I feel that there is a stigma around the idea of a "natural light" photographer. "They shoot with natural light so they must not know how to use flash". When I first started seriously learning about taking pictures my first concern was lighting. I really wish that there were a few things that I knew about light and lighting my images that I didn't know then but that I do know now.
First thing is first. The best thing I know is that there is no wrong way to light a photo. There are photographers who use 6 strobes and there are photographers who use candles to light up their subjects. It's all about finding the type of lighting that works for you, the idea/concept you have and manipulating that light. So here is a short list of things I wish I knew about shooting in natural light.
1. The first thing I wish I knew is that it's not "bad" or "Wrong" to decide to use only natural light for a shoot. If you follow my work you will notice that I love to shoot in natural lighting conditions. I do not shun the use of strobes as I have shot many editorials, weddings and other photographs using my Alien Bee. I always decide first and fore mostly the concept and the feeling I want to convey when I am photographing and from there I begin to think about lighting.
2. Be prepared! I have always been the type of person that acts purely on instinct. Sometimes forgetting that there are consequences & I do pretty much the same when I photograph. However I have learned over time the benefits of being prepared. Being prepared to shoot in natural light can start with simply checking and keeping an eye on the weather & what the weather station predicts the forecast will be. It's not always right and sometimes you will get that unexpected rain shower, but knowing in advance what the weather for the day will be like will help you plan your shoot accordingly. On a gloomy overcast day you will more then likely not need to bring your reflector but on a day when there is a sun filled sky make sure to not leave your reflector at home. The purchase of a simple reflector has been heaven sent. Many times if a client books you for a shoot you do not have the luxury of rescheduling. If there is sun in the sky and you want to shoot natural light then bring your reflector.
3. Don't be afraid of natural light. Many photographers cringe at the thought of natural lighting. Instead of thinking "I can't control it, so it scares me" find ways in which you can control it. As photographers we are constantly seeing things ( and I'll get more into that in my next point) take time during your shoot to look around. Observe the lighting that falls in different places. Whether your in a forest or in a room with a big window. Find the lighting and shoot and test with it. Natural lighting can have many benefits to an image you just have to not be afraid of it.
4. Look at light! Yes just sit and observe natural light. When you are on the bus, walking down the street sitting on your bed, watch light. Observing different lighting will help you see the way it falls and the shadows it creates. If you want to take things to the next level pull out your camera and shoot an object in that light and see what happens.
5. Your camera can help too! The right camera settings can make your natural light photo shoot a success. This is why practice makes perfect, and also why observing light is good. Knowing which lenses to use in certain situations can also help. We won't learn these things until we go out and practice. Every natural light situation is different so I don't want to get into techni details but perhaps I will do a video with more technical info about camera settings & natural light ;)
6. Sunrise and sunsets give off beautiful light but thats not the only beautiful light that is out there. I have had extremely successful shoots at 1 in the afternoon when the sun is at it's highest. I have found ways to make the sun and its shadows and lighting work for me and I am never afraid to change things up during the shoot if that lighting isn't exactly what I expected. Sometimes the influence that the earth and nature can have during your Photoshoot can take your images to an even better place then you first imagined.
So to sum this all up. Don't be afraid to shoot in natural light, there is no wrong or right way, keep your eyes always open to seeing light, be prepared & plan a head, get to know your camera and practice with it. Use everything you can as a tool to help you manipulate light.
Here are a few images shot with natural light at various times of day, seasons and weather conditions: