Daylight versus Studio Lighting

Photographers go to great lengths to create natural look skin tones, shadows, and a soft pleasing light that mimics what we are accustomed to seeing. It requires large lighting modifiers and color-corrected flash tubes to generate the quality of light that the sun and sky provide. Painstaking effort is required to get the angle of the light correct, and the right ratio of fill light without making the shadows look peculiar.

Some of the most beautiful figure photographs are captured in nature. However, this is balanced by the lack of predictable results.

I encourage all figure photographers to experiment with both studio lighting and daylight. Make an effort to become proficient at both. Even if you end up having a favorite, as most do, you will add variety to your portfolio and strengthen your overall photographic problem solving skills.

The Advantages of Daylight

  • Inexpensive
  • Broad, natural-looking light produces expected results, a single catch light

The Disadvantage of Daylight

  • Unpredictable; lighting conditions can change, weather can become inclimate
  • Difficult to achieve privacy, and therefor comfort for the model
  • Time of day and time of year dictate when, what, and how you can shoot
  • Most off the effort of shooting involves getting there, getting the right light, and looking for the right background

The Advantages of Studio Lighting

  • Easy to control lights
  • Predictable, repeatable results
  • Private, distraction-free environment, allows you to concentrate on the subject

The Disadvantage of Studio Lighting

  • Expensive to duplicate the power and quality of daylight
  • Requires setup of background, light stands, lighting equipment
  • May be difficult to find diffusion modifiers (soft-boxes, umbrellas, umbrella-boxes) that are large enough for a full-length subject
  • Lack of variety when compared to location shooting


A Daylight Image

A Daylight Image

Studio Lighting

Studio Lighting

Posted in Lighting Tagged permalink

About A. K. Nicholas

A. K. Nicholas is an American photographer with a passion for collaborating with models and sharing knowledge. His vision is colored by being raised abroad and traveling to dozens of countries, including museum visits and other cultural experiences. In the Middle East, he observed how women's bodies were hidden from public view; in most of Europe, there was little prudishness. In his youth, he put in his dues clerking and staffing the darkroom of a camera store. His background includes an art degree, a long stint as a freelance artist, and a career as a professional photographer. His first camera was hand-made from an oatmeal box for a middle-school project. His first nude shoot was a complete surprise to him when a classmate in college assumed that his invitation to model meant for her to be nude. In the decades since then, he has photographed hundreds of nude models for publication in books, articles, as framed prints, product advertisements, stock agencies, and gallery exhibits. His exhibit work consists mainly of photomontage, sometimes printed life-sized. These days, when he picks up a camera, it is to fulfill a personal calling and not the agenda of a client. He is happiest when working on creative projects and devotes as much time as possible to new ideas. His second favorite thing is helping others further their artistic endeavors. He writes to help you learn from his experience, including how to avoid some common mistakes and to encourage your creativity.

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