Natural light vs studio lighting: Which is better? When you’re researching photographers then you might find some that say they only take photos in studio lighting, saying that it makes them seem “pressured” to get the perfect shot. So what exactly does this mean, and why does a natural light photographer actually differ from a person who does not describe themselves that way? To begin answering the question we have to understand light. Lighting is not a one size fits all thing.
In natural light photography, you will be using a pointing device, usually a camera hand-held, to point at subjects in the scene and capture their silhouette. Typically, there are no flash settings, so you’re in complete control of where and when the photo ends up. You can play with the color temperature, contrast, or brightness. For most types of portraits, I find that the softer the background, the less dramatic the shadow on the subject. As an example, if you are taking a photo of your kids playing in a stream, try to make the background of the water the same color as their skin (usually pale yellow or pale pink). This will soften the shadow and make for a much more acceptable pose.
There’s a huge difference between studio lighting and natural light photography. studio lighting uses studio lights to create the mood and atmosphere, often using bright studio lighting effects like blue colored curtains or dramatic lighting. Natural light photography, by contrast, is when you are out and about and photograph actual sunlight, the sun, as it falls upon your subject. You can create mood and atmosphere by focusing on where the sun seems brightest, for example, an apple tree near a sunny area. You can also make your subject feel more relaxed by placing them further away from the sun or bright area.
Many professional photographers use both types of photography, and with wedding photography being such an important event, natural light photographers often have to step in and provide a backup. I love natural light photographers! It’s interesting, because you can see all the elements of a picture that you wouldn’t be able to without the flash, but often the photographer won’t use the flash because it alters the composition or creates an unusual look.
One of the key things to remember when working with natural light photography is that you should avoid shadows. This applies not only to the sun, but to any natural light source. You don’t want to cast shadows on any of the subjects in the image. shadows throw off the whole composition and make it look sloppy. Natural light photographers must focus on framing the subjects, not the sun. Most studios have lighting adjustments available, although many won’t use them because they alter the entire image.
When natural light photography is done properly, it can capture the drama and emotion of the subject just as well as studio lighting. It can add a real sense of beauty and romance to the portrait photographer’s portfolio. Just remember, the sun is not golden. A good portrait photographer knows this and works within the limitations of natural light available, but can also give the shot a cinematic feel using the correct lighting conditions.
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