Two photographers going head to head, natural light vs. strobes

Apr 16, 2018

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Two photographers going head to head, natural light vs. strobes

Apr 16, 2018

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Natural light or artificial light? Sure, it’s a matter of preference, but photographers Manny Ortiz and Jessica Kobeissi made an interesting challenge out of these two approaches. They had three rounds of photographing the same model in the same studio. Jessica used only natural light, and Manny added off-camera flash. Let’s check out the results and see which you prefer.

YouTube video

The model Sophia changed three outfits throughout the challenge, and both Manny and Jessica photographed her in their own style. Jessica used a Canon 5D Mark III paired with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, which is her go-to setup for portrait photography. As for Manny, he used a Sony A7R III and changed two lenses: 85mm f/1.4 and 35mm f/1.4. As for the flash, he used an eVOLV 200 TTL Modular Strobe with a Glow ParaPop 38″ softbox.

Certainly, whether you’ll use natural or artificial lighting (or both) depends on many factors such as your budget, style, and preferences. And there are advantages and disadvantages to both, as Manny and Jessica point out in the video.

One of the main challenges of natural light, as Jessica explains, is that it isn’t constant. Sometimes the sunlight changes too often, so she constantly needs to adjust the camera settings. On the bright side (no pun intended), natural light lets you have a more dynamic shoot and experiment with posing.

As for the off-camera flash, Manny points out that the greatest disadvantage is that the model needs to stay in one place. Manny sees it as a limiting factor when it comes to posing. On the plus side, shooting portraits with OCF lets you control the ambient exposure. In this particular video, it allowed Manny to expose for the natural light in the windows and fill in the shadows on the model with the flash.

Manny and Jessica point out that this is more of a comparison than a challenge. So, here are a few photos for you to compare the results. Whose photos do you prefer and why? Tell us in the comments below.

Jessica’s photos (natural light)

Manny’s photos (off-camera flash)

[Natural light vs Off Camera Flash CHALLENGE ft. Jessica Kobeissi | Manny Ortiz]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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18 responses to “Two photographers going head to head, natural light vs. strobes”

  1. Lorenzo Morgoni Avatar
    Lorenzo Morgoni

    For fashion photo (model photo etc.) artificial light is mandatory in many cases… to control the shadows. Camera does not see like our eyes do.

    1. Ignasi Jacob Avatar
      Ignasi Jacob

      Like in cinema, too, even for fight against the changing weather.

  2. Huge Dom Avatar
    Huge Dom

    For this case, since the location already has a lot of natural light coming in, I felt the off camera flash just helped to added to, yet didn’t create too artificial look where as at another time or location, they would.

    1. Dave Avatar
      Dave

      I agree except for the ones of the dark haired model in the yellow chair. In those the ambient lighting has been totally overpowered. They are cool photos still, but the off camera lighting has radically changed to look and feel of the room.

  3. Richard Doktor Avatar
    Richard Doktor

    Well, obviously off camera flash is the clear winner …

  4. Richard Tack Avatar
    Richard Tack

    Kudos on the shoot…. Jessica, you’re a professional, lose the Canon strap.

  5. Báthori Zsigmond Avatar
    Báthori Zsigmond

    Comparing apple with pear can have only one conclusion: both are fruits.

  6. Calvin Go Avatar
    Calvin Go

    not really a good head to head to be honest, the natural light shooter can pose her models better, but the shadows and the lights are flat, especially on the face

    the strobes has better shadows and contrast, but kinda didn’t really use it well, especially you have a nice window with some nice background, the natural light shooter have one nice shoot with the building background

    anyway i really feel this is a bad head to head

    but i never like to say one is better than the other, i shoot both natural light and with strobes but depends on situation and need, it’s important to know both styles well as a photographer

  7. Dianna Tenski Fielder Avatar
    Dianna Tenski Fielder

    That was interesting! Especially since I mostly use natural light. I feel like she could have done a little more editing on her pictures to make them “pop” more.

  8. Molon Labe! Avatar
    Molon Labe!

    OCF by a mile.

  9. Jeffrey Dull Avatar
    Jeffrey Dull

    What was disappointing about the natural light shooter was she didn’t use a reflector. I think that would have given a pop to her photos

    1. Kevin Shoesmith Avatar
      Kevin Shoesmith

      My thought exactly.

    2. Dave Avatar
      Dave

      I know what you mean, but that seems to then make it not “natural” anymore (and by natural, they really should have just said “available light” as there is a fluorescent turned on inside of the room adding to the light from outside). There is something to be said for finding good compositions without any control of the lighting. In that context, these are very impressive. The ones with flash look great, but they also look like a “photoshoot” – which, of course is fine, after all it IS a photoshoot, but isn’t everyone getting tired of everything “popping” so damn much? I’m not trolling you, I promise, this is just my $.02. I probably would have been tempted to break out a reflector too… but adding that level of complexity (small as it is) would have made for a less fun shooting experience. And it would alter the character of the photos, making them just a little more “contrived” looking. Again, just throwing this out there as an alternate way to view this test.

  10. znu Avatar
    znu

    Photography is really a technology.It’s like the imaging principle that we’ve seen before.It’s amazing
    https://www.znu.com

  11. Jakub S. Avatar
    Jakub S.

    For me Jessica’s pictures are a clear winner. In terms of lighting, posing and genre. Whe are Manny’s pictures so dark? It was lovely bright studio and somehow flash managed to make it a basement. Jess made a fashion photoshoot, I don’t even know what genre is Manny tried to do. I guess this don’t-try-too-hard style is more pleasant for me.

    1. MegaNickels Avatar
      MegaNickels

      Manny reduced the ambient light making the image darker by using a faster shutter speed for sharper more dramatic portraits then filled in the subject with the flash. i like’em both :D

  12. Valdomiro Peixoto Avatar
    Valdomiro Peixoto

    Ah, so this is a flash vs natural light contest? I thought it was a 24 vs 80mm

  13. MegaNickels Avatar
    MegaNickels

    I prefer off camera flash use so I can mold light how I want it specifically but there is always a spot for natural light photography. I think it is pretty important to master both off camera flash and natural light photography. Make your self as well rounded as possible.