05.02.2011

Natural Light versus Artificial Light: Hudson Valley Photography

I get a few questions now and then about how I get a certain look or lighting, and what equipment I am using (equipment question is a biggie these days). So I thought I would break this up into a two-part combined explanation.

The equipment: When I started out I was mostly an artificial light shooter. I’d enter my clients house with two softboxes in hand and a bag full of studio stuff. It would take about 15 minutes to set and test everything up before the main event. I wasn’t using anything fancy or name brand. My parents bought me my studio lighting as a graduation gift after completing my diploma at NYIP.

I wasn’t shooting with anything fancy either. I started and built my business with an Olympus DSLR that came with two Zuiko lens. Those two lenses gave me the ability to shoot wide angle and close-up. It has only been recently, a little over a year, that I upgraded from the Olympus to a Canon. I now shoot with a 5D Mark II and currently have 2 lens; my 50mm 1.8 and my 100mm 2.8 macro. I wouldn’t say that the upgrade has been profound in any way, I am still shooting the way I like to shoot and I still live with the saying ‘It’s not WHAT you shoot with! It is HOW you shoot with it!’. However, I have found that the lenses make a huge difference in having a larger field to create with!

The lighting technique, sort of: Throughout my learning process and still I have aimed to get my artificial/studio lighting as close to natural light as I can. The only way I could successfully do this was by studying natural light and then try to recreate this with my softboxes. I moved and rearranged the lights, used window light as compensation, angled reflectors to bounce the light, found natural reflectors in the home and so much more just to find the right look.

As artists there really isn’t a set way of doing anything! You have to be willing to try, be open to making mistakes, learn as much as you can thru practice and self critique yourself as much as possible. You can always learn someone else’s ‘techniques’ but it’s so much more fun to learn your own technique!

These examples are set as artificial and natural lighting visuals for you to see:

(This was natural light coming from a large window over the front doorway. I set up right in front of the doorway and was surrounded by light colored walls which acted as natural bouncing light reflectors.)

(One of my earliest newborns (and one of the few I was still working on to get my lighting natural). Taken with two Flash Strobe softboxes each angled 45 degrees toward baby.)(This one is a natural light portrait. Baby is facing a window with soft light streaming into the room. I am placed behind and over baby for this angle.)(This one was artificial light supplemented with a window placed high above my light. I wanted this to look much more natural so I angled the light in such a way that some shadowing would be created.)(Natural light coming in and bouncing throughout the house. My subjects are angled so that the hottest part of the natural lighting diffusing in was at a 45-60 degree angle on them.)(And, this last one is another one of my earlier babies set in artificial light. I used only one softbox here angled to the left at more of a 60 degree angle to my subjects. The softbox was a little high but the effect gave some wonderful shadows and diffusion.)

Again, hope this helps answer some of those questions, but mostly, hope it helps those seeking the guidance in one form or another!

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