Creating a high-end look with no lights

Case study of a low-budget commercial


I was asked by Najka Pictures to shoot a commercial for a new app called Togee. The finished film would be used to bring in investors.

Most of the film was going to take place outdoors and one of the main goals was to give a joyous feeling about the app. Kind of like a Coca Cola-commercial but we also had to show what functions the app had.

To achieve this happy feeling I wanted it to be bright, backlit and vibrant. With these principles in place, we set out for pre-production.


Like everybody who has ever done a film shoot knows, planning is one of the most important aspects of having a successful shoot. Especially when you are working outside where the strongest source of light will be the sun. A light that you have no control over and moves slowly over the course of a day. This can either be a problem or you can use it to your benefit.

Getting the most out of the sun

This was the single most important part of shooting this video and it’s an effective way of getting a high-end look when working outdoors. I knew that since we were doing the whole shoot over the course of one day we would have to plan very well for when we shot what and especially in regards to where the sun was in the sky at that time.

On the day of scouting we quickly settled for a lake where we had many locations to our disposal and also locations that could work during different times of the day. We walked around the lake and I used an app on my smartphone to see where the sun would be a what times in order to always be able to use it as a backlight or 3/4 backlight.

The first location marked with red

Here you can see what I mean. The first location was chosen because the sun works as a back light at 08:00.

The 2nd and 3rd location marked with red

And here’s where we had to be at 11:00.

The 6th location marked with red

We had two locations that were indoors, I will not go through them now but for our 6th location we were back at the lake and could use the sun as a 3/4 backlight.

Executing the plan

We now knew when we had to be where, so all that was left was to execute the plan and not be at any one location for too long a time. In order to move fast we used a contraption called a “Höök vagn” here in Sweden. This is what it looks like:

Gaffer Kamil Janowski supporting me despite my antics

On each of these locations we had the sun as a backlight and tried to get some fill light using bounced light whenever possible. In other words we used no lights for any of these outdoors shots and still they look high-end.

Wrapping up

All of these shots are just the sun as backlight and bounced light for fill. Using this simple technique of just planning out the day with the sun in mind you can reach a very high level without the need for a big budget.

If you have any questions or anything, leave a comment and I’ll answer as soon as I can!


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