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A photographer recently wrote to me at Photofocus to complain that I mentioned a studio light I used when making my macro shots.

He proudly proclaimed – “I only shoot with natural light. That’s how REAL photographers work.”

Sigh. Well if it makes you feel better to say that then by all means say it. But it simply isn’t true – on any level.

Let me tell you what I THINK that statement really means. It means – “Scott I don’t know how to use studio lights or strobes so I cover up my lack of knowledge and my insecurity with a claim that real photographers only use “natural” light.”

There’s no such thing as “natural” light. There is just light. You can make it all sorts of ways. It comes in many forms. But on the sensor, it’s just light. On film, it’s just light. I once heard a similar exchange between a student and Joe McNally (Love to hear someone say to Joe he’s not a “real” photographer because he uses strobe!) The student said, “I only work with available light.” McNally picked up his Nikon flash unit and said, “This is AVAILABLE to me right now so it’s “available” light.”

I often rant against photographers who sell process over product. People who are caught up in the process rarely make great images. And people who are either too lazy or too afraid to learn how to use “artificial” lighting are missing out. They are also doing a disservice to their clients and anyone who may see their images. There are many great books, online courses and live workshops where you can learn to use flash, strobes, hot lights. etc. If you’re THAT PHOTOGRAPHER who secretly wishes they knew how to use these tools, suck it up and go learn. It’s not hard. Heck if I can do it anyone can.

And saying to your client “I only shoot with natural light” is like saying “I only shoot at ISO 200” or “I only shoot at f/1.8.” Unless you’re talking to the folks at the camera club, nobody cares. Get past the process and start thinking about the final product. It’s the picture that matters. Really. Just the picture.


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