Inspired by Natural Light

Ever wonder how some people make those interesting, seemingly natural-light photos, but their photos have a quality edge that others don't?

In many cases, the photos are lit specifically to mimic the existing, natural light -- albeit in a very controlled way.

In a blog post, Seattle photog John Keatley walks through his process of working with natural light as his inspiration. First, study the natural light. Then design your key to mimic it. Then fix all of the tonal issues that keep your camera from seeing a scene the way you eye does.

John Keatley uncorks a full, OA-style post, here.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Strobist published an extended post on John Keatley, including walk-thrus of two portrait sessions, earlier this year.]



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Blogger Nathan said...

Love - Love - Love John Keatley's work....

July 23, 2009 1:15 AM  
Anonymous Brodie Butler said...

Very clever! I have done something similar to this as a once-off before when i had the sunlight blowing out a part of my scene so i covered up the window and strobed it to keep the detail. I never really thought about the whole process this way though. Great thing to keep in mind!

July 23, 2009 1:29 AM  
Blogger Gloss Photography said...

love this tip!

July 23, 2009 2:07 AM  
Anonymous Al Reyt said...

That looks hugely strobeified! But less so than your average multi-off-camera-portable-strobe shot. I do like people who go for a more natural look in flash shot. There's nothing worse than flash overkill! Except for those things that are actually worse, like illness, injury, death, poverty, starvation etc.

July 23, 2009 3:14 AM  
Blogger Max said...

yeah it's a nice post over there at keatley blog. i'd love to know how much furniture he actually moved. that guy loves moving furniture.

July 23, 2009 11:25 AM  
Blogger David said...

Well then, Max, John is in good company.

Arnold Newman once said that photography is one percent talent and 99 percent moving furniture...


July 23, 2009 11:46 AM  
OpenID jchphotography said...

Did something similar after attending David Tejada's workshop on small flash lighting. Had my daughter paint me a cookie. Application and description of the process are here:


July 23, 2009 2:58 PM  
Blogger Eduardo Fuentes said...

Indeed, just like Kubrick did in the 70´s with his Barry Lyndon movie.

July 23, 2009 6:46 PM  
Blogger Bugi said...

Great tip, thoughg this is hard to pull off. Looks easy by looking at the shot, but I'm pretty sure it hard to do it actually.

natural light is probably one of the hardest things to mimic (to me atleast) as most people would like to sculpt their subjects with light. That leads me to believe that this could be a very tough bootcamp assignment, (if): )

I bet those people who like Dave Hill's work (and those who imitate him with PS, especially those who posted them unshamelessly in the Eureka Dave Hill look flickr thread) won't really like this look.

July 23, 2009 9:18 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

Speaking of boot camp assignments...where's the next one?

Let's go, let's go, let's go!

July 24, 2009 7:54 AM  
Anonymous rick said...

Nice post. Agreed, natural light is hard to mimic. I have found the best solution for soft light (using strobes) is using large reflectors. The larger the reflector the softer the light.

July 24, 2009 9:19 AM  
Blogger Serious Youth said...

Seems like a lot of work just to get detail in the carpet. The light spot on the carpet isn't that interesting or important.

The portrait isn't that exciting to me.

July 24, 2009 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Pat Bloomfield said...

Thanks for highlighting that great article. It is great to remember that flash lights can be used to enhance images retaining the natural look as well as the current trends :-)

July 24, 2009 12:29 PM  
Blogger David said...

@Serious Youth-

It probably wouldn't have been that exciting to me as a youth, either. But I value subtlety more now ...


July 24, 2009 12:53 PM  
Blogger Cory said...

i love mimicking natural/available light to get that edge. it's like being inspired by what's there, only idealizing it.

here's a shot i did using two SB-800's to simulate available light coming through a kitchen window:

July 24, 2009 1:45 PM  
Anonymous Jayne said...

I have always wondered what they did. Very few of my photos have turned out with this amazing clarity, I think it happens by accident for myself.

July 24, 2009 2:08 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

"Lord of the Speedlights"
Just about pissed myself


July 24, 2009 6:13 PM  
Blogger Daniel Heywood said...

Once upon a time this wouldn't be not "that exciting to me" either. But I've come to better appreciate work with a contemporary feel, at least some of it (the rest just makes me shake my head). The spartan feel, the mood, an almost awkwardness -- very nice work. And an equally good post on the process.

July 24, 2009 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Rich Green said...

Liked the article, but wished he had a photo of the lighting setup. Sometimes my thick brain has a hard time visualizing what is being explained.

August 06, 2009 9:20 AM  

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