Studio Vs. Natural Light: When You Should Use Each

Rating: 3.50 based on 2 Ratings
  By Jennifer Berube
Studio Vs. Natural Light: When You Should Use Each

When taking someone’s photograph, whether professionally or just for fun, lighting is the number one problem you’ll run into. It can be difficult to get natural lighting to work with your vision, but buying all the equipment necessary for a studio can be extremely costly. There are pros and cons to each, but usually, the decision comes down to the photograph you want to create. So before you spend hundreds of dollars on lights or start religiously tracking storms and cloud movements, ask yourself these questions:

What’s the Style You’re Going For?

When doing a photo shoot, it’s important to keep in mind what you’re trying to portray in your final images. Do you want the photos to be fun and light? Or are you going for more of a serious photo someone might use as a headshot or business photo? Different styles of photographs will require different settings to make them work.

If you’re going for something serious that will be used in a professional setting, then it makes more sense to move into your studio. This way you’ll be able to control the lighting to make sure that it looks perfect; plus, photos with a solid color background are generally considered to be more professional than ones taken in front of a bunch of foliage.

But, if you’re going for something more fun, then head outdoors. Let’s say your friend wants a cute picture to put on social media, natural light will give a nice effect. The sun tends to give photos an airy quality. The bright and fun backgrounds found in real life are hard and expensive to reproduce in a studio setting.

How Much Time Do You Have?

This question has two sides to it. One, what is your timeline? Does your client need the images today, or is it something that can wait a week or two? Two, how long do you have during the photo shoot? Is your client only booked for an hour, or do you have all day? Timing can play a big part in deciding where you want to take your photos.

If you’re crunched for time in either of the scenarios, it’s best to use studio light. It may not bring out the full style you wanted in your picture, but with enough setup time beforehand, you can come pretty close to re-creating the outdoors. Because Mother Nature doesn’t always play nice, being on a time crunch will make getting the perfect outdoor shot difficult.

However, if you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, you can easily try for that great outdoor shot. It might take a couple of days to find the perfect location. And you may have to wait for weather and great natural light, especially where the sun is in the right position for the background you want to use, but if you’re patient enough, you can find that sweet spot. Check the weather and be prepared to stand around and wait for your model until the moment is just right.

How Much Control Do You Need?

When you’re outside, you’re at Mother Nature’s mercy. When you’re in your own studio, you have full control. Part of this issue comes down to the type of person you are; the other comes down to the photo you want and the amount of time you have to get it. If you’re the kind of person who likes to be in control – who wants to get in, get that shot, and get out – then it’s best to use a studio setting.

However, if you’re comfortable waiting around and letting the sun and clouds do all the work, then as long as the photo style calls for it, head outdoors.

Other Factors for Shooting in Studio or Natural Light

Of course, there are other factors that are less a stylistic choice and more a force you can’t control. Money, for one, is a big contender. Creating good studio lighting means buying a lot of different parts, not just one big spotlight. Don’t get me wrong, you can create some pretty dramatic scenes with just one light, it just needs to be the right one.

Simply going outside with a model and a camera doesn’t cost anything extra than what you spent on your camera. Other things to keep in mind are the weather, the environment, and the space of your studio.

Being cramped in a tiny little room with lots of hot lights pointed at someone can make any shoot uncomfortable. At the same time, the weather isn’t always certain so good natural light isn’t always guaranteed, and sometimes you may have to drive long ways out to get to a nice location that will suit your client’s needs (and that can eat up a lot of time and money).

Rating: 3.50 based on 2 Ratings
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Before I became Editor-in-Chief of PHLEARN Magazine, I spent over five years specializing in Photography Writing and contributed articles regularly to sites like PictureCorrect, Sleeklens, and PhotoWorkout. Photography has always been a huge passion of mine; I may not be professionally trained in the art, but the knowledge and experience I have gained writing about photography techniques, interviewing some of the biggest and most inspiring photographers out there, and covering industry events has been invaluable!

Comments (1)

  1. Fotograf Nunta Bucuresti Guest

    Awesome post with very nice tips. Thanks for sharing!