Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Myth of the Natural Light Photographer...Buyer Beware!

This image would have been very good
had it not been for the side lighting on
the model's nose, that casts an ugly
sharp shadow on the side of the face.
We are cruising into the Easter weekend and I hope all of you are doing well.  In another part of a series in educating the client or future client I wanted to bring to you a thought that many photographers have regarding the term "Natural Light Photography"

There comes a point in the life of every photographer where they’ve heard a single statement that either enthralls the uninitiated or makes the more knowledgeable roll their eyes. This statement is said in five short words: “I’m a natural light photographer.”

Now, this shouldn’t offend you at all, it should make you think about your choice when hiring an individual to capture obvious memories you want to keep forever. Some folks are genuinely natural light photographers because of the type of work that they do–and so they spend their hours quite literally chasing the light in order to make a living or to one day make it their sole source of income. Famed Australian photographer Peter Lik comes to mind.

Again: they spend their hours quite literally chasing the light in order to make a living or to one day make it their sole source of income. These photographers spend lots and lots of time watching the weather forecasts and determining just the right spots and times to go out and take photos. There are hours of prep and lots of conceptualizing done to make the most of the small window of time.

And again in case it isn’t hitting you: we’re talking about pros and aspiring pros.

These photographers are not the ones that are the focus of this article. Why? Because they’re learned how to actually utilize light no matter what type it is and they learn how to read it and make the necessary adjustments.  
This image was shot in a natural light setting using
a speedlight and single softbox. The results
are soft and beautiful.

The other breed that we’re talking about are the camera owners that hide behind a veil–stating that they only shoot with natural light in some phony effort to make themselves look more nouveau than thou. But what they’re actually saying translates into: “I have not a damned clue how to use a flash, but I’ll use constant lights.”

These photographers are the ones that fumble when they score gigs that require the use of a flash, knowledge of how to set it and work with it,  They’re also the ones that go on to tell clients that they have to wait until there is a cloudy day to shoot in order to get the softbox look. To no end, these are the photographers that fake it in order to make it.

The “Natural Light Photographer” also refuses to learn how to use artificial lighting–and typically work instead to simply capture a scene that someone else puts work into rather than actually manipulating the scene to be what they want it to be. Oftentimes, it’s also fair to say that these shooters don’t necessarily have a creative vision of any sort.

So what’s the problem?

It’s a sign of weakness and it’s nothing but a lie to the client when your images lack what a true creative and knowledgeable strobist can create. These other photographers can theoretically shoot anytime during the day or night and usually find a way to make their images look like it was shot at any time of the day.

And at the end of the day these photographer don't realize they are hurting themselves. Top sushi chefs don’t say that they can serve puffer fish unless they absolutely know how to do it. The best way to actually learn how to light is to adopt the mentality of being an available light photographer. The use of reflectors, umbrellas, flashes, monolights, softboxes and more are the only things that can help you achieve a more tailored vision because there is only so much that you can do with natural light until all of your images look the exact same and someone figures out a way to mimic your technique and do what you do for cheaper.

And if you’re going to shoot in only natural light, at least learn to get exactly what you want and need in a single shot the way that medium format film photographers and large format photographers used to do.

If you are searching for a photographer that states they are "A Natural Light Photographer" ask to see a physical portfolio.  Every reputable professional photographer has one of his/her images. If they don't again buyer beware.  You then have to ask yourself what are they hiding?

I realize my clients are spending a considerable amount of their hard earned money to get in front of my camera.  This article is part of the education they get when we sit in our pre shoot consultation meetings.  I want them to not only know about me and my work to make an educated decision, but I want them to know what is happening in the industry.

I appreciate all of you that have taken the time to part of this blog and community of both photographers and consumers.

If you have questions or comments please direct them to my website and click on the contact us tab.

Have a great Easter and keep shooting!

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