The debate between natural and artificial light is something that is still prevalent within the photography community. Many professional photographers will argue that natural light is better when it comes to many types of photography, but very few will say why.
We wanted to break down the pros and cons of both flash photography and natural light photography, so you can get a better and more informed idea as to why you should be aiming for natural light in your images.
What are the pros of flash photography?
If you’ve ever spotted a photographer at a wedding or at a professional photo shoot, you may have noticed that they have a large flash attached to the top of their DSLR camera.
Many portrait photographers prefer to use flash, as it gives them more control over light and shadow. Playing with shadows can dramatically change the look and shape of a face, so being able to manipulate the light is an advantage for any portrait photographer.
For event photographers, a flash can help them capture the finest details, giving the image a more focused subject. This is something that is harder to do with natural light, as you would have to take the subject directly to the light source.
What are the cons of flash photography?
The biggest disadvantage of flash photography is that it is very limiting when it comes to subject matter and composition. As the flash highlights the subject closest to the lens, it can often lose some of the details in the background and enhance unwanted details in the foreground.
This is why flash is best forgotten if you are a passionate landscape, concert or street photographer. With these types of photography, you want to be able to capture the whole scene in the most interesting way possible and the best way to do that is by using natural light.
What are the pros of natural light photography?
One of the things many photographers say they love about natural light, is the composition that it allows them to find. With natural light, you can capture truly unique shadows and shapes, that would be difficult to recreate with flash or artificial lighting.
It is also argued that natural light is a lot harder to master than artificial light, meaning that those photographers that can capture stunning images with only natural light, are often seen as having greater skill and more creativity.
One of the most attractive aspects of natural light, is that it falls in a completely different way, picking up certain highlights you may not have noticed and creating shadows you would have never originally thought of. All of these features mean that photographers can capture truly amazing and creative shots faster and more frequently than having to strategically place lights or direct a flash.
What are the cons of natural light photography?
As mentioned previously, you do have to actively find good sources of light and if you are trying to shoot with light that comes and goes, you could find yourself playing around with your exposure more than you would like.
If you choose to shoot with only natural light, you have to be more creative with your placements, setups and locations. You will need to keep a close eye on the weather and time of day and choose the best conditions for your image.
An image shot in bright sunshine will have a completely different tone and feel than to one shot on an overcast day, so be wary of what emotion you are trying to portray in your images before shooting.
Why do professional photographers prefer natural light?
The simple answer is that it breeds more creativity and skill. Having to play with and manipulate natural light takes a lot of practice and often offers the best results, depending on the subject matter.
It is also completely free and by not using any artificial light, you also help to make your photography kit that much lighter and cheaper.
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