Monday, October 11, 2010

Natural light? (Part II)

Recently I've been shooting a lot with natural light. In studio and out. My education in lighting has been somewhat "backwards" in that respect because I really learned flash photography before I learned ambient lighting.

For me, understanding off-camera flash forced me to look at light differently. Not in the mundane diffuse-light-coming-through-the-window way but rather "how do I want to use light to sculpt the subject" way? You become He-Man when you use strobes because you feel like "Master of the Universe" when you control light. Or at least I do.

Faces are interesting. My preference is Rembrandt lighting. I like cheekbones. I like definition and contouring. Strobes gave me the control I needed to experiment with my preferences.

Lately however, I like to see what I can do with natural light. Not surprisingly, I've found it very easy to use natural light to light my subjects and still create contrast. To this day I still maintain it's easier to shoot natural light than to shoot with strobes. It's easy to have God make decisions for you, unless you are actively attempting to manipulate ambient light... which is possible.

Natural light to me still adheres to all the rules of the physics of light. It's not any different. It's just "organic" as opposed to hormone-injected-pesticide-sprayed-too-fat-to-get-up lighting. So when you put stuff in front of the natural light, you still create shadows.

Katie. H3DII-31/HC-80mm. 1/45th f/2.8 ISO200. Handheld.

Amanda. H3DII-31/HC-80mm. 1/125th f/2.8 ISO200. Handheld.

The above two images were shot with the roll-up door of my studio open. Diffuse light was streaming into the floorspace but I controlled it by putting a flag (The Box) between the light and the models to create some shadow. This is particularly evident in the picture of Amanda where you see some of the background getting diffuse light and some in shadow from the box.

Sometimes diffuse light is disobedient like a red-headed step-child. In this following image of Amanda, I didn't manage well the angle of the light which was bouncing up from the hood of a car outside the window. So you get up-shadows, which never look good. Fortunately I've dodged and burned most of those shadows away but you can still tell that the angle of the light was upwards. At best it's very "left-to-right" and not my preference for lighting angles:

Amanda. H3DII-31/HC-210mm. 1/45th f/4.0 ISO100. Yup this was handheld!

Anyway, the point of this post is that I'm having fun with natural light. It's a breath of fresh air and pushes me to grow and think more about how I light. I've also changed my lighting angles a lot since before Europe. Change is good because it forces you to evolve. Keep shooting!


  1. Very good idea to return to Organic Lighting. Nice post.

  2. Working with available light (natural or otherwise) can be very rewarding once mastered. Of course, you can still cheat it a bit with modifiers such as reflectors. I'd still call it shooting with available light.

    And the above pics are very nice examples.

  3. Oh I cheat all the time ;) I wouldn't feel comfortable shooting without a reflector at my disposal... even if I didn't use it! LOL!