As a photographer, lighting is one of the most important elements when it comes to taking a good photograph – arguably the most important element. But which is better, natural lighting or professional lighting? We will compare natural lighting vs professional lighting to help you decide which is more suitable for your photography.
In this post we will discuss:
- Defining natural lighting and professional lighting
- Natural lighting vs full spectrum lamps
- Natural lighting vs strobes
- Natural lighting vs professional lighting: which is better?
Defining natural lighting and professional lighting
To begin, let’s define natural and professional lighting. Natural light is the light that occurs naturally from the sun or the moon. Professional lighting is artificial lighting used for photography such as studio strobe lights, full-spectrum lamps, LED lights, or your camera flash.
Natural lighting vs full spectrum lamps
A full spectrum lamp is a lamp whose spectrum closely resembles natural daylight. Specifically, it should have a CRI (Colour Rendering Index) of 95 or better, and a colour temperature of 6500K.
Improved colour rendition
In photography, there is one predominant benefit to using full-spectrum lamps and that is improved colour rendition. While a fluorescent lamp emitting a daylight white colour also resembles daylight, it lacks the full spectrum. This means that fluorescent lighting in photography does not depict colour accurately, because the object’s colours are determined by the wavelengths they are reflecting. Because full spectrum lamps have the complete spectrum of wavelengths, they depict colours accurately.
Accurate colour temperature
This makes full-spectrum lamps ideal for photography as it provides accurate and consistent colour across a body of work. This is especially important in product photography where you want your product to be presented as it looks in real life. Also when taking photographs, the colour temperature may look different than it does to the human eye, but using full-spectrum lamps can help rectify this in your pictures, and help you avoid having to do too much reconnaissance in the editing stage.
The benefit of using full-spectrum lamps is that you know that it resembles daylight, which is something photographers desire for a natural appearance in their photos. But full-spectrum lighting takes away the capricious nature of daylight which is constantly changing and can cause inconsistencies in photographs. Also natural light sometimes is not desirable simply because it is inconvenient – the lighting varies drastically depending on the time of day and this is not an issue with professional lights. Using full-spectrum lamps is the expedient solution if you struggle to shoot at the ideal times of the day.
While natural lighting is abundant and cost-free, it can be difficult to manipulate depending on the weather and time of day. The huge advantage of professional lamps is the freedom to shoot whenever. Full-spectrum lamps, in particular, offer the benefit of a great colour rendition, mimicking natural light.
Natural lighting vs strobes
Strobe lights emit a short, sharp, and bright burst of light. Strobes have a full power output of anywhere from 100 to 1,000 watts. The higher the power output, the longer the distance you can use in your photography. Strobes can come in the form of LED lights, halogen lights, and xenon flash lamps.
Short flash duration
Strobe lights have a very short flash duration, which is especially significant for high-speed photography where the shutter speed is equally as fast.
Easy to manipulate
Strobe lighting is beneficial for photographers because it allows for control over the lighting. The unpredictability of daylight is not an issue when it comes to using strobe lights. You can manipulate the light to have soft or hard lighting, backlighting, depending on your photographic goals for the shoot. Again, this allows for the consistency of colour in your photos.
This is also very convenient with regards to timing. You can shoot whenever you like without concern for the restrictive nature of the weather and the setting sun, as the strobe lighting will provide ultimate consistency.
- Many photographers prefer daylight for creative reasons, but there is a great deal that you can achieve with artificial strobe lighting that you wouldn’t be able to with natural light.
- Strobe lights are rather malleable in terms of light manipulation. You can play with the hard or soft quality of the light, and also with tone and contrast.
- You can use multiple lights in your setup depending on the desired look, and you can even mimic daylight.
- As strobe lights produce a high-intensity light you can filter light through diffusers to create a soft lighting effect without worrying about whether the light is powerful enough.
- Even when shooting outdoors some photographers love to use strobe lighting. The strobe lights are incredibly powerful and create the impression of the natural, ambient lighting as a peripheral light source, for a dynamic contrast within the image. This can be especially useful in editorial photography.
Strobe lighting can produce a consistent colour temperature as well.
Natural lighting vs professional lighting: which is better?
To sum up, natural lighting is advantageous because it’s free, and it’s an abundant light source. If you’re on a budget and can’t afford lighting, it’s perfectly possible to take good photographs with only natural light. It can be difficult to manipulate natural light as it’s constantly changing and it can take time to learn how to adjust the exposure. We recommend that photographers begin working with natural light to understand how it works, and if you want to upgrade your equipment, reflectors, diffusers and lens filters can be sourced affordably and aid in light manipulation.
Natural light can produce beautiful results, but the quality, colour, contrast, and shadows will differ depending on the location, time of day, weather and even the season. Therefore you have to be prepared for the vagarious nature of daylight. Photographers love using natural light as it can create a soft, airy feel in photos.
The advantage of professional lighting is that is easy to control, and you don’t have to constantly be concerned with adjusting the exposure. It is also easy to manipulate.
With both strobe lights and full spectrum lamps, it is possible to recreate the look of daylight which is important with regards to colour rendition and temperature. This is especially important with regards to product photography.
Both natural and studio lights have advantages, so it’s up to you to weigh your options. Photographers love the soft, diffuse quality that natural lighting can bring at sunrise and sunset, but other photographers love the dynamism and contrast they can achieve with professional lighting.
If you need any help with your photography project don’t hesitate to contact someone on our team who can help you find an excellent photographer who will provide you with a reliable on-demand service.