As a luxury destination wedding photographer, I promised to show the difference between a natural light photographer and a photographer using artificial light and light modifiers once I have a good example. The main reason is that I often see arguments between so-called natural light photographers and other pros on the internet, confusing some brides. And for weddings, it is most important to choose wisely.
Don’t take me wrong. I don’t want to declare that one of these options is wrong. I’m actually on both sides. Unless you have a nice budget for at least two photographers and two assistants, it’s tough to utilize any equipment during the wedding day. You have literally just seconds for everything.
I have to admit that I love the natural light in wedding photography. I shoot as much of it as I can. Natural light photography is actually a very popular choice for wedding photography. But being popular doesn’t necessarily indicate it is the right choice for everyone.
I’ll be making some pretty broad generalizations about photographers and their styles here. I definitely can’t say that I know everyone advertising themselves as a natural light wedding photographer and how they work. I’m not trying to persuade you to avoid shopping around for a natural light wedding photographer at all. I simply want to help you choose wisely.
As I already said, there is debate about natural light photography. Generally, if a photographer says they are a natural light photographer, which means they shoot with “natural light”, they don’t use artificial photography lighting (aka flashes). They will only use daylight and whatever ambient light is available at any location and time (like lamps, candles, etc.). Some photographers prefer to call themselves natural light photographers even though they are capable of using other lighting techniques. This is very important for wedding photography, so make sure you ask.
Shooting with only natural light is undoubtedly simpler. But simpler doesn’t necessarily mean easier. Shooting natural light photography well is just as much of an art as any other style of photography. However, it takes less equipment and technical expertise to shoot natural light than to set up and use off-camera lights. For off-camera lights, we also need an assistant.
Photographers who have perfected this style can create breathtaking photos. But not every photographer is like that. As high-quality cameras have become cheaper, more people can buy them and create images. These amateur photographers are advertising themselves as natural light photographers because they have no choice. They lack the knowledge, training, or equipment to do anything else.
If you’re planning to spend most of your wedding outdoors or in well-lit indoor spaces, a natural light wedding photographer is an excellent choice. But if your timeline starts early, goes late, the ceremony or portraits are planned for mid-day with harsh light, or mostly happen indoors, you might want to consider other options.
Well, sometimes you just need to use another light. This happens mainly during the bright day around noon when the sunlight is too sharp. Another option might be bad weather or even after sunset. Spotlights can create beautiful ambient light, but this never works for portraits.
Yes, in the worst case, Photoshop could help, but for wedding photography, where we edit a couple of hundreds of photos, it’s very time-consuming.
Here below is a perfect picture from my recent wedding that can be used as a perfect example. You can compare a photo captured in not ideal sun conditions without me using artificial light and then the same image created with the help of an artificial light source.
I created a reel on my Instagram about this topic.
What I don’t like about natural light wedding photography, also used in the so-called fine-art style? Yes, the fine-art wedding style is likable and romantic. Yes, it looks lovely on the Instagram wall. However, the sky is usually just too white for me, and the gown becomes one big bright mess. I started as a fashion photographer and know how to show even small details on the dress. And a bridal gown is probably the most expensive dress you ever wore. So why would you want pictures where you can’t see any details of that dress?