balance lights provided on the motors give a timely reminder for accurate balancing. If unlevel, the corresponding shaft motor light will indicate which direction to adjust the balance. Relying too heavily on cameras not designed for rigorous fieldwork also invites the shake. When scouting locales, test your balance on each surface to avoid shaky shots later.

Too Dark, Too Bright

Ever start shooting only to find your exposure is way off? Outdoor lighting brings less control and can fool even experienced cinematographers. The compact yet powerful ZHIYUN CINEPEER CX100 photography light helps address this, fitting easily into any setup. Despite its small size, it delivers up to 100W of brightness through its wide color temperature range. The intuitive dual-dial control provides precise adjustment for seamlessly adapting to changing outdoor lighting conditions. Be prepared to adjust quickly for changing sun or clouds with ND filters and bracketing. Also watch for extreme contrast between lit and shadow areas that may require additional photography lighting solutions. Scout at the same time of day planned for filming.


Blown Away Audio

With ambient noise from wind, wildlife and more, clean outdoor audio is tough. Use deadcat-style fuzz covers and position mics away from noise sources. Record a few seconds of ambient sound before rolling to have a clean background replacement. For interviews, try using a portable recorder with lav mics instead of relying on camera audio alone.


Technical Troubles

Heat, dust, moisture and shocks pose real threats to delicate electronics out in nature. Make backups of all memory cards and files. Consider protective cases, rain sleeves or sealed systems. Drones especially require safe, legal flying areas free of interference. Spare batteries are also smart as the elements can drain power faster.

Uncontrollable Weather

Sudden storms, high winds or other drastic shifts in weather can ruin an entire day of filming. Check extended forecasts to pick stable days or have contingency plans. Portable green screens allow reshoots indoors, or widen shots to incorporate atmospheric conditions aesthetically rather than fighting them. Invest in easily transportable weatherproof gear too.


Inconsistent Scenes

Natural environments are dynamic, and slight changes can create inconsistencies between takes. Moving clouds, changing tides, and shifting shadows can all contribute to continuity.

Avoiding the Catastrophe

  1. Continuity Plan: Assign a crew member to monitor continuity. They should note details like shadow placement, background elements, and actor positioning to ensure consistency.
  2. Shot Lists: Develop detailed shot lists and storyboards to plan each shot meticulously, reducing the chance of overlooking minor changes.
  3. Flexible Filming Schedule: Allow extra time in your schedule to reshoot scenes if environmental conditions change significantly.



Outdoor cinematography offers incredible opportunities for stunning visuals and dynamic scenes, but it also comes with a unique set of challenges. By anticipating common pitfalls and preparing for them, you can avoid many of the catastrophes that befall outdoor shoots. Remember, the key to successful outdoor cinematography is preparation, flexibility, and a proactive approach to problem-solving. With these strategies in hand, you’re well on your way to capturing breathtaking outdoor shots without the headaches.


Bonus Tip: Always keep a positive attitude and be ready to adapt. Outdoor shoots rarely go exactly as planned, but with a resourceful mindset and a willingness to improvise, you can turn unexpected challenges into creative opportunities. Happy shooting!




Q: What camera settings should I use for outdoor shooting?

A: Adjust your ISO to be as low as possible to reduce noise, use a fast shutter speed to capture movement, and set your aperture based on the desired depth of field. Utilize ND filters to manage exposure in bright conditions.

Q: What can I do to ensure good audio quality outdoors?

A: Use external microphones, such as shotgun or lapel mics, with windshields to reduce wind noise. Monitor audio levels with headphones during recording.

Q: What basic equipment do I need for outdoor photography?

A: Essential gear includes a camera (DSLR or mirrorless), various lenses (wide-angle, telephoto), a tripod, filters (like polarizers, ND filters), extra batteries, and memory cards.

Q: What are some tips for composing outdoor shots?

A: Use the rule of thirds, look for leading lines, incorporate foreground elements, and pay attention to symmetry and patterns in nature.

Q: What post-processing tips are useful for outdoor photos?

A: Adjust exposure, contrast, and saturation carefully, use software like Lightroom or Photoshop for fine-tuning, and consider using HDR techniques to balance highlights and shadows.