Follow these steps to properly expose for a subject sitting in front of a window or other light source.

In this video tutorial, Harv walks us through avoiding blown-out, distracting light coming from a window in an interior scene. It’s a problem we’ve all dealt with at some point or another. If you’re working with a standard DSLR, it could be difficult to expose the shot properly, so let’s dive in.


Step 1. Shoot in Log (S-Log)

Tips for Capturing Backlit Subjects Indoors on Your Next Shoot — S-Log

If your camera has the capability, Harv recommends shooting in Log, RAW, or with a high bit rate. Harv shoots in S-Log, which allows much more dynamic range and better footage to color grade. After you’ve added a little contrast and saturation, the shot should be fine. Not great, not terrible, just fine.

Step 2. Use Masking

Tips for Capturing Backlit Subjects Indoors on Your Next Shoot — Masking
Image via Warner Bros.

Another great solution is to mask and motion-track your subjects. If your shot has movement, tracking your subject will be another step in the post-production process. In the last Harry Potter film, the filmmakers masked out the moving subject and tracked their movements while lowering the exposure all around the character, lending an ominous feel to the shot.

A negative aspect of this approach is that combining two differently exposed shots (after you’ve masked out the subject) and putting them together can create kind of a weird “HDR” type of shot.

Step 3. Use Actual Lighting

Tips for Capturing Backlit Subjects Indoors on Your Next Shoot — Actual Lighting

To capture the best possible lighting, using your lights might be the inevitable solution. One hiccup you might run into is matching color temperature between the lights and the sunlight coming in from outside. Balance the unevenness of your lighting as best you can. If the temperatures of the lights don’t match up, consider using gels.

Step 4. Reduce the Amount of Light

Tips for Capturing Backlit Subjects Indoors on Your Next Shoot — Reduce Light

A simple-yet-obvious solution for lowering the power of light coming through a window is to put an ND sheet over the window. To avoid the sheets appearing on camera, make sure you attach the ND sheet to the outside of the house. In general, ND filters and gels are a cheap, viable solution for dealing with unpredictable changes in exposure.

After you’ve tried each of these, you might even consider shooting in S-Log 2 or 3, lighting your subject, and reducing the amount of light spilling in from the window.


Do you have any other tips for properly exposing an indoor shot like this? Let us know in the comments.