lights are important

Light – it’s more or less the core of the art of image capture, be it video or photo, the quality and placement of light in a scene is everything.  It makes and breaks an image.  The key to creating great images, time and time again, in a consistent and reliable fashion, as is necessary if you are a working professional, is to understand light, and to know how to use professional lights when needed.

If a photographer is faced with conditions that are not ideal, this is when the true test of a professional’s metal happens, how do they handle difficult situations?  Do they know how to use lights? Do they have a camera and lens combination in their kit that can handle low light situations and do it well?  Do they own a flash? Do they own film production lights? 


So why not just go with natural light? Oftentimes natural light looks great! You might have the perfect sunset and a vivid velvet sky, as seen from atop the rolling hills in Oregon wine country. In this setting, its almost hard not to get good photos.  But weddings are long events that cover many locations, and hours of the day, the entire wedding is not going to take place at sunset. It’s especially common for receptions to be fraught with problems in the “natural light” of the scene, cheap LED string lights, will flicker and produce color that feels… off, and unpleasant, as well as being extremely dim, its in these kinds of scenarios that a real pro with good knowledge of professional lights, and how to use them, is going to really going to shine.

I always get a kick out of people who call themselves natural light photographers (or videographers) with the exception of a couple of notable exceptions, such as kate holt photography, who I have seen do incredible things time and time again in adverse conditions, without a single light. And her images always look amazing!  Most of the time, if someone calls themselves a natural light photographer, what they mean is, they don’t have a clue how to properly use lights

And if someone does not know how to use lights, they are a slave to the conditions of the day, and the venue. Which is not good for a professional who is shooting a once in a lifetime event.

A good photographer, should know how to use flashes, and strobes (although with every passing year, the line between the two gets more and more blurred as some incredibly powerful flashes have hit the market and continue to get better and better, for now there is a notable distinction) and a videographer who should have least one light in their kit, and now how to make the best of it, should they need to. 

Natural light photography

I think the reason that the term, natural light photographer, became a thing, is that some people don’t know how to use lights, and they just point a light face on at their subject from on top of their camera, and fire away!  Using lights isn’t a magic, bam! Everything looks good now! Kind of solution, in fact, if you do it wrong, you can make a scene look terrible. Using lights is more like painting, where you place the lights, and the power settings you use, is incredibly important. Even the color of your lights, relative to the natural light in the scene, can be relevant.  If you paint with lights well, you can make almost any event space look good (or at least better then it did, if the lighting was bad that day)

Experience trumps all

Some people are gonna paint with a flash, or a fresnel film production light, like an artist paints with a brush, but some people are gonna paint with a light, like a bull in a candy shop, at the end of the day, as they always say, its not the tools that make the artist, its the artist.  For this reason, I think it’s incredibly important to take a look at an artists portfolio, and to look for the scenes where they did need to whip out a light. Because at the end of the day, the quality of the images, be it photos, or videos, is all about the talent of the person behind the camera. And that ultimately comes down to experience and talent. That being said, I would advise everyone ask their could be photographer, or video dudes and dudettes, about their experience with lights, if they talk about their light kit, that is a good sign, and if they proudly state they are a natural light photographer, proceed with caution. If they are good, and know how to use lights, they will be much more reliably able to deliver the images you’re hoping to get for your special day.

Shooting a wedding is, at the end of the day, about reliability. A wedding is a one time event, that will never happen again, professional lights were made for a reason. It’s not easy to paint a scene with lights and make it look amazing, but the tools exist for a reason, and any pro worth their metal should know how to use them, and use them well.