Most boudoir is shot with natural light, either with a light and airy look or a dark and moody one. There are, however, some photographers who use flash, whether that’s to replicate natural light or create a look that natural light just can’t provide.
Whichever camp you fall into (or perhaps you do both) there are pros and cons to each that you should be aware of.
Shooting Boudoir With Natural Light — The Positives
If you haven’t noticed, no one is sending you a bill to use light from the sun… at least not yet. It’s readily available during daylight hours in most cases, and does a good job at coming through your window to light your subject. To put it another way, no equipment is needed except for maybe a sheer white curtain to diffuse it.
If you’re unfamiliar with “wysiwyg” it stands for “what you see is what you get”. In other words, it’s constant light. It’s always on so regulating its strength with some type of diffusion can be seen in real time.
There’s No Setup
Other than putting up a sheer white curtain to soften the light, there’s no set up when shooting with natural light. This not only saves you time but your energy as well.
Shooting With Natural Light — The Negatives
It Can Be Inconsistent
One negative of using natural light is that it’s not always consistent. If you’re shooting on a cloudy day, clouds can be constantly moving in front of the sun causing your light level to drop significantly… and then suddenly rise again.
This may cause you to have to keep adjusting your settings to get the proper exposure.
It’s Not Always Sunny In Philadelphia
Another drawback is if you live where the sun doesn’t shine a whole lot during certain seasons. I’m thinking Seattle in winter, Alaska, or even parts of Canada, or any place where the winters are long.
In this case, the cloud cover can act as a natural diffuser, the way a sheer white curtain would, but if you want the light to be stronger then you’re outta’ luck. There’s no dial you can turn to crank up the sun.
You can boost the ISO on your camera and that may be a viable solution since most modern cameras today are so good at keeping the noise to a minimum even at higher ISO levels.
Shortened Work Day
If you live where they practice daylight savings, there will be months where your window of shooting will be dramatically shortened. Instead of the sun setting around 7 or 8 pm, it’s setting around 4:30, robbing you of any late afternoon shoots.
Shooting Boudoir With Flash — The Positives
Your Images Will Be Sharper and Show More Detail
Because of the nature of the xenon flash tube and the light it produces whether coming from a speed light or strobe,* your images will be sharper and crisper… even shooting through a soft box or other modifier.
Fine detail such a lace, mesh, eyes, and hair will have more detail and sharpness to them. The drawback to this is that your subject’s skin will too… maybe more than you want but that can be remedied with skin softening software.
*(The Flashpoint eVOLV200 is the same light as the Godox AD200 Pro. It’s just branded under two different names for separate companies. It’s somewhat of a hybrid between a speed light and a strobe and is quite versatile with plenty of power. I use the Godox AD300 Pro all the time which is a bit more powerful than the AD200/eVOLV200).
Your Images Will Have Truer Color
Flash provides a consistent color temperature you can control and will overpower any existing ambient light and color casts that exist in your space.
Natural light coming through a window is bouncing off the walls, floors, rug, and furniture. If you have dark hardwood floors that are brown, or walls that are green or pink, those colors will be reflected back onto your subject as a color cast.
If you’re trying to get accurate skin tones, you have no way of controlling all the color cast of natural light that is bouncing off everything in your space and reflecting back onto your subject.
It may be hard to see at first but once you train your eye to notice these subtle color casts you can not unsee them ever again.
With Flash, You’re In Control
The biggest advantage of using flash is that you can control the direction, color temperature, intensity, and placement of the light.
Your typical natural light boudoir shoot revolves around your light source, mainly a window. With flash, you’re not constrained to that window.
You can set up your light anywhere you want within your space.
You Can Recreate Window Light
Just because you use flash doesn’t mean your images can’t look like you’re using natural window light.
You can recreate window light very easily using flash and still get that natural light look, plus, all the advantages that go with it.
Shoot Anytime You Want
With flash you can shoot anytime you want, day, night, it doesn’t matter. Winter, summer, spring, daylight savings, it doesn’t matter.
Using Flash To Shoot Boudoir — The Negatives
It’s Not Free
Using flash will cost you money. Speed lights, transceivers, strobes, modifiers, and stands are not free. You will have to make an investment if this is the look you want.
You can, of course, have one speed light, one modifier, and one stand and that’s all you need… and it won’t cost all that much.
You can also go all out and buy an expensive strobe, a sturdier stand to support it, and several different modifiers that will cost you more.
It all depends on what you like and the look you’re drawn to you want to create.
There’s More To Set Up
Using flash and modifiers does require you to set it all up and tear it all down if you don’t have a permanent space you can keep it set up all the time.
Even then, you may still want to vary your look and that will require a new setup, and that’s more time and energy spent on your behalf.
Using Flash Can Be Intimidating
Learning about flash and lighting can be intimidating… I get it, but hey, so was using a computer at one time, or driving a car, or just about anything else you knew nothing about.
It all depends on your level of desire.
There was a time when I knew absolutely nothing about photography.
Looking back, what I considered hard and challenging when I first started is elementary to me now… and that goes for shooting with natural light as well.
It will be for you too if you’re motivated to get the look you’re seeking.
I hope this article has shed some new light (ha, ha) on the pros and cons of shooting with both natural light and flash.
If your creative juices are running dry then experimenting with a new way to shoot just might get them flowing again. Regardless, it’s always fun and stimulating to try new things with photography… at least it is for me.
To answer the question the title asks, “Which Is Better?”, that’s a question only you can answer. For me, it depends on the situation. I mostly shoot using flash because that’s my preferred look, but I also like shooting with natural light from time to time.
Thanks for your time!
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