I was following a post recently on facebook where a photographer were ranting about “unprofessional photographers” who do not even have “proper lighting equipment”. He actually called them by name, “natural light photographers”. As a rule I don’t respond on facebook when someone gives an opinion, but knowing how much effort, time and planning goes into “natural light photography”, here is my opinion.
I call myself a “natural light photographer” and there is more than one reason why I prefer to shoot outside with natural light. Probably the first and foremost reason is because I want to be outside. Shooting in a studio for me is like working in an office. Secondly I sometimes smile when I see the amount of equipment some togs carry down to the beach in order to shoot a model. A whole entourage of people carrying stuff, holding reflectors and speed lights and whatever gadget you can find to look more “professional’. I don’t like carrying stuff, so the most advanced lighting technology you will find with me is probably a flash. I don’t even carry an extra battery with me. Unless I want to create a special look or mood, you will not find me working with lights. Does that make me “unprofessional”?
I am sure that with software technology and filters it is easy nowadays to create a “natural light look” in post production, but what fun is that? I also enhance my images with software, but I try to keep the image with the same colours and light as I had on the day. For me the challenge is setting up a model in relation to the light I have, not setting up lights around a model. The light also constantly changes. When I call a model for a shoot at 7 pm to do a sunset shoot then she must not be late. I might wait for a model but the sun does not wait for models. I believe there is more skill involved in getting a good shot at the right time where the light was perfect, then taking one shot after the other with a variety of lights around you that can be manipulated to suit your preferences.
I know there is different kinds of shoots and they require different kinds of techniques and even lighting, but I will not accept it when someone tells me that one technique is unprofessional when I know how much planning goes onto a shoot where you only use natural light. When I plan a shoot I usually tell the model that I will get back to her after checking the weather predictions for the next couple of days. In a studio you can walk in any time of the day and get what you want. When I do a beach shoot I go even further and check the tides. It might sound silly but sometimes you get nice reflections on the beach which usually works best at low tides. There is also the wind factor that can mess up a shoot entirely. I still prefer to face all these challenges than doing a studio shoot.
Natural light photography is not unprofessional, it is quite challenging. Getting the best light to create a certain mood takes planning and skill. Asking me to do a shoot tomorrow is not that easy, unless you want a studio shoot or something indoors. Even when working indoors I prefer some natural light to enter the room but it will definitely be easier to plan than an outside shoot.