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As an adjunct to the Tangents blog, the intention with this forum is to answer any questions, and allow a diverse discussion of topics related photography. With that, see it as an open invitation to just climb in and start threads and to respond to any threads.

How I Envy Natural Light Photographers

Ok, so I’m being a bit facetious here, but sometimes I get
real jealous of guys and gals that can go out on a photoshoot with nothing more
than a single camera body and a lens and get phenomenal images.  Yes, the natural light photographer.  For most of us, we all start out being a “natural
light” photographer… then we stumble across a wonderful website like Tangents
and discover a new world fill with light. 
We learn new phrases like, quality and direction of light.  It’s all wonderful and opens up so many
possibilities.  But, I can’t help being a
bit jealous of guys like Dani Diamond and others like him that can do this
whole natural light gig.  This guy is a
wonderful natural light photographer.  I
know there’s more great natural light photographers out there than just Dani…
his name was just the first one I could think of as I write this. 

Here I am, a solo photographer, dragging out a ton of
equipment to photograph a model.  I’m physically
struggling on location because I’m
carrying my D3s, 70-200mm lens, lightstand, Profoto B1, Octa and the rest of my camera
bag because I might find myself in a situation where I want to change my lens.   I just purchased a collapsible cart to help
me on location when all this gear is needed.  I'm carrying a cart "for crying out loud". 

Yes, I’m envious of those folks that can take a camera and
lens and go out and make marvelous images. 
Am I right or wrong when I think that the natural light photographer has
to be a really good post processor?  It
just seems that it would require more skills in PS and/or LR to get to your
final image as a natural light photographer vs. a photographer using off camera
flash.  That’s not to say that even using
off camera flash still wouldn’t require some post processing… it absolutely does.  I’m just saying I think the OCF
approach gives you a different result that a natural light photographer can’t always

Now, I can certainly ease my struggle simply by grabbing my
camera and lens of choice and searching for the best natural light and make
some decent images.  But every time I do
this, I always find myself wishing I had my light gear because I get into
situations where it would be so extra nice to have.  The images just look and feel different.  I love the look of off camera flash.  I just can’t stop myself. 

Ok, my rant is done.  I would love to know how you manage on-location
shoots with all of your gear.  As I said
above, I purchased a foldable/collapsible cart that I have started using.


  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    If you look at Dani Diamond's natural light portraits - they look fantastic - but he spends an inordinate amount of time retouching them to look that good.
  • ranythebardranythebard Member
    edited June 2015
    I often find it difficult to shoot decent indoor images with just available light. Flash light always at hand, unless its not allowed.
    Available light shooters have more constraints when shooting, I dont envy them a bit.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    As far as I am concerned, to me flash 'cleans' the skin tones, it lifts shadows from eye-sockets, etc.

    With available light, the only time you can get great clean skin with no shadows is have them in open shade with their faces towards the sky 180 degrees opposite to the sun. ie: sun directly behind them, but they are in shade so sun is not in frame with trees/shrubs/buildings behind them.

    You also have to take into account certain conditions are not available to natural light shooters, for eg: I'd hate to have to shoot a wedding only with available light, and try to get that 'sunset' feel. Great silhouette shots you'd end up with or blown backgrounds which defeats the purpose.

    Of course I am speaking from my viewpoint as I work mainly in full sun 98% of the time, so flash is an integral part of getting shots.

  • dbrunodbruno Member
    Trev - just out of curiosity, what kind of photographic work do you do that has you mostly in full sun?
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Weddings, and being in Australia, especially where I live, it's sunny a good 10+ months of the year, and I'd say for every 'church' wedding I do, I would shoot 15 outdoor ceremony ones, then having to go to locations and shoot until sunset, then cover reception.

  • I agree with Neil. Mr. Diamond is a great retoucher but his SOOC images just don't have that much of an impact. Post work is part of photography but it should not be the entire part.  

    As far as being a good post processor if you are natural light only: Not really. The rules still apply. Quality and direction of light matter.

    I helped a friend shoot her first wedding and gave her some pointers along the way on how to read/determine light, exposure, etc.(things I learned here)
    The below image is SOOC. Nothing done. Exposure was set a few frames before with the brides dress and then everything stayed the same since the light never changed. We looked for open shade, no dark shadows under the eyes and a bit of catch-light from the road near by was visible in their eyes.

    Some OCF could have really helped give the image some more pop but it was not really needed. With a quick preset, this photo is just fine. No need to retouch for hours.

  • What Dani has are great-looking models and an excellent ability to pose them well. If you take away the excellent poses and beautiful faces (and post processing) I find his portraits a bit flat. Crying out for some light. A little light in most of them would take them from very good to great. Not all, but a lot.

    All light is natural light, even introduced light. It's not semantics. Why put yourself in this 'I'm a natural light photographer' straightjacket when skillful use of flashes and reflectors can give your portraits the same light that the best evening sun and the best window light can. And even enhance it. Maybe Dani and others simply prefer it. Fine. But let's not pretend it's better. It isn't.   

    PDH maybe you can compromise. Don't go all out natural but maybe you don't have to lug so much stuff out on location with you?
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited June 2015

    Skip, as Neil once quoted here a long time ago which I have used personally myself:  "I have flashes, they are available, so I use them."

    I even have experienced that disdain look from a couple of photographers here when I've crossed paths with them at a same location, they are shooting 'sunset' shots, with no flash at all, and here I rock up with sometimes 3 off cam lights, 2 to light a group and one slightly behind/side of them for a touch of rim, so I have a great sunset behind them.

    Now that's not to say you cannot get great shots obviously with natural/available/ambient light, just I want it that bit better personally.

    Also I think a vast majority of semi-pros and even full time pros who are in that 'available light only shooter' mode simply do not understand how to use flash, and not being open to all ways of shooting in my book is robbing you of great opportunities.

    At one of those settings when I was shooting, I had one off-cam key light on couple, flash slightly behind for rim against a setting sun, a member of another bridal party who were about 10 meters away also shooting with their photographer (no flash at all, not even on camera) actually come up to me and asked why I used flash, so I took a shot, then turned off the flashes, then opened aperture to expose them and showed him the comparison with no flash.

    His jaw dropped, and he asked for a card which I gladly gave him. 3 months later he calls and books me.

  • Nice Trev!

    Talking about those who dont know how to use a flash, I never thought I'd actually meet one, with flash on light stand but facing up into the sky. And another one with on camera tilted backwards and up, to bounce into the clouds of a sunny day outdoors! He took 4-5 image then rant to the girl he tried to photo about bad lighting.
  • That's a great story Trev. Whenever I see other photographers out at the beach or wherever with no flash I think 'why don't they at least give themselves the option?'
  • PDH7981PDH7981 Member
    edited July 2015
    Great discussion everyone.  Yes, I've pared down my gear about as far as I can go.  I typically carry a B1, Lightstand, Octa, D3s with the 70-200mm.  I can manage this, but no way would I add another B1 for a hair light or rim.  I'm at my solo limit.  Now, if I'm ever blessed with an assistant, I'm all to happy to add more.  :-)

    I'm certainly a flash photographer at this stage of the game.  Once you go flash, you just can't go back.  Natural light is great when used correctly.  There are times the available light is great.  I'll use it when that is the case.  But, adding flash will always (IMHO) enhance the final result.  
  • I think the point is to put the right light on your subject, right amount, right direction, etc... Whether that's ambient light or introduced light should not matter. After all, isn't one goal of using a flash to be sure the flash can't be seen? So that your light blends in with the ambient, balances with the ambient? Except for creative uses where it's obvious flash is used in exaggerated way, don't you always want your flash light to appear subtle (even if it's not) and almost invisible? For me, there's nothing worse than a 'flashy' picture. Maybe 'natural light' photographers see a quality in their photos they cannot get with flash or other light sources but I don't see it. If anything, they are not as good except when they get lucky. This is not true for news and some other photos. I find that the opposite is true for most (or at least many) news photos. They are best without flash. Because the shadows make it more real, keeps the mood and feel of a scene, tells the story better, puts you in the scene better, shows the flaws in a face better. I was talking about portraits above.
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