Natural Lighting: The Wild Stallion of Photography
It’s beautiful, strong, unpredictable and a force of nature. Natural lighting has the most amazing qualities, bringing out an eminent beauty in every subject shot. For me: when I look at a natural lighting photo, I’m simply drawn to it, and can’t quite describe why, but the lighting is simply captivating. For my style, I love to photograph Using Natural and available light as often as possible, rarely, if ever do I take out my flash. I don’t want strobes, and tripods, and other equipment to get in my way, slow me down, or distract me- I shoot naturally, and quickly- with a single body, a few essential- mostly prime lenses.
I liken Natural lighting to a wild horse, difficult to tame, but much more exciting than its domesticated counterparts (studio Lighting). Something about studio lighting has just never appealed to me; it just usually appears so sterile, lacking interest or character. There are people, who have mastered using lighting in some phenomenal ways, and I greatly admire their work, but it truly is a rare talent that they possess. In PJ style, I like my photos to convey the true look and feel of the surrounding environment. Even tungsten lighting, shot on the right settings is like comfort food for the eyes, golden, warm and inviting.
Natural light can be harnessed and filtered in countless ways; all you need is an imagination, and a sense of adventure. Rays filtering through treetops, or reflected light from a concrete wall, even bold beams that overexpose your frame are just a few examples. I enjoy careful placement of reflectors as well, and love to keep a 5 in 1 handy. The enhancement of a reflector is a lovely touch to the fine details of a photo. I really love the versatility I can get out of one compact piece of equipment: I have a possible backdrop, GOBO, shoot through diffuser, and several colors of reflector to choose from. I have even in some circumstances used a reflector for a bride to sit on, so as not to dirty her dress.
The most important equipment you’ll ever own: experience. Knowledge and experience in light and exposure is the ultimate photography skill. Forget all of that trendy Buzz worthy “stuff” It can be so easy to get sucked into all of the technology of digital photography. Technology is great, and can be really fun, but what truly makes a great photographer is not in the stuff in his camera bag. In my opinion the greatest thing any photographer can do is to learn the absolute essential – the photo in photography. Skill, practice, and a professional eye, coupled with a real passion for what you are doing- those are the only essential pieces of equipment in photography.
Such a great example let me share a short story from a wedding I shot last year: I was shooting a wedding as a second, yet separately contracted shooter the situation was awkward, to say the least. I tried to stay out of the other photographers way as much as possible, since he was booked long before me. I showed up to this wedding with a body, and three lenses, that’s it. He showed up with three assistants, better bodies, great flashes, a laptop and all the bells and whistles. Time for formals was about 3:00 pm, (UGH!! ) He found a shady spot under a large oak, and set up his entourage and the wedding party. A piece of equipment was missing, and he sent someone back for it, meanwhile the wedding party is hot, and irritated waiting for a period of about ten minutes, I saw my opportunity. I said, “hey lets do something fun real quick, while we’re waiting,” and to the other photographer’s shock ( and subtly nasty comments about shiny foreheads) I walked them out into the full afternoon sun, and said on the count of three everyone give me a great jump! I then did a few more sets as quickly as I could, the bride and groom had expressed to me they wanted photos of them taken with the beautiful view of the country club, but the other photographer refused, reason being, sunlight. I took those, and I also got a few more before the other photographer was ready to resume. I had no fear of the sunlight because it was to my subjects back, and camera right. I worked my camera angles and got away with amazing photos that the bride and groom are still gushing over.
Just reading a book on photography can’t possibly ready you for the wild unpredictable nature of light, only hands on experience can do that. There is no instruction manual to being a great photographer, and despite the many articles and books you may read no real rules either. All that truly matters are your keen eye and individual sense of style. If you only do what a book tells you, you’ll never really let your creativity shine.