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I'm a Jersey girl living in the Colorado mountains- I'm a sucker for glowly light and deep conversations over a glass of whiskey . . .

Meet Ashley

Natural VS Artificial Light, is there really a big difference? Short answer: YES! There is actually a HUGE difference in the type of light you are using. Here’s my disclaimer- I know, follow, and admire many photographers who LOVE their off camera flash (OCF) system and swear by it. They live for the high and low shadows, the contrast, and the artsy vibe. Awesome. I’m not bashing what works for them. This blog is meant to explain the difference between natural and artificial light.

However, for my style of photography, artificial light rarely produces the outcome I am aiming for. There are multiple reasons for this, but for the purposes of this blog – I am going to hit on the main three. Before you read these points, it’s important to get a grasp on just how important light is in photography. It is the #1 aspect, hands down- that has to be on point to produce quality images. Regardless as to which type or style of photography you are drawn to. Lighting is going to be everything. Give this a quick ready before moving on.

Lets start by defining both:

Natural Light: Light from the sun. Sunlight can show in many different ways: harsh, bright, diffused, shaded, backlight, etc . . .

Artificial Light: Any source of light that does not come from a natural source. Examples: Flash, electric lamps, fluorescent lights, LED’s, headlights, etc . . .

So, why do I prefer to use Natural Light?

  1. Consistent: The sun is consistent. It requires no batteries, no outlet, nothing. It is there- even on cloudy days. There is no gear I need to carry to provide light. Nothing can malfunction. The sunlight is also abundant, meaning there is plenty of it. It doesn’t matter how many people are around that need that light- we all have access to it. You know that saying ‘the sun always rises in the morning’? That’s it, right there- without fail.
  2. Tones: The sun is always going to provide the cleanest light. I notice this as a struggle for amateur photographers. Learning and understanding light is key. Flash can often produce very contrasty and harsh images. That is not my style. I love the light and airy style with enough pop to bring visual appeal to my images. If you have ever taken a photo in a class room or office with those fluorescent lights over your head and noticed your skin looking very yellow- that is exactly what I am referring to. During in-home sessions- you’ll find me clicking off all the lights (having more than source of light can often result in wonky and unprofessional looking images). I always want my clients to love their images- getting correct skin tones is a big portion of that. No one wants to look yellow, green, or pink because of artifical lighting.
  3. Natural: There are times that a photo just looks ‘off’. This is usually because it is not what our eye sees. The shadows and highlights are all over the place, the colors look distorted, and it feels heavy. Often, this is a lighting issue. Natural light is just that- natural. When you know where to place your subject and work with the sun, it brings a level of simplicity and an organic quality to photos. Artificial light, for me, makes it difficult to produces soft romantic images. Natural light allows me to create that glow that my clients hire me for.

While artificial light allows you a lot of control and flexibility, I find it difficult to have cohesive images with different types of sessions, settings, and subjects. I do use my OCF when needed. Mainly, I use it for dark reception areas. Without it- the images would be incredible dark, heavy, and likely grainy from a super high ISO.

I’m going to attach some Natural VS Artificial light images below. As a reminder, there is nothing wrong with artificial light if that is your vibe. But, it is not mine- and if you ask me . . . I will take natural light over artificial every time.

Note the cleaner tones, less contrast, and overall lightness and less heaviness of this image vs the one above it. These images were taken at Perona Farms in Andover New Jersey. Check out that blog here.

I used this example to show that even when it is over cast, natural light still gives you cleaner/white tones vs the yellow/orange warm tones in the image above and below this one.

Even though these images were taken inside I opted to position myself where the light was best coming in from the windows rather than using flashes and overhead lights. The result was clean bright images, which is my preference and style.

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