When you’re researching photographers you may well come across some who describe themselves as ‘natural light photographers’ or who say that they shoot ‘exclusively with natural light.’
So what does it mean, and how does a natural light photographer differ from someone who doesn’t describe themselves this way? Is one better than the other?
In this article I’m going to answer these questions, and explain why there is a place for both natural light and studio light in photography.
What is Natural Light Photography?
Natural light photography, is very simply when a photographer only uses the ambient light around them to light their photograph. They don’t use any flash or continuous studio lighting at all.
Creating beautiful photographs with natural light isn’t as simple as going outside and taking a photo. A photographer who really understands natural light will understand the best times of day, best place for you to stand, and the best angles to make the most of naturally available light.
Some photographers will also modify natural light using reflectors, which you can use to bounce light in certain directions. Or a scrim, which you can use to soften light.
As with most styles of photography, there will be a spectrum of approaches to natural light photography. From photographers who just photograph you as you are, where you are regardless of where the light is. To those who carefully select the right time of day, location, poses, and modifiers to create exactly the shot they would like.
What is Studio Lighting in Photography?
Studio lighting in photography happens when a photographer uses an artificial light source to either add to the light that’s already there, or to completely light their photograph.
Setups can range from using a single flash that you mount onto your camera, to multiple off-camera lights. These lights can be strobes (that flash when you take the photo) or continuous lights.
Knowing how to modify this light is also important, and you’ll see photographers using a variety of different modifiers to shape the light from their studio lights. From beauty dishes, to enormous umbrellas there is a modifier to do almost anything you need it to! As such, the opportunities to create different effects are almost endless.
Natural Light vs Studio Light. Which is better?
So when you’re choosing a photographer to work with, does it matter whether they use natural light or studio light?
I believe that what’s more important is that your photographer understands how to use light. Whether natural light, studio light, or a combination of both.
If your photographer fully understands how to use light, they’ll be able to choose the best light for your situation. Whether that’s natural light, one studio light, multiple lights, or a combination of natural light and flash. And as a result, they can create the best possible photograph for your situation.
For example, if you have a photo shoot inside your house on a bright, sunny day the photographer may find that there is enough natural light to achieve the effect they want. Go to the same house on a dark, gloomy, winter’s day and there may not be enough light. If the photographer uses both natural light and studio lights they can choose the right lighting for each situation, and adjust them to achieve the desired result regardless of the weather. If they only rely on natural light they may find it difficult to achieve the desired result on that winter’s day.
As you can see from my photographs below, both natural light and studio light can be used to achieve similar effects. The key is knowing which to choose when, and how to use them.
How I work
I use both natural light and studio light in my newborn, baby and family photography. For studio newborn and baby sessions I use only studio light. When I’m outdoors or at your home I will mostly work with the available natural light. However, if it’s a particularly dark day or there isn’t enough light available I’ll use both natural light and studio light together.
Over to You
I hope that this guide has helped to explain the differences between natural lighting and studio lighting in photography.
What other questions do you have about having your family or baby photographed? Send me an e-mail or let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.