Does the thought of using anything but available light make you twitchy? If so, CMmember Amy Drucker, can relate. It wasn’t long ago that she considered herself strictly a natural light photographer. She has recently delved into using alternative lighting sources and couldn’t be happier! She’s blogging today about stepping out of her comfort zone.
Confessions of a Natural Light Photographer
by Amy Drucker
When people first find out you’re a photographer there are a few questions they inevitably ask: “Nikon or Canon?”; “Film or digital?”; “Studio or natural light?” And while it’s certainly true that photographers develop niches and exhibit preferences, I’ve never really bought into the idea that any of these answers have to be mutually exclusive. My love affair with photography started with a film camera and an interest in fine art. The bulk of my work was shot using available light. As I grew as an artist I developed a level of comfort with reading and manipulating “natural” light, so when I started making portraits, it seemed organic for me to continue shooting that way. Not to mention that learning how to use “artificial” light sources was a very scary prospect. So I avoided it. And I called myself a “Natural Light Photographer”.
Over time, as my business grew there were more and more images I wanted to make—photographs I could see in my mind’s eye—that seemed impossible to produce while working within the parameters I had set up for myself (on location, all natural light, around my schedule as the mother of two small boys). My experience with flash was limited to a point and shoot pop-up and the awful results it produced. I knew I didn’t want that. And I didn’t really want to go back to square one again (I had already done that once when I started shooting with a digital camera). But I kept coming back to the idea that I needed to be able to have more control over the light in my images. I bought a book. I scoured the Internet. I sought out an expert, CMmentor Jessica Gwozdz, and mentored with her. I rented, experimented, and practiced, and, only when I was sure that using artificial light didn’t mean sacrificing my style or selling out, I invested.
Like anything, it’s been a learning curve. But knowing that I am not at the mercy of the sun, or the time of day, or the weather? That I decide how much light there is? It’s opened creative (and business) doors for me. It’s freed me to spend more time on subject and composition and I’ve learned that stories can be told with any kind of light, that powerful images can be created on film or CF card, with a 50mm or an 85mm lens, a full-frame or crop sensor, Nikon or Canon. I still shoot the bulk of my images using available light and I love the unique qualities and challenges it presents. But I no longer consider myself a Natural Light Shooter. I consider myself a Photographer and I’ll use whatever tools I have at my disposal to bring the images that live in my imagination to life.
After all, isn’t photography about capturing light? To me, the source of the light is irrelevant—it’s the final image that’s my objective.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Amy! We so appreciate your insight!
Amy Drucker began her career as a photographer as an editorial shooter and fine artist. Her work has been exhibited at multiple galleries along the East Coast. Today she spends her days mothering boys and making portraits of children and the people who love them. She has an affinity for bright colors and strong coffee—and is on a mission to rehabilitate the school portrait. You can keep up with Amy’s latest work on her blog and Facebook page.
Want to learn more about studio lighting? Keep your eyes peeled for the next run of Jessica Gwozdz’s Lighting 101: Studio Lighting for Beginners.