Natural Light and Studio Light

Apr 7, 2023 | Business Headshots

Quality of Light 

Light is the most valuable tool for any photographer because it creates the look and feel of the photograph. Basically there are two types of light, natural light and studio light. Each has features and different qualities about them. The quality of light is determined by different factors such as the strength of the light, the size (and shape), the direction and angle to the subject. Light will also either be specular, leaving sharp shadows or diffused, leaving soft shadows. Photographers are always trying balance these qualities in a creative way because not all light is created equally. 

As an example, direct mid-day sunlight is incredibly strong but it’s harsh and difficult to craft a flattering portrait without modifying the direction and diffusion. That’s why during this time of day a photographer will use the indirect light of a shaded area to avoid the harsh shadows of the specular sunlight.

Natural window light and studio light are used differently than outdoor light and each have pros and cons. For example, natural window light can be an easy and quick set up for a photographer. However, the light source is dependent upon the facing of the building, the season (angle of the sun), the weather and the time of day. Studio lighting allows infinite opportunities but can take more time to set up. Furthermore, strobes can easily look boring and amateurish if not used properly. 

Both of these options can be used to create beautiful looking portraits. Consequently, this is what makes our studio at Mill No. 5 unique. We have the ability to use both natural window light and artificial studio light, giving you the most out of your session.

Let’s explore the exciting benefits of each approach!

Natural Features Enhanced with Window Light Portraits

Window light provides a great source of soft and directional light, which can easily be modified in a creative way. Throughout history, painters have used windows as a source of light. For example, a popular form of lighting is known as “Rembrandt” style characterized by dramatic shading on one side of the face. 

If you’re looking for a natural look, window light portraits are often the preferred choice The gentle illumination from the soft, diffused light from our 8′ windows creates a warm and inviting look that flatters your features without harsh shadows. Your personality will be captured with the magic of natural light.

For those who are light-sensitive and disturbed by the flashing of studio strobes, window light is an excellent alternative. With just a few modifications, we can even create a more dramatic look while still avoiding studio light. The image below shows a couple of the windows in our studio. 

studio windows with light pouring in

Versatility and Creativity Unleashed with Studio Strobe Portraits

Professional portrait studios typically use studio strobes to create artificial light. This allows photographers to have the ability to take complete control of the light. For example, adjusting the height, angle, distance, power and diffusion of multiple light sources lends itself to infinite creative possibilities. Images created with studio strobes have a professional look and are often used for commercial purposes. 

At our studio, we create the majority of our corporate and commercial portraiture and headshots for business using studio lighting. This enables us to create a wide range of lighting effects tailored to your unique style and vision. Whether you desire a dramatic and bold look or a soft and romantic one, strobes provide endless possibilities for creating dynamic and captivating portraits. The image below shows a basic studio light set up.

strobe firing in studio

Your portrait session is unique to your personality and needs. We will make decisions together to create photographs that fit your expectations. Maybe we use windows, maybe we use strobes, but no matter what, we are going to make portraits you’ll be proud to post.

Here’s a session with Bobby founder and principal of Groove Boston, a legendary event design company. This talented gentleman is also an accomplished pilot, professional speaker and relentless optimist. Needless to say, we needed a variety of photos to show the full spectrum of his personality. Half of these headshots were created with strobe, the other half was window light.