To Light or Not to Light

Natural Lighting with a reflector

Artificial lighting in combination with natural

Natural Light Portrait- Window Light

Artificial Light Portrait- Two lights

If you are hiring a photographer to shoot one portrait or several for a corporate website or personal use, it is important to think about what you expect from the end image.  

If you are selecting a photographer to shoot many portraits.  Something to consider is whether it is ok that each image might have a different tone and look? Or is it imperative that everyone have the same look to it?  These are things to discuss with your photographer before the shoot to ensure you have a mutual understanding.  

If you are hiring a photographer for a single portrait, lighting may not need to be as controlled. Therefore natural or artificial lighting may not be as important of a decision before the shoot.  The best lighting in my opinion, is natural lighting.  

There are good reasons to consider each option depending on what you need.  

Natural Lighting 


  • creates natural skin tone
  • can be more flattering
  • Inexpensive
  • unpredictability can lead to more artistic effects or serendipitous surprises
  • more depth of field


  • Can be less sharp
  • Color can change from one shot to the next- lacks consistency
  • Limiting with time of the day and weather
  • Less control

Artificial Lighting


  • Full control
  • Consistency
  • If done with the right skill can be flattering
  • Looks polished when done right- super sharp
  • Can do anytime and any weather indoors.


  • It takes a certain level of skill to make it look natural, interesting, and or flattering
  • Costly
  • Somewhat less portable and difficult to set up

Eventually most photographers come to see the real value in having artificial lighting skills and equipment.  If nothing else, but for backup- having the ability to control any situation.  

Naturally lit corporate portraits can absolutely look beautiful.  But it’s important to know that the lighting in the photo will move with the sun throughout the day which will create inconsistent lighting tones across a day or several days or different weather patterns.  A photographer may be able to do a combination lighting where it looks natural but has some supplemental lighting to account for changes in the sun’s movement.  

Some creative firms simply want each individual to look unique and it is not an issue as to whether the lighting is different from one person to the next. Showing individuality and still looking professional is often the main goal. 

Artificially lit corporate portraits will have a more traditional look.  They will convey unity and seem that everyone had their picture taken on the same day.  A good photographer will have the skill to create consistency but also work with the person to find the right pose that matches their personality to achieve something higher than a school picture.  

Using Format