Natural light is beautiful and can give you incredible shots if you know how to use it. But should you limit yourself only to the natural light? Photographer Jason Lanier discusses this matter in a very honest and objective way. As a photographer who used to shoot only in natural light and later learned artificial lighting, you’ll hear seven truths about being a “natural light photographer.”
As Jason points out, sometimes he uses artificial lighting to actually achieve the look and feel of the natural light. But on the other hand, sometimes you can use only natural light to recreate the 2-light setup. It all depends on what you want to achieve with your photos. From Jason’s point of view, here are the seven truths, or the possibilities and limitations, of using natural light only:
1. Using natural light is the most cost-effective way to take photos
The first point is the most obvious one: using natural light only is the most cost-effective way to create photos. It’s always available, provided by Mother Nature, and all you need to buy is the camera and the lens. It’s the way most people break into photography, and some of us on the low budget still only mainly use this approach.
2. Using natural light only requires far lesssetupp and prep time for the gear
Another advantage of natural light only is that you don’t need additional time for preparation, and no extra gear and weight. You save time on breaking down the gear on location, and you may, again only need the camera and the lens. And perhaps some reflectors.
3. All photographers should master natural lighting
Mastering natural light is a great training ground before you switch to artificial lighting. To put it briefly, if you want to be able to master and control the light, you need to master the natural light first. It’s the foundation. Also, you may not always have the flash or LED lights around, which is when you’ll need to work with what you have.
4. Using natural light only limits your options
Now, this is a disadvantage when it comes to using only natural light. You’re subject to Mother Nature, and there are only a few hours a day when you can get ideal lighting. And if you can only limit yourself to work during those hours, it may cost you clients.
Another thing is, the more lighting techniques you master, the more you’ll make yourself valuable in the market as a photographer. You’ll ready for more tasks and challenges, and you’ll be able to achieve more different looks and styles in your photos.
5. Using natural light only may require more time to edit photos
Using no artificial lights might save you shooting time, but the compromise is that you’ll spend more time in the post. There are some things you’ll need to fix in post if you don’t know how to achieve them in camera by using artificial lighting. And sometimes, there are even some stuff you can’t fix in post.
Jason gives an example that mastering the light helped him cut the editing time for wedding shots from 15-16 hours to 3-4 hours. This means more time for marketing the business and finding clients, which can bring you more money and, well, more (lighting) gear.
6. Only you can answer whether natural light is the right choice for you
The truth is no one can tell you whether or not natural light is the right choice for you. You have to ask yourself first: what is it that you really want from your photos? What do you want to achieve? When you answer these questions, you’ll know what the right choice is. But it’s worth noting that natural light, just like the artificial, isn’t always the answer.
7. Only you know how valuable you want to be
Of course, this isn’t about your value as a photographer, an artist, or a human being. It’s about the value you have in the marketplace which is saturated with photographers. If you want to do portraits, weddings, commercial photography and so on – you’ll have to master lighting. After all, this gives you more freedom, more control, and opens up a whole new world.
I found this topic interesting because I’ve spent the most time on studying and using natural light, and I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to the artificial light sources. I only own one strobe, and I use it whenever I think it could help. Also, I love experimenting with what I have (like desk lamps, work lamps and so on). Just like Jason said, it all depends on the final result I want to achieve. I believe we shouldn’t limit ourselves to natural light only, no matter how wonderful it is. But we should, nevertheless, take the most of it. What do you think? What’s your preferred type of light?