Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Natural light vs. flash, part of Advanced Photography: Flash.
- "I don't like the look of flash." That's something I regularly hear people say when I suggest that using a flash might be the answer to a photographic problem that they're experiencing. I don't know if they're actually making that face or not, but in my mind's eye that's how I imagine them when they're saying it. And almost every time I have to struggle to not say, "Well then you must not know how to use flash." I don't say that because I don't want to make that face, but also because I understand what they mean. They're saying that they don't like that hard specular light shining from directly in front of a subject. That light that you get if you use any kind of on camera flash. I don't like that either. Or maybe they're a little more sophisticated and they've tried taking their flash off camera, but they've still ended up with results that are very harsh and subjects that appear shiny, but that's not what flash has to be. I love natural light. I love shooting in natural light. I love walking around in natural light in the late afternoon. I frequently frustrate friends because I will reject a particular restaurant, or cafe, or bar because it's on the wrong side of the street for the time of day when we're wanting to go there. That's because I want good natural, attractive, comforting light around me if I'm going to hang out in a place and I take that seriously. If you're a photographer who doesn't have a somewhat extreme aesthetic for the quality of light that occurs naturally in the world, then you're operating at a bit of a deficit. What I want to say to those people who don't like flash is that if you're skilled enough, you can recreate any beautiful natural light that you might find in the world using flashes or strobes. Granted to recreate some types of natural light you have to be very skilled and you got to have some game just to get past that typical flash look. The key to good flash usage and to recreating natural looking light is to use modifiers. I'm talking about reflectors, and umbrellas, and softboxes, and parabolic dishes, and sometimes even things that you find on a location. To effectively work with some modifiers you need more light than you can get from a typical hand held flash. In those instances you need to move up to a larger strobe. Since this is an advanced flash course, I assume that you've already done work with flash and possibly are already using some modifiers and larger strobes. If so, then you've probably found that sticking a pricey modifier onto an expensive strobe doesn't automatically yield good results. Whether you're using small flashes, larger strobes, or continuous lights, lighting design can be frustrating. In this course I'm going to try to teach you a problem solving methodology for approaching lighting. Hopefully that will help you get the light you want and successfully tackle the frustration when it comes up. However you can't design good light if you don't know what good light is. We'll talk about some ways that you can improve your understanding of what makes good light, but one of the best ways to learn is to pay attention to the natural light around you. Those people who say they prefer natural light, there's a reason they like it. So, your first exercise begins right now. What is the quality of the light in the room that you're sitting in right now? Are there hard shadows? Soft shadows? Is there a particular color cast? What direction is the light coming from? What kind of shadows does that direction cause? Light study is something you can do constantly, all day, as you're moving about your life and that particular kind of study is valuable when it comes to creating light of your own. And for those of you who don't like flash, that's fine. You don't have to use it. But I would still encourage you to spend some time studying it anyway because recognizing good light is a different skill from creating good light and learning to build light yourself will change your ability to recognize, appreciate, and exploit the natural light that you see around you. There are a few things you need to own and know to make use of this course. We'll cover those in the next movie.
- Why use strobes instead of continuous light?
- How to think about light
- How light bounce works
- Learning lighting from existing photos
- Using a flash meter
- Simulating sunlight with shadows
- Using softboxes and umbrellas
- Calculating and using lighting ratios
- Shopping for studio strobes