Updated: Oct 11, 2021
You are doing some research into different photographers as you need to hire one for your wedding. While diving into the pages of google and other wedding sources, you see some photographers claiming to be natural light photographers and others to be flash photographers. You might be asking, "What in the world is the difference?" and "Which style is considered better?". Evan from ETG Photos is here to save the day and hopefully answer these questions.
Natural Light vs. Flash Photography: What's the Difference?
First, we need to look at the meaning of being a natural light and a flash photographer.
What is a Natural Light Photographer?
A natural light photographer is exactly what it sounds like. They use the light that is available to them to take a photo (99% of the time this means the sun). They will only have their camera (maybe some other equipment to bounce the natural light) and the light sources naturally available to them. The benefit of this style is that the photographer can shoot wide open and create a depth of field (this makes the background creamy and out of focus while the photo's subject is in focus). The downside of this is that it is heavily reliant on the available light and the quality of light. So if the sun has set and you have no other source of light you could potentially run into some issues.
What is a Flash Photographer?
The flash photographer will use either an on or off-camera flash to take photos. Using flashes (or strobes depending on the equipment) allows the photographer to control the lighting and create a more dynamic image. The only issue is that extra gear will need to be carried around and set up. You also might run into an issue if it is extremely windy out or someone bumps into a stand...it creates a chaotic scene of equipment falling down, the photographer jumping to catch it, and people running out of the way trying not to get hit by a light.
Natural Light vs. Flash Photography: Which is Better?
Now that we have a fundamental understanding of the difference (does the photographer use a flash or not), we may answer which one is better.
Drum roll, please...
To those reading this blog post, I am very excited to announce... The winner of which style of lighting is better goes to ... IT DEPENDS! Yes, my favorite answer for all things tax and photography-related. One technique is not superior to the other. There are scenarios where using available light is perfect. There are others where using a flash makes all the difference.
So I will do you a favor and help you pick out the photographer to handle your wedding (or other photography needs). Find a photographer who is experienced and masterful of both styles, and I will give you an example of why.
I was asked to handle an extended family member's Covid wedding. It was on Memorial Day Weekend at a beautiful house on a small private pond in the woods. In my head, I was planning to do some of my couple photos outside using available light and achieve a very fairy forest vibe. Now for those of you that were not with us in New York for Memorial Day Weekend of 2021... Unfortunately, it was raining, which means my idea is thrown out the door. My only options were to shoot through the front door with the couple on the porch and have the trees in the background (photos came out fantastic). Unfortunately, if I shot this with available light, any light from inside the house would bounce and hit the couple, leaving them a bit dark and having an unnatural skin color. I corrected this by bouncing a flash on the porch to light up my couple. This beautiful lighting would have been difficult to achieve without the flash.
The reverse of the above scenario was when I shot with a model. I was using an off-camera flash to light my subject, which was perfect. However, we noticed that the sun was creating a very cool shadow with a chain fence. To pull in the pattern of the shadow, I would have to use available light as my flash would have destroyed the pattern. The end result was a fascinating and fun shot that you would see for an editorial.
Being able to adapt as a photographer is extremely important. No two lighting scenarios will generally be the same. Having the ability to switch between lighting styles is a tremendous asset to have on the job (or better yet having two photographers at the job/wedding). It ensures that I will be able to capture the image in the best way possible. In a future blog post, I will touch on what is my favorite lighting style and why. But for now, you can leave in comfort knowing the difference and that I can easily switch between the two. If you are looking for an event photographer or any other photography services, feel free to reach out via the link below. I look forward to talking with you soon!