Why I would never call myself a natural light photographer…It seems to be a “fad” among togs these days to boast, “I am a natural light photographer.” I read it on so many bios, websites, and blogs. And though I shoot about 90% of my images in natural light, I would not be exclusive.
I prefer natural light because of the mood it captures. If I was a studio photographer, I would work much more with OCF (off-camera flash). However, there are instances, when a flash comes in handy. So, I would highly recommend knowing your way around a good speedlight if you are going to learn the art of photography.
Let’s begin with the bare bones,natural light. When I was first introduced to artificial lighting, I was encouraged that less is more. Start minimally and then add to that. I completely agree! Many togs go overboard when learning flash and add light when it is not needed. If you are looking to capture a mood and an ambiance, just working with the exposure triangle can do wonders! Below I have an image taken exclusively with soft available light. The key (main) light comes from my from a window, and the golden light on the left is from an incandescent lamp in my bedroom.
Sometimes reflectors can be helpful when you need to bounce light back on your subject in order to keep them from being drowned out by shadow. They can also be helpful when wanting to add more than one light source and still use available light. Reflectors would be the next step in my less is more analogy.
Bounce flash is my favorite use of the speedlight for more lifestyle or documentary shooting. We togs have all had times when using our cameras indoors that we miss the shot due to poor lighting. Pointing your speedlight at an angle and bouncing it against a wall or the corner of the ceiling, can create beautiful directional lighting. Below is an example of how bounce flash helped me capture wedding preparation shots.
And of course there is direct on-camera flash, which I would not recommend. But I can say that it saved my backside when shooting the below wedding a few years ago. The wedding was outdoors. Behind me was a very large barn, creating a wonderful shadow for the guests. I was shooting toward the bright afternoon sun, as the bride walked down the aisle. This was the perfect formula for silhouettes (not the memory my bride was looking for on her wedding day). I was outside with nothing to bounce my flash against (not to mention the fact that I was moving constantly). So, I put my camera into manual mode attached a stofen to my flash (to help soften the light as best I could) and went to work. A little adjusting in post and voila!
As I said before, at least 90% of my work is done with what would be called natural (or available) light. But having the ability to manipulate what is available to us, is part of the art of photography.
Sonya Adcock is a fine art photographer based in the beautiful state of Pennsylvania. She specializes in artistic child photography. Sonya’s artwork has been featured in Photography Monthly Magazine, Bella Grace Magazine, and Redbook Magazine. In the hectic pace of a digital era, her artwork encourages you to slow down and remember the joys and magic of childhood.
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