Natural light has become quite a buzzword in the photography world the past few years. We as photographers understand what it means but it can be confusing to clients or people who aren't in the photography world. I've had many conversations with wedding professionals and potential brides alike about all of the misconceptions surrounding natural light photography, and I thought it would be a good time to dispel some of the myths.
First, let's talk about what natural light photography is and what types of images it produces. Natural light photography means using available light (i.e., the sun) to create an image without the use of additional lighting sources (i.e., flash). You know what creates all those gorgeous, glowing engagement photos you see in your Instagram feed? Natural light. Or what creates light and airy bridal portraits? Natural light. Sure, you can use external lighting to create it but it's not quite the same as the golden hour sunset.
As always, I want to give a disclaimer that all of this information is simply related to my style of photography. There are many photographers I admire who are not natural light photographers and that is OK! It works for them. Natural light and learning to manipulate it to create beautiful images is how I've developed my style and since there are many misconceptions, I want to educate brides about what it means for their wedding day.
Misconception #1: Natural light photographers will only shoot your wedding if you do a first look.
Truth: In a word, no. In a few words, no no no. Someone told me this one time and it blew my mind. Do I love first looks? Of course. Can I still give you beautiful portraits if you choose not to do a first look? YES!
If I have a couple who doesn't want to do a first look, I work with them on their ceremony timing to make sure we have enough available natural light after the ceremony to create those beautiful, romantic images they hired me to create. In the photo above, Brooke and Ben did not want to do a first look so we did their portraits after the ceremony and look how gorgeous they are.
Misconception #2: Natural light photographers can't photograph a reception because it'll be dark.
Truth: Before I answer this (because it's a little sticky), please ask a photographer to see a full wedding gallery before you hire them so you can see what their reception photos look like. Most natural light photographers know how to use their flash enough to photograph your reception but there are a few (likely less experienced) photographers who dub themselves natural light because they do not know how to use their flash. This is a very rare case but it happens. Like I said, look at a photographer's work -- their blog, their portfolio, and their online wedding galleries -- to make sure this doesn't happen. The majority of the time, we work hard to make sure we know our flash and can create beautiful reception photos of your cake and your first dance without making it look like a bad family portrait from the 90s.
In the photo above at Megan and Brandon's wedding, I wanted to preserve the romanticism and emotion of the morning so I set my flash power low so as not to create harsh shadows or a flat image. I think it worked pretty well, don't you?
Misconception #3: Natural light photographers don't know how to use flash or work in dark lighting situations.
Truth: This is sort of related to misconception #2 but I want to expand on using flash in other wedding day situations. Sometimes bridal suites or hotels are really dark. Sometimes churches are really dark and there is not enough available light to photograph without a flash. In those situations, I will put my flash on my camera and again, dial down the power to create soft images that mimic natural light and don't look like bad 90s portraits. Is it my favorite thing to do? No. But I've learned enough over the past few years to know that when it's a complicated lighting situation, flash can save me hours of work in post-processing.
Jasmine and David's New Year's Eve wedding started after the sun set and to make matters more challenging, the chapel was really small and dark. This image was taken with flash but still looks like there was plenty of light flooding in.
So rest assured that if you don't want to do a first look, your wedding photographer can work with that and will also be able to give you beautiful reception images. Natural light photographers prefer to use sunlight as a light source to create beautiful images but that doesn't mean they need the sun. Be sure to check out their wedding galleries if you have any doubts and don't be afraid to ask questions!
Are there other misconceptions about natural light that you'd like to know about? Let me know in the comments!
I'm Chelsea - a photographer, writer, adventurer, traveler, wife, Christ follower and mama to the most adorable rescue pup. I'm passionate about telling authentic stories with meaning and purpose and spreading joy through photographs. Grab a cup of coffee and stay awhile.