The natural light thing

I've heard a lot of discussion on the natural light vs. studio lights/strobes debate lately, and I realized, I have an opinion and a blog.

I used to be all about natural light only, you know why? I was afraid of using a flash.  It added a whole level of difficulty and a science that I didn't fully understand.  (I meant to added this to my list of mistakes but forgot

Now, I almost can't stand to rely only on natural light, because quite frankly, it's super unreliable.  There was one day, when I was shooting engagement photos on a beautiful, overcast day.  The light was perfect for about 40 minutes, then out of nowhere, it got super dark and started storming.  Now, I know that even in a storm you're not going to pull your strobes out to compensate, but I was just using that as an example to show how you can't trust the weather.  

Some people may only use "natural light" because they love that soft look.  That look is possible to achieve with studio lights, but with lights, you're not limited to the light that the sky is providing you.  

I just got sick of being at the mercy of the elements.  My love of lights is a more recent one, because I just kept hitting walls in my portrait work.  Yes, lights add an extra challenge, but to me, that's part of the fun.  For example, check out this photo to the right: 

Totally artificial. (You probably could guess that) It was the middle of the day under my porch.  I used a smoke machine and one flash to show off the smoke through the steps.  I couldn't have gotten this smoke effect without a flash, because there wasn't enough directional light coming from the sky.  

But here's the other problem: lights are expensive.  Well, yes and no.  I use super cheap, crappy lights just to get by.  They do the job quite well and are super portable.  You can get out there and by a light kit with soft boxes and a few gels and strobes for $130.  

Try shooting with just one single light first, just to get the feel.  Once you're comfortable with that, start using a second.  Then once you begin to feel limited with 2 lights, go crazy and start engineering insane setups.  

By the way, I'm not saying natural light is bad.  I still use it from time to time when I just can't get the lighting setup I want.  I have realized that once I started getting better with lights, I started getting better at using whatever light the sky was offering me.  Just try it out, it'll be a pain, but well worth it.