Are You Really a Natural Light Wedding Photographer… or Just Lazy?

Are you passionate about wedding photography? I’m passionate about wedding photography too, and am striving to improve at my craft.

I’m sure that every day in your business involves hustle. Hustle to get noticed. Hustle to get the lead. Hustle to book the wedding.

A new wedding photographer seems to pop up every day, and that’s one new kid on the block who’s vying for a piece of the wedding cake. A couple of years ago I wrote a book called More Brides to help fellow wedding photographers increase their wedding bookings. I wrote about all the marketing and sales techniques I had been using to triple my wedding inquiries over just one year.

However, it’s clear that marketing can only get you so far. Creating better art is the second string of the bow that we need to concentrate on tuning, day in and day out.

If we’re not getting better at taking photos… well, we’re stagnating. If we continue to create images that don’t motivate us… that don’t challenge us, sooner or later, this will become apparent in our work.

These days, every wedding photographer and his or her dog is a “natural light” wedding photographer. Whether you make your images look old with VSCO and photograph couples standing on the tops of cliffs or under waterfalls, “natural light wedding photographer” often just means one thing: incompetence.

Being incompetent at using (additional) light isn’t a bad thing, of course. If you’ve tried it and you genuinely can’t handle off camera lighting, then so be it. Or maybe you just don’t dig the look — I get it.

However, let’s not beat around the bush here: many (or most) of us are calling ourselves natural light wedding photographers because we have NFI how to use a flash to creatively light an image!

We’re not choosing to use the sun because we prefer it. We’re choosing daylight because it’s easy.

We’re not choosing to use high ISOs during reception because we like the noise. We’re choosing it because the technology in our cameras allows us to be lazy.

I’m not saying that we all need to switch our styles to using 100% additional light though – far from it. Flash for the sake of flash isn’t the goal here.

However, what I am trying to provoke in you is the stark realisation that you’re surrounded by thousands of other wedding photographers whose work looks identical to yours in the eyes of your client.

Sure, your branding may be different. You may have a nicer website or have shot in some exotic places, but when you boil it all down and examine the photos, you have to admit to yourself that all natural light wedding photography looks the same… at least to the uninitiated, i.e. your next bride.

She can’t tell that you’re deliberately underexposing so you can bring back crazy shadow detail, whilst preserving the highlights. She doesn’t care that you’ve paid a hundred bucks for the latest film-look presets. And she sure as hell doesn’t know that you own the latest f/1.4 lens. All she sees are photo after photo of couples kissing at sunset.

By having the confidence to use an additional light source to illuminate your subject in a creative way, you’ll elevate your work.

Even if it’s just for 0.1% of the wedding photos you deliver (that’s the final photo in a client’s gallery of 1,000 images), including an image like the ones introduced in my upcoming book, LIT, you’ve just added value to your business.

Even if it’s just that 0.1% of the work that you normally produce, if you choose to highlight it on social media or your website, congratulations – you’ve just jumped out of the vast ocean of natural light wedding photographers and into the small puddle of those who are getting noticed by producing something different.

Your next bride may not book you based on that one photo, but that one photo may just be the hook that pulls her through your door.

It takes something special to be noticed in the sea of social media in which we all swim. Posting pretty images of couples during golden hour may get us somewhere, but you’ll be swimming against the current.

The sunlight is comforting and soothing, and it’s easy to relax and get lazy when it’s all around us. But next time you feel yourself leaning back on your crutch of natural light, break out a flash or two and stand up tall. You’re about to create something truly unique.

I wrote this post as a reminder to myself to keep on pushing beyond my comfort zone. We won’t improve as photographers unless we are constantly challenging ourselves.


P.S. If you’re keen to get inspired by some of the world’s best photographers using off camera lighting techniques, check out LIT.


About the author: Mark Condon is a wedding photographer and the founder of Shotkit. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Condon is the author behind the Shotkit books Lightroom Power User, More Brides and LIT. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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