Natural lighting in photography is exactly what it sounds like, it is photography that utilises the light gifted to us from the earth! It’s one of those things that is super simple in concept, but, when you really put the time in to understand and work with it the effect can be incredible. As photographers, learning how to work with light is photography 101, but through our experience with the medium we develop creative ways to push the boundaries of working with what the world gives us. Through our understanding of light, we also learn how to create environments using artificial lighting in order to build certain atmospheres in our very own studios. This is a complex process that requires a lot of technical knowledge and patience, but again, when done properly it means that we are able to control every element of an image!
There are benefits to both lighting techniques and different kinds of shoots require different kinds of light. Lighting choices will be influenced by a plethora of things from the subject to the intent of the shoot, but rest assured, the photographer will have a good idea of what lighting will work best for your needs. To answer the question of which is ‘best’, natural or artificial lighting? To put it simply, neither is better than the other. The most important thing about lighting is that your photographer understands how to work with it and considers which lighting to use based on the client’s personal brief!
In saying that, different lighting techniques certainly give off different kinds of messages. The main theme that we are exploring today is authenticity in photography, and ultimately, how best to utilise light in this instance. Authenticity, alongside other desirable terms like natural and candid, have become buzzwords in the photography world. This is simply because this is what businesses and people alike find desirable in a photograph. The important thing here is that, although the term may be somewhat overused and even misused, it is one of the most desirable and requested forms of photography, and it is totally achievable! When the goal is authentic and transparent photography, whether it is for a personal headshot, a wedding, or a product, natural lighting can really lend a helping hand in creating a more authentic and realistic photograph. When you think of an authentic photograph you imagine capturing a genuine moment or representing something as it is in reality. And, when you think of capturing a genuine moment or showcasing something as it appears in reality the last thing that comes to mind is a photography shooting environment with artificial lighting that has been constructed with the aim of presenting something in a very specific stylised way! When you put it so bluntly like this it is easy to see why it is important to harness the power of natural light when your message is one of authenticity. An image that utilises natural light still uses light in a mindful and beneficial way but in doing so it escapes looking too perfect or too manufactured, it still has soul and grit. Sometimes, this can be to the brief’s detriment and for example, when snapping a picture of an embroidered detail on a jacket, there really is no need for natural true to life lighting, in this instance, studio lighting takes the cake! That is not to say that photographs taken in natural lighting are not technically correct, because they absolutely are. The photographer is trained in working with all kinds of light and technical know-how plays no part in deciding which light setting will work best for your needs. The decision is based on the intent, application and usage of the image.
At the end of the day natural light is how we as humans experience the world. We are used to seeing people and things in it and we understand how to read it. It makes sense to us because it is the context in which we exist. When we create photographs in natural lighting, we are ultimately capturing the subject as it exists which makes for a very authentic and transparent image, and one that is interpreted as such. The value of this is that it creates a natural trust between the viewer and the photographer, a trust that is not forced because the viewer is able to accept the photograph as a real representation of the subject, and instead of looking too closely in order to authenticate the image, the viewer is instead able to read the narrative of the image.
“A real translation is transparent.”