You don't need many photography lights or a big crew to accomplish a professional campaign, but it helps. The big crew and system is a major asset, especially if you have the assistance of lights to help you shape an image.
There are a few things that I want to point out, which are factored into nearly every shoot that I have. And I'm hopeful they contribute to you in some capacity.
The Obvious: Sunlight Is the Best Light
I often tell photographers that the best lights sold on the market and their counterparts, the modifiers, are modeled after the sun in its various positions at different times of the year. Do you want a hard light that's at a nice low angle? I prefer using a late fall or winter light that's typically cleaner and lower to the sky. That allows the beautiful light that reminds me of a beauty dish. Do you love the look of a softbox or big scrim? You could rely on the indirect sunlight coming through a big window.
Do I Need Photography Lights to Succeed?
You do not need any professional lights to find success in your photography career. Use the sun and the basics of just bouncing a light. I've seen photographers have wild success with just the incredible and reliable sun, and I've seen photographers drown in gear debt without booking more than a handful of clients.
I'd say the absence of lights could strengthen the photographer because you are forced to use your creativity. Nothing makes you learn faster than having to solve a puzzle on the spot. Suddenly, you see how beneficial a white wall can be with the bounce or what a frosted glass window can produce.
Why I Photographed a Jewelry Campaign With Natural Light
It was important that my friend and I had mobility and that we could go with the flow of the day. Taylor had just shot a spread for V MAN Magazine (with another photographer), and he came to our shoot camera-ready. Essentially, someone combed his hair and powdered his face for shine.
Because we were in Downtown Los Angeles, I could rely on the afternoon sun reflecting from a variety of buildings upon us. That could either create a nice fill light or even our key light. I loved where the sun was at this particular time of year, and I knew when it set. It was more important that we were free and found locations that inspired us first.
For bounce, I used the ground, the light bouncing from a building, or just direct sunlight. I wanted a beauty dish type of light, and the brand loved it. I gave as much importance to shadows as I did to the light.
Maybe you're wondering if it's possible to book big brands without the gear, and I'm showing that it is possible. Taylor is a successful actor, and David Yurman is a huge brand. I photographed it with a knock-off lens and natural light and paid no location fees. Our biggest expense was the Lime scooters around the city.