This is article #33 in the DSLR Video Weekly series.  If you’d like the whole thing in one shot, check out the book Creating DSLR Video: From Snapshots to Great Shots.

Once you get the hang of video, be sure to monetize it by becoming a contributor to Adobe Stock.

A Shadow/Highlight adjustment lifts the skin tones for better contrast.

You’ll remember we discussed earlier of the differences between raw photos and unprocessed video.  Don’t panic, video is a pretty weak medium as far as color fidelity goes.  The compression formats used by your DSLR camera throw away a lot of information.  Unlike raw photos, which offer great controls to recover highlights and lift shadows, video tends to be lacking in these areas.

A Curves adjustment lifts the shadow areas and knocks down the highlights.  A small saturation boost restores the colors that are washed out.

When shooting, I tend to aim for the “boring middle.”  In other words, I don’t push my contrast too far when shooting video.  Rather, I try to get as much information into the image’s histogram.  Instead of applying picture or image styles to my footage in-camera, I strongly prefer to add all of my color grading and exposure manipulation during the editing stage.

A simple Auto adjustment using Curves restored proper contrast per channel.

Using Camera Controls to Control Exposure

Earlier, I examined exposure in depth (if you skipped that, I suggest reading it now). Here I’ll review my approach to handle exposure when shooting in bright outdoor light. The following steps show the order in which I tackle the problem of getting a proper exposure.

  1. Make sure the camera is in Manual shooting mode.
  2. Set the shutter speed to a 1/50h of a second for 24 or 25 fps material or 1/60h of a second for 30 fps sources.
  3. Set the ISO to 100 to start. This is the base ISO for outdoor lighting.
  4. Adjust the f-stop to taste until the correct depth of field is set for the aesthetic look you want to capture.
  5. Refine the exposure by either increasing the ISO if the image is too dark or by decreasing the shutter speed to let in less light.
  6. Take a still photo for reference, and then examine the image using the built-in histograms to see the relevant details.
  7. Adjust and remeasure the scene until you’re happy with the exposure.
You can use the built-in scopes of your camera to check exposure.  Just shoot a reference still before rolling video.

When to Use Filters

Sometimes when shooting outdoors, you’ll just have too much light (this is particularly true if you’re using a full-frame sensor like the Canon 5D Mark IV).  Even after setting the ISO to a low rating (around 100), you may have issues and still need to lose some additional stops.

What’s the answer?  Filters.  You can add an additional layer of glass over the lens to get the exposure down to where you need it. Try using neutral density (ND) filters or polarizers to pull down the overall exposure. You can also use graduated filters to help control exposure in select areas of the frame (like the sky or a bright sandy beach).


The use of a neutral density filter can really cut down on exposure problems when shooting outdoors.

A slightly more expensive option that offers the most flexibility is to use a variable ND filter, which screws on to the end of your lens. You can then further rotate it to adjust its density.  These types of filters can knock down your exposure an additional 2–8 stops.

Join us each Saturday for the next installment of this weekly series.

Once you get the hang of video, be sure to monetize it by becoming a contributor to Adobe Stock.