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Here's Why Natural Light Photographers Need to Learn How to Use Flash

One of the most important things a photographer needs to learn to understand is lighting. Without it, it's essentially not possible to do any kind of conventional photography. Learning how to use different kinds of light sources is also important. Although natural light can be great, being able to use flash effectively is extremely useful. 

One of the major benefits of shooting with flash is the increased control you have over light. Natural light can change quite dramatically at times, and this can put you at quite a disadvantage. It's not always convenient to have to wait for the "perfect light." If you're shooting professionally, chances are you have a schedule to keep to, and not all clients are going to stick around for available light to improve. 

In a recent video from Westcott Lighting, photographer Ashley Boring demonstrates how you can use flash lighting to mimic any time of the day. From midday to blue hour, Boring runs through a number of techniques you can use, regardless of the time of the day it actually is. 

My personal favorite was how Boring achieved the blue hour look. It's useful to see how she balanced the in-camera color temperature and the color of the flash in order to produce the look. This level of control is difficult if not impossible if you're just shooting with natural light. For that reason, if you haven't already, I highly recommend you take a dive into the world of flash photography. 

Check out the full video linked above to see how Boring produces the different looks. 

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8 Comments
Ryan Cooper's picture

My thoughts have always been that "natural light" photographers who know how to and can use artificial light when needed are making a creative decision based on their skill set.. In comparison, natural light photographers who have no clue how to use artificial light and refuse to learn so that they can hide behind the excuse of being a natural light photographer are not making a creative decision, they are just being stubborn or lazy.

I've seen countless portfolios created by "natural light only" photographers that are beautiful impressive while also hearing horror stories from their clients about how poorly the shoot turned out when faced with a situation that had horrible light. If your goal is to be professional, then you need to be equipped to meet your clients needs, regardless of what mother nature decides to do. If you prefer natural light, then by all means, mostly shoot in it but don't use that as a scapegoat when you need to create an image in bad light.

Ivan Lantsov's picture

true most lazy or stuborn

Ashley Boring's picture

100% Agree. Natural lighting can create some stunning photos, but photographers should know how to use off camera lighting for situation where natural lighting is not flattering or does not work with their creative vision.

Jawn Eyevolve's picture

These don’t look good to me at all.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

I kinda liked the concept behind faking blue hour, but when your subject is lit so much more strongly than the background, it’s an obviously forced image, and I’m not into that look. It might have looked better had the photographer done some localized exposure modifications on the model in post, but as it stands, the way it was presented, no from me.

The golden hour fake was “ok” at best, and the mid day fake I couldn’t stand, was just a straight NO from me.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Natural light is great... when it is great...

But when it is not... we have strobes... :)

Mike Ditz's picture

It depends. Some people don't want to learn studio or strobe or non-natural light. With today's cameras it's not totally out of the question...Maybe that's their mission statement. Something to set themselves away from the crowd, like shooting Leicas, only film or better yet only B&W film.
If someone hangs their hat on being a natural light photographer then hopefully they have it figured out and make it work. And their clients are ok with it or they would have hired a strobe using photog.
I have heard horror stories about photographers who use strobe or hot lights, horror stories abound. I assisted a studio strobe photographer, he would just blast it at the model, I asked him, Hey John, what do you think about the light on her, he said "There's enough"

In the age of specialization not everyone needs to do everything like everyone else. Unless you want to position yourself as a Jack of all trades. Depends on your market.

I consider myself an available light photographer, and I have plenty of lights available in my truck. :)

Kenneth Muhlestein's picture

The way i look at it, strobes outside will do one of two things for me. Help offset/correct bad or harsh lighting, or in a perfect situation let me be creative with how i want the outcome to be.