Home Forums Let’s Talk Photography "Strictly" Natural Light Photographers

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    This question is mostly geared towards the professional photographers on this forum, but anyone can jump in as well. What is your take on someone who calls themselves “a strictly natural light photographer”? Like this person, http://www.meghanwiesmanphotography.com/whats-in-my-bag/. Her pictures are great, but I’m wondering when someone calls themselves that, is it just an excuse that they don’t know anything about  studio or flash lighting? Or they just don’t care to learn?

    I’m also surprised to see (in my area) the amount of photographers who has been shooting for a few years, but when it comes to studio lighting or even off-camera flash work, they either never use it, barely use it, or have no clue. With that in mind, I’m making a conscious effort to learn more about studio lighting and off-camera flash work as much as I can at this point in my experience, which is barely a year. Plus, when I saw that it did wonders for a shoot I just did, I’m hooked on it!


    I am not sure what the person you mentioned means by natural light. I do not believe that many of her shots did not have off camera lighting. There is one whre the hair has beautiful rim lighting but also has catch light in the eyes. You can always add a catch light in PS but this looks natural to me..


    “One frequently asked question I get from most photographers is my use of natural light. I do not use any reflectors, diffusers, fill flash or any other type of flash or off camera lighting for my outdoor work. I am strictly natural light and utilize the available light to my advantage and to create the exposure I am after.”

    She says she doesn’t use it for her outdoor work…
    She has the speedlights and diffusers, just doesn’t use them outdoors…


    it certainly looks like she supplements light when outdoors


    I guess I misread the page. When I first read it, I thought she didn’t use flashes at all, but then after reading it again and again, it’s only for her outdoor work. I wasn’t using her as a good example. My apologies.

    I know this wonderful wedding photographer, who used to be my high school classmate, and her base rate is $4,500. When she wrote on her Facebook about barely getting into off-camera flash, I was surprised she wasn’t doing it before. I guess her style of photography is high ISO and prime fast lenses. I know another wedding photographer who has been shooting for 5 years, but when we did a studio shooting event with models, it was foreign to her and out of her comfort zone.

    I guess it all depends on what kind of photography you want to get into.


    I do a lot of natural light photography, or ambient light photography.  No flash, no reflectors, no scrims, just the body and a lens.  The first reason is because I am basically lazy.  The second reason is that it gives me away if the flash is going off.  The third reason is that I am frequently too far away from my subject for the flash to reach with enough power to be useful.  Then you get into issues of weight, size, convenience, speed.  I usually have at least one speedlite in my bag and I will get it out and use it if I think the benefit is there.

    She owns two 600 EX RT’s and a 580 EX II.  At a store that’s local to her, a single 600 EX RT is USD549.00 and they have stock.  So, she owns about $1500 worth of speedlites.  I’m guessing she has an idea what to do with them.  All together I have 7 speedlites of various vintages, 4 studio strobes and several continuous lamps.  I still shoot easily ten ambient shots for every shot that uses  “lighting”.  But, I shoot everything.  If I just did portraits I would probably use lights a lot more.

    She has nice photos.  The catch lights I see in her outdoor shots look like sky, not strobes.  Bare flash gives small bright spots.  Softboxes and umbrellas give shapes that match the modifier used.  If the catch light is lighting the whole top half of the eye, it is probably sky.  If your subject stands in the right place the sky is reflective enough to give catch lights when the sun is behind them.

    I have heard the line “When I hear ‘I only shoot with natural light’, what I think is ‘They don’t know how to use a flash'” and it makes a degree of sense.   But perhaps the thing is that they can get the result they are looking for without a flash.  I see her skys are usually blown out.  If she wanted a deep blue sky, flash would be a way to achieve that.  So, in some cases, would be a circular polarizing filter.  Flash will work if you have a powerful one and your subject is 50 feet away.  A CP filter will still work if you are using a 400 mm lens and your subject is 500 feet away, flash might too but you will need a lot of it if you want to do anything more than slight fill.


    there is an image in there deep. Backlit image with a lot of light in the hair but the background is not blown out. The backlight means that the sun is behind her and it would typically mean that the foreground would be dark. there would be no light in the eyes but there is an obvious small flash going off. you can see it in her eyes. It looks like a flash, not a reflector as a reflector would likely have a harder edge. Also, without bringing the exposure down, the background would be blown out.

    She’s an ok photographer. Someone should start a youareamediocrephotographer website. There is a very long list of them. You see the same poses and ideas repeated. They must have a club where they go over the new poses for the year. Suspiciously, there are no reception shots, which would likely require better knowledge of flash. So my guess is she isn’t really good with nor cares to know.


    also, i’m puzzled why that’s a marketable thing to say?


    Honestly I think it’s partly because it’s currently a buzzword in the public eye. Natural foods, natural processes, all that. So if all those ‘natural’ things are better, then natural light has to be superior right? That’s my best guess.


    I consider myself to be predominantly a natural light photographer. Mainly because I prefer the look, but undeniably because I do not have a studio and do not have much experience using flash, strobes, or studio lighting. I can and do use camera-mounted speedlites when needed, such as wedding receptions. I would like to practice more using them in backlit situations. But I do pride myself in using natural light in the best way possible- I utilize shade, pop-up reflectors, ways to block harsh direct or mottled sun, etc. Many photographers (well, fauxtographers) who call themselves natural light photographers don’t even know how to use natural light correctly- you see the sun spots through trees mottled over their skin, super direct light causing them to squint, really orange skin tones, blown-out, etc. and that is what I consider to be lazy. You have to really pay attention to the light and how it’s hitting the subject.

    Studio lighting is one thing I want to learn better. I did learn a little while working as another photographer’s assistant, but she moved away before she could really teach me the finer points of it. Photography is my side job/income right now so I don’t really do sessions during the winter or early spring here, nor do I do anything in a studio.

    I think it’s more a matter of being honest about what type of photography you do.

    Here is one from a wedding last weekend; I used a Canon Speedlite 430 EX with an attached softbox modifier angled up toward the ceiling. The softbox truly does create a softer look and fewer shadows than without. http://www.flickr.com/photos/roxanne_elise_photography/9648857335/

    Here it was very sunny, as you can tell from the background. I had her mom hold a blanket up to the right of the frame to block the direct sunlight. As you can see, there was still a small amount showing on her dress below her waist, but it wasn’t enough to distract me. http://www.flickr.com/photos/roxanne_elise_photography/9257862907/


    Hi, all! I’m new here.  Right now, I am actually taking lighting course with Allison Earnest who writes lighting books for Amherst Media.  We were just discussing this very thing last night.  I think the term “Natural Light Photographers” is in most cases, because they don’t know how to use lights, but I also think some people actually do have a grasp on lighting and can do natural lighting.  The newbies that are coming along call themselves natural light photographers because they have no clue what they’re doing, but genuinely think there are some good photographers out there that know how to use the light.  I’m learning off camera flash, because I want to know how to add dimension to my photographs and you really can’t do that unless you use lights.  It’s about controlling the light, not letting the light control you.  You can’t control the sun, but you can control speedlights or OCF.


    I’m learning off camera flash, because I want to know how to add dimension to my photographs and you really can’t do that unless you use lights.

    There are a lot of excellent landscape photographers who are going to be upset to hear that!  There are also some excellent wedding/portrait photographers that might fall out of their chairs, laughing, too.  Lighting is a convenience, not a requirement.

    Light follows the rules laid out in physics.  Always.  Usually you don’t control the light, so much as control the light source.  You position man made lights to direct light to certain areas, or you add reflectors, or gels.  Natural light (we should really call it ambient light) is a bit different because you have to work with it.  If you want a different colour, you set your watch or alarm clock, or pray for clouds/clear sky.  You shoot at certain times which are pretty predictable, you can even get computer and smart phone apps to figure out the desired time.  You find windows facing the right direction, or covered areas.  You might still use reflectors.  You may also make use of existing man-made light sources, like neon and incandescent lamps.

    Some photographers will use a lot of lights to light a building, and by a lot I mean over a hundred!  Usually once you get beyond a building or two, you reach a point where the number of required heads becomes completely impractical because of the number of transport trucks required to carry them, and the time and manpower to set them up and collect them again after the photo.  Enter the sun, which can light your entire scene for free.  If you want the shadows to go in a different direction or to be longer or shorter, it is just a matter of timing.

    As a final thought, if you are shooting with a camera and your subject is shooting with a gun, flash may not be the wisest choice!


    Just wanted to toss this out there, as for the “marketability” of saying that you are a natural light photographer, I fully believe it has relevance in headshot work. I’ve been asked about headshots and as I begin to do them more, many agents require a natural light (I suppose more appropriately “outdoor” not “studio”) photo.


    Unless you’re Peter Hurley.


    I schedule sessions at times according to how I want the sun, and pick locations I’m familiar with according to where the sun will be. I never schedule sessions around noon. It’s either around 9 am, or 3pm (fall) or 5:30 pm (summer). I have one location that’s one of my go-to spots for either time because it has abandoned sheds which block the light from one side, and trees on the other side which block it from the other direction. So no matter what time of day or how the sun is, that location has multiple areas that work. Another of my typical locations has a building that blocks the sun in the west so I use it for evening sessions a lot. It’s somewhat of a science.


    I’m learning off camera flash, because I want to know how to add dimension to my photographs and you really can’t do that unless you use lights.

    This is so incredibly untrue and CC summed it up quite nicely. I won’t really expand on that.

    However I would like to point out something that you may be unaware of. Allison Earnest isn’t very good (if this is her: http://www.aearnestphoto.com/). She may not be exactly a fauxtog, but her work is considerably dated. I’d say she falls under the category of “those that can’t do, teach”. I’d suggest getting your money back and looking elsewhere. Otherwise it will probably cost you more to unlearn everything she’s teaching.

    It’s about controlling the light, not letting the light control you. You can’t control the sun, but you can control speedlights or OCF.

    hmmm. With a few sheets of diffusion, a couple black flags, and a bounce card or two, I can control natural light pretty well. The only thing I cannot control is a lack of light, in which case, i’d use strobes. It’s actually a little more complex to control strobe light than it is to control natural light.

    As for people who call themselves Natural light photographers, well, personally I just call myself a photographer. Clients really don’t care how you do something as long as it meets their needs. Strobe, sun, iphone flashlight. it’s doesn’t matter. But if you are working for a client and they want it to look like natural light and you decide to use strobe and it looks like strobe, you are going to be in trouble.

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