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Artificial and Natural light in Photography - A quick comparison.

Artificial lighting and natural lighting are two types of lighting that can be used in photography. Here are some comparisons between the two:


Natural lighting comes from the sun, while artificial lighting is generated by man-made sources such as lamps, strobes, and LED lights but the basic principle of the artificial light in terms of Direction and quality remains inspired by natural light only.


Natural light is unpredictable as it changes throughout the day and with the weather conditions.

This is the beauty of natural light as it is kind of unpredictable and not always very specific that gives a lot of opportunities to the photographers to use it creatively in combination with surrounding elements.

Artificial light, on the other hand, can be controlled and consistent all throughout your days shoot or even later in the days to follow. This is the reason that most of the commercial photographers reply upon artificial lights even though they imitate the characteristics of natural lights into their work. As the shoots extend over several days, especially the video shoots, this gives them more consistency in maintaining the same look all over the shoot.


Natural light can be very bright or very dim, depending on the time of day and weather. Artificial light can be adjusted to the desired level of brightness and this allows a much more control over the aperture of choice. If you plan to keep the aperture closed down for more depth of field you can relatively increase the brightness of the light. If you wish to shoot with an open aperture because you need a shallow depth of field with an out of focus background, the overall brightness of the lights can be reduced, allowing you to open up the aperture as desired.

In case of the natural light, since the brightness of the source cannot be directly controlled, the solution is to use large modifiers like the diffusers to block the light. But this changes the characteristic of the light as it becomes soft as compared to the direct sun light. Neutral density filters can be attached to block the light while retaining its original characteristic and quality.

To increase the brightness, reflectors can be used to bounce the light back into the area being photographed. To supplement the existing natural light, artificial lights can be added in such a way that they compliment the existing light and add to the over all brightness level without giving the feel that any external light source has been added.


Natural light comes from a single source, the sun, and it can be difficult to control the direction of the light. Artificial light can be directed and manipulated to achieve the desired effect.

We have been brought up with the fact that the light comes from one direction, the way it exists in nature. So, while setting the direction for an artificial light source, same principle is kept in mind. This is the key light source, with others filling in the shadows and making the light more uniform. But, the KEY light is still only from one direction.

Color temperature:

Natural light has a color temperature that changes throughout the day. Artificial light can be set to a specific color temperature to create a desired mood or effect. This is again a unique characteristic of natural light and many photographers who have been shooting since the time of film, love to set the white balance on their digital cameras to "dalylight" instead fo Auto or a particular temperature because it gives the feel of shooting on Daylight balance film. You get the same variations in the colour casts as you would have got while shooting on daylight balanced film.


Natural lighting is free, but the time of day and weather conditions can limit the availability of good lighting. Artificial lighting requires an investment in equipment, but it can be used at any time of day and in any weather conditions.

Why not mix the two ?

In fashion and beauty photography, both natural and artificial lighting can be used to achieve different effects. Natural lighting can create a soft and flattering look, while artificial lighting can be used to create a dramatic or stylized effect. Ultimately, the choice of lighting will depend on the desired mood, effect, and budget.

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