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Lately, on all kinds of photography pages, I've been seeing more and more photographers wearing the NLP Bullshit Badge of Courage. Many of them often provide commentary that smacks of their belief that shooting their subjects in natural light alone, without the help of flash or any other lighting tools, makes them, somehow, more skillful or accomplished or better as photographers. To them I simply say, "Bullshit."
Here's why some photographers insist on shooting with natural light alone:
1. They don't own any lighting gear (or own a bare minimum of such equipment) and/or barely have a clue how to employ flash photography with daylight.
2. They don't own and/or have skills and know-how in the effective use of reflectors and scrims.
3. They are smug elitists in general and their photography is no exception to their sense of elitism and exceptionalism.
4. They know how to "create" pseudo or faux-lighting with post-processing -- be it with their own skills or with automated apps -- and, therefore, feel they have little need to effectively employ good lighting skills and techniques or even gear while in production.
5. They simply prefer, for creative reasons, to shoot with daylight without the help of flash or other tools. (Probably the least common reason but at least one I respect, when it's actually true.)
I am regularly taken back (a bit) when I see people posting pretty good model pics but, instead of simply being happy to have created such photos and enjoying the nice comments about them, they seem to relish informing everyone how they boldly and expertly snapped it with natural light alone, making sure they add some commentary about how they didn't even use so much as a reflector cuz, I guess, they're just that fucking good.
Whoop-dee-fucking-doo! Color me unimpressed in the extreme.
Here some 411 for those wearing the NLP's Bullshit Badge of Courage:
First off, if I had to rely on natural light alone every time someone hired me to shoot a model at an exterior location in daylight, my income over the past couple of decades would have been seriously impacted in negative ways. How so? Because great natural light is not always available at all exterior locations at all times of day and, as a result, many of my images would have suffered and so would my re-hires by the clients who hired me. (Clients don't accept excuses like, "Oh. Sorry. The light sucked. I'll do better next time if there's good light.")
Secondly, while shooting with natural light alone might seem like the most efficient way to shoot, the absolute most efficient way to shoot is not always the correct approach if that efficiency doesn't produce images that are, at the very least, minimally competent. (And "minimally competent" doesn't always cut it with clients. In fact, in my world, it rarely does.)
Third, some of us working photographers don't perform the post-production on our sets of images that our clients will be using for various artwork. Instead, we hand over images (burned onto CDs or DVDs) straight out of the camera, generally at the end of a production day. In other words, there's no enhancing or fixing fuck-ups of images that simply don't cut the mustard, whatever cutting the mustard actually means, you know, originally when people first started using the phrase. Again, images that don't cut the mustard, be it brown or yellow or even grey (Poupon) mustard, might have a serious and negative impact on a photographer's hope and desire for being re-hired for future work.
Personally, when I'm working, I'm all about keeping it simple and using the best tools for the job. If there happens to be super-excellent natural light where and when I'm shooting, I'll go that way, without any added tools. But that doesn't happen too often and, consequently, I often need to add some tools into the mix to capture the sorts of images my clients expect. You know, like artificial lighting gear or reflectors and scrims to enhance, modify, or control the natural light.
If you're someone who wears that NLP Bullshit Badge of Courage, for whatever of the 5 reasons I provided above, the odds are you're seriously limiting yourself as a photographer of those human beings who professionally model in front of a camera or those who are in front of a camera for various other reasons.
Trust me when I tell you the image of the model at the top, Dahlia, would have been barely competent (i.e., appearing like un-cut mustard without some heavy application of post-production manipulating) if, for whatever reason, it was snapped with the natural light alone at that specific location and time of day. In this case, the artificial light was a Paul C. Buff "Zeus" power pack with one head inside a medium, rectangular, soft box for a key light (pretty much on-axis from slightly above and angled downwards) plus the Buff ring flash mounted around the camera's lens for some subtle fill. By the way, if you didn't already know, lighting pioneer, Paul C. Buff, passed away just recently. RIP Paul.