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

A. K. Nicholas (159 Posts)

A. K. Nicholas is an American photographer with a passion for collaborating with models and sharing knowledge. His initial training with the nude was figure drawing while studying art in college. His first nude shoot was when a classmate in college assumed that his invitation to model meant for her to be nude. He spent the following two decades photographing hundreds of models. He is happiest when working on creative projects and helping others further their artistic endeavors.