Which is better, natural light or artificial light? It’s a question that has plagued photographers for centuries. Well, maybe not centuries, but at least as long as photography has been around. And, the answer is still far from clear.
On the one hand, natural light is abundant and gives your photos a kind, natural feel. On the other hand, artificial light gives you more control and can be used to create different effects.
So, which should you use? Let’s find out!
Natural & Artificial Light – Explained
There are two types of light for photography: natural and artificial.
Natural light is, quite simply, light from the sun. It’s the light that we see and feel every day, and it’s what gives us our natural skin tone. It can be soft, mellow, and warm, but at the same time, it can be harsh, overwhelming and cold.
Artificial light is any light that’s not from the sun. This includes things like fluorescent lighting, LED lights, studio strobes, pop-up flash, or even something basic like a streetlight or a desk lamp.
Each type of light has its own unique properties that can affect your photos in different ways. So, which one’s better? We’ll get to that.
Pros & Cons of Natural Light
How would we be able to pin these two against each other if we didn’t have a pros and cons list?
- Natural light is free and easy to find – All you have to do is go outside and shoot. You don’t need any fancy equipment, and you can shoot anywhere, anytime. It’s perfect for newbies that don’t have a lot of money to invest in equipment.
- It gives photos a natural look and feel – Natural light tends to be softer and more flattering than artificial light. This is because the sun is diffused by the atmosphere, which gives it a softer quality.
- It can be very flattering for portraits – The skin looks softer and more natural in photos taken with natural light. This is because the light is coming from one direction (usually above), which creates shadows that help to define the subject’s features.
- Sun can be harsh, overpowering and unpredictable – The sun can be a photographer’s best friend, but it can also be their worst enemy. It’s unpredictable and can change quickly, going from soft and mellow to harsh and overwhelming in a matter of minutes. This can make it difficult to get the right exposure, and it can be especially challenging for new photographers.
- Photos taken in natural light can often be unevenly lit – It can be difficult to get even lighting when doing long photoshoots if you’re relying just on natural light. This can mess up your exposure, contrast, and even saturation.
- You have less control over the look of your photo – With natural light, you have to work with what you’ve got. You can’t control where the sun is, how bright it is, or what time of day it is. This can make it difficult to get the exact look that you’re going for and will often limit how much time you have to take the shot.
Pros & Cons of Artificial Light
Now, let’s talk about artificial lights.
- Artificial light is more controllable – You have more control over the look and feel of your photos when you use artificial lights. For example, COLBOR offers artificial light for photography that comes in different color temperatures, which means you can set the mood, change the intensity, play with luminance etc. This gives you a lot more flexibility to create the exact look that you want.
- It’s perfect for low-light situations – If you’re shooting in a low-light environment, artificial light can be a lifesaver. It can help to brighten up the scene and give you the extra light that you need to get a good photo.
- It speeds up the editing process – If you’re shooting with artificial light, you can often get away with less editing. This is because the light is more consistent, and you have more control over the final look of the photo.
- Artificial light can be expensive – If you want to use artificial light, you’ll need to invest in some quality equipment. This can be expensive, and it’s not always necessary for every type of photography.
- It can be time-consuming to set up – If you’re using multiple lights, it can take a while to set up your lighting rig. This can be frustrating, especially if you’re trying to take candid shots or capture a moment that’s happening in real-time.
- You need to know how to use it properly – If you don’t know how to use artificial light properly, it can ruin your photos. This is because you can easily over or underexpose your shots, and you can also create unwanted shadows.
Types of Photography & Lighting – Which One’s Better?
To reach the final verdict, we have to get real. And, it doesn’t get any more real than seeing which works best in which real-world scenario.
1. Portrait Photography
When it comes to shooting people, we have to give a slight edge to artificial lights. This is because you can better control the look of your photos, and you don’t have to worry about the sun or the clouds. You can achieve any look you want with just a little bit of tinkering, including that soft, natural look and tone.
2. Wedding Photography
Oof, this one’s kind of hard, because there are pros and cons to both. On one hand, you’ll want to capture the love and the warm, natural feel of the big day. On the other, you’ll want to be able to control your shot so that the newlyweds look their best. Let’s call this one a tie.
3. Fashion Photography
This one’s a no-brainer. If you’re shooting fashion, you’re going to want to be in complete control of your lighting. This means that artificial light is the only way to go.
4. Architectural Photography
Finally, a clear win for the natural light, and not just because it’s super hard to artificially illuminate a whole building. It’s just that you have to capture the architecture the way it really looks and feels, and you can’t do that with artificial light.
5. Commercial Photography
Once again, we have a clear victory for the artificial lighting. Whether you’re shooting photos or videos, and regardless of the product you’re shooting – commercial photos must be shot in a controlled environment. It’s just the way it is. So, another clear win for the LED lights and other fancy equipment.
6. Nature Photography
To cap things off, we have nature photography and all it encompasses. And, as you’d expect, this one’s dominated by the natural light (duh, it’s in the name). Whether you’re shooting wildlife or scenery, you’ll just have to work with what nature’s giving you.
Final Verdict – Natural or Artificial?
Overall, you could say that artificial light is better because it’s more versatile and offers more control. But, that’s not to say that natural light doesn’t have its own advantages. It all depends on the type of photography you’re doing and what you’re trying to achieve. You won’t carry a softbox and a COB light to shoot some cheetahs on safari, won’t you?
So, we guess what we’re trying to say is that there’s no clear winner. It all comes down to you, your style, and your vision. Whatever gets the job done is good enough.