How To Mimic Natural Light

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by trevorcroft, Jul 20, 2009.

  1. trevorcroft
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    trevorcroft New Member

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    I am not a photographer, but my girlfriend is, and she is in the market for a studio.

    Should studio's contain a window for natural light? She is very adamant that it must, but this limits the choices quite a bit.

    She is very good with using natural light and prefers her photos to look a certain way which she feels can only be done using natural light.

    Is it possible to mimic natural light with man made light? If it is possible, please provide a link to your photos.

    Thanks!
  2. KmH
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    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish

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    Natural light can be mimiced with studio lights, strobes, speedlights and reflectors.

    Top pros always use lights, reflectors, and other light modifiers even when they shoot outside.

    Don't let your girlfriend find out about this thread, unless you can take the heat. :lol:
  3. musicaleCA
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    musicaleCA New Member

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    Yup. Totally possible. If you want a "window" take some gaffer's tape and put it across your soft-box (in a cross pattern, like, um, a window) to make the specular highlights more window-like. Piece-of-cake. If we're talking about warming up the light, gold reflectors and CTO gels are your friend. ;)
  4. Cinka
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    Cinka New Member

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    I'll just interject - my studio has a lot of natural light - windows - and I've found that depending on the shoot, I end up covering them anyway. Sometimes they cast really neat reflections and shadows, but a lot of times, my clients wants standard studio lighting, so up go the sheets. Natural light isn't as versatile as you'd think. You have more control over studio lighting - that is to say, if she's using natural light, she'll be chasing the sun or can only work during certain hours of the day.
  5. trevorcroft
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    trevorcroft New Member

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    Thanks for the replies everyone! Now I need some evidence, actual pictures taken without natural light that look like they were taken with natural light.

    She is a big Nichole Van fan, and her studio has a window... if any of you have or know of someone who has a similar styles to hers, but shoots with man made light that looks natural that would be amazing.

    Thanks!
  6. Big Mike
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    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member

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    It's totally a preference and most photographers go through stages where they use more or less natural/artificial light.

    Given the choice, I'd love to have lots of big windows, but also have the option of blocking them off when needed.

    The great thing about natural light is that it's cheap (unless we're talking about getting a studio with lots of big windows ;)). Large softboxes & diffusion panels can be expensive (not to mention the lights themselves).
  7. JerryPH
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    JerryPH New Member

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    When you use windows, nature is the one in control of the lighting. When there are no windows... it is the responsibility of the photogrpaher to understand what tools are needed and how to use them to take control of a particular situation so that it works to your advantage.

    Personally, I feel that natural light is nice... but it is limiting. When I have control of the light, I can do things with it that are just not possible to do if you are limited to a single constantly varying light source like a window (ie: ask her to take a picture next to that window after 9:00PM or when clouds constantly come and go causing conditions to change every few seconds ;) )

    I've used this example in the past... but:

    When you meter for the light outside, the results are thus:
    [​IMG]

    When you meter for the light inside, the results are thus:
    [​IMG]

    When *I* take control of the light, my results are thus:
    [​IMG]

    Ability to control the light is what it is all about in a studio. To have the option of natural light is nice to have... but I'd not want to run my business depending on if the sun would be very accommodating all the time.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2009
  8. jcolman
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    jcolman New Member

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    Without being rude I would say your girlfriend could use a lesson or two in "how to light" instead of a studio.
  9. UUilliam
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    UUilliam New Member

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    +1
  10. inTempus
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    inTempus New Member

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    Simulating shadows cast by a single light source through various mediums (what natural light is) is relatively easy. It's rather limiting creatively if you do every shot simulating this single light source. But the funny thing is, even when using real natural light, most pro photogs bring along strobes, diffusion panels, and reflectors to modify the natural light to give that truly "professional" look to their images.
  11. trevorcroft
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    trevorcroft New Member

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    Requiring a studio is a business decision.

    I know pros use man made light when shooting outside, but that's not the question.

    I don't want this thread to change topics, I am looking for hard evidence here, meaning a picture that was known to be taken with only man made light but looks like natural light (or a mixture) was used.

    Can anyone help me out?
  12. JerryPH
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    JerryPH New Member

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    Sincerely, that is a very beginner-ish question. Why limit yourself to *just* making flashes look like natural light (which is ridiculously easy)? I mean, you are a flash and softbox away from having perpetual "sunlight through a window" effects 24 hours a day!

    At this point, I think it is better that your girlfriend post here... there is a definite lack of the basic lighting knowledge to be able to understand what is happening and I am *sure* something is getting lost in the translation at this point.

    To give you an idea... your question is equivalent in difficulty to asking "are you sure if I put the car into D, it will drive forward and not backward?". Seriously!

    There are some things that are extremely obvious to anyone who has picked up a camera and used an off camera flash for even a single day... and searching to make a flash merely look like sunlight... wow, why? Thats all I will say about that.

    I'll tell you what... go to THIS link, and start looking (better yet, have your girlfriend start looking!!), as there are THOUSANDS of pictures there that all look as if in enhanced natural light... and 100% of them are taken using off camera flash... NO exceptions.
  13. trevorcroft
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    trevorcroft New Member

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    This would be awesome if it were possible... but the more I research this the harder I find it to believe. But all of your guys' extreme confidence is reassuring at least.

    I don't think you understand my question... can man made light be used to replace natural light? In otherwords, is it possible to get identical looking pictures during the day (during ideal shooting conditions) as it is at night?

    This is a great start, but I went through a lot of those pictures and only saw a few that I thought were nice looking pictures, and they used a combination of natural light and man made light.

    My search is not going well... at first I was arguing the same points as you guys, but thinking about it rationally how can humans recreate the effects of something as awesome as the sun? I'm starting to believe that the reason why natural light photographers pictures look different than studio pictures is because they cannot be reproduced identically in the studio. Or perhaps they can be, but its not worth the cost??
  14. musicaleCA
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    musicaleCA New Member

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    If you want to reproduce the sun at noon, piece of cake. Put a speedlite over them at full power. :lol: (If you want harsh, ugly shadows, that is.)

    If you want to look like the sun in the evening, put the speedlite on a stand with an umbrella, move it back a fair bit, above the subject, angling down a bit. Again, piece of cake. Toss in a reflector to lift shadows and better simulate other things that bounce light that you'd find outside the studio.

    Frankly, I see "using only natural light" as a crutch in leiu of not learning how to light with all the tools at your disposal. A reflector alone would open up tons of possabilities.
  15. JerryPH
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    JerryPH New Member

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    WTF? What research?? Anyone who has *ever* used a softbox *knows* that this is it's main reason for existence, to give a large swath of soft diffused light, just like the effects of a window streaming into a room! On top of that, it is controllable, where as one cannot normally change the position of a window or the sun's angle, one can EASILY change the position of a softbox!

    No, *you* are not getting it. In how many ways do you want us to answer "YES!"... and in how many ways do you want us to say "... AND MORE!"?

    It's called photography, not "let's make every picture look the same". ;) BTW, interesting that you got through over 288,000 pictures in a single evening. I am sure there are more than a couple there that do it... for some reason, you are just being stubborn about it... and I know why, yet you refuse to address the situation... get your GIRLFRIEND on here and let her ask herself!

    You are really stuck on a treadmill on the fast track to nowhere. You do not use a studio to do landscape shots. One does not use a garbage truck to win NASCAR races. You need to sit down and define your goals, friend. Do you want to shoot landscapes or do you want to shoot portraiture?

    Are you talking studio lighting or not? If you are talking studio lighting, don't be introducing garbage trucks into NASCAR races. ;)

    Really... get your GF here, if she is a photographer, and understands lighting, she will have a MUCH stronger comprehension of the basics (we at least presume that someone that wants to open a studio *does* have that minimum skill set!).

    At this point, I feel like I am banging my head into a wall trying to talk A-B-Cs of lighting to someone that is clueless, and it is frustrating.

    On to the next thread.
  16. jcolman
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    jcolman New Member

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    You want pics? Fine. See if you can tell me which one was created with artificial light and which wasn't.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  17. epatsellis
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    epatsellis New Member

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    Jcolman, you could have made it harder, the catchlights give it away. ;)
  18. musicaleCA
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    musicaleCA New Member

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    Indeed. But I did find the third a little tricksy.
  19. Dao
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    OP, first, I am still a beginner in terms of photography. But I can tell you if I am going to build a studio, I will not want to have the Natural Light.


    Instead, using artificial light to simulate the Natural light. In that case, your gf will have total control. Night or Day, rainy day or sunny day, it will not affect her work. And every photos are going to be consistent.

    Once you read/learn more about lightning, you will know what other people here talking about.
  20. Derrel
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    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I went to the Nichole Van web site,and I noticed that the first outdoor wedding portrait, the one where the bride is on the hood of an old FOrd pickup truck out in the desert of Utah--in the chrome hubcab, I can see a photo assistant holding an electronic flash,elevated on a long pole.

    I'm with those who would tell you that window light is easy to simulate using large softboxes, as well as scrims,and sunlight can easily be created using umbrellas or large parabolic reflectors in the 16 to 20 inch range, as well as bare-tube flash.

    No offense to NV's work, but I see her skill set as being very minimalist on lighting,and very heavily based upon extreme Photoshop effects and extensive post work. Her use of lighting does not come through in her web site's images.

    I would seriously suggest your GF look into what's possible with a full and complete line of studio flash and modifiers, like those made by Speedotron for example.

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