Why do flash photography gets no love.

Why do flash photography gets no love?

If you strut around the internet for photography ideas long enough, you will see all types of images. Landscapes, architecture, babies, still life and a very wide spectrum of other subjects.

If you are someone like me, you will head down in the portrait section of those websites - a great way to waste time. From there, you can narrow down what you see in the beauty, senior portraits, head shots and many many other genres of photography.

While landscape photography can hardly be augmented by added flash or artificial light (you are kind of crazy if you do so) most subjects required a source of light to create portrait art. Some use natural light to get there. Others may for their animal portraits, passing through still life and moving to product photography use flash or artificial lighting to help their results. Unsurprisingly, there seems to be a counter movement to both artificial lighting and natural light. One side calls it ‘unnatural looking’ by a portion of the photography community and the other side calls it simply ‘lazy’.

Why is this the case? Why is there so much divide between both natural light photographers and flash / artificial light photographers? Can we unite both parties?

Before we ‘Jump into it’, I have to disclose that I use flash or artificial lighting in 95% of my projects. In my eyes, it makes everything better and helps me with consistency - which is of utmost importance for me. If I look at most of the work I find absolutely amazing, I see flash being used in almost all cases.

With this disclosure, let’s discuss some reasons why flash is so hated by some people (I am bracing myself because the following text is going to piss-off some folks…on both sides).

*Takes a deep breath*

It all boils down into one reason for me: flash photography is difficult.

The old days of film are almost long gone (and strangely simultaneously making a small come back) and the advent of digital photography is almost complete. The barriers surrounding photography have then quite reduced. No more labs, no more dark rooms, no more in between. You can take your shot, edit it and send it to the world without leaving your office. Even DSLR or mirrorless cameras are not a necessity to some people’s mind. Anybody with an iPhone calls themselves a ‘photographer’ now - thanks Steve Jobs.

But…you have serious gear and vision, you are just not snapping away.

Even with this digital revolution, there are remaining filters that holds some people back from becoming experts. Photoshop is one, subject matter expertise, technology is another and lighting photos are to me, the main technical problems photographers will face.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the lighting portion since this is the subject of interest here.

Reason 1 - Most photographers using flash are terrible at it

Subject’s exposure is overblown. The subject looks like a deer in headlights. The lighting position doesn’t make sense. These are a few in a whole host of issues - hell, I’ve committed all these crimes.

When you start using artificial lighting, the overwhelming majority of your early shots WILL be terrible. But some people think that using flash is a badge of honor versus using flash is an art that needs to be studied…deeply. And then they share their terrible work online. By-standing photographers then hop on top of their high horse to harshly criticize the person who shared the unfortunate ‘terrible’ work. This reinforces the idea that flash mostly produces bad results.

Do not get me wrong, learning flash is tempting - and worth it. You can create some beautiful results from flash but you should really (emphasis on really) practice before sharing any work and be eager to get some good feedback. Every image that is released using bad lighting hurts every other flash photographer, by a little or a lot. Educate yourself, test a lot and seek to improve constantly. These are the only tools to make sure you will be less terrible.

So that brings us to natural light. It’s difficult to be ‘bad’ at natural light. Unless the person holding the camera is really really can’t read a scene or don’t understand the basics of the exposure triangle - i.e. the person is a bad photographer. With functions like Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or the infamous ‘Professional Mode’ or P Mode, the camera can do most of the leg work with a bit of technical know how.

With all of the above mentioned issues from flash, natural light also has it’s own problems.

The issue is with natural light is lighting creativity. Yes, there are ways to make natural light interesting but….

- Natural light cannot be gelled

- Natural light photographers cannot do drag shutter techniques or any of those creative setups

- You cannot always control in camera the relationship between the foreground exposure versus the subjects exposure. 

- You can fight hard light but you’ll be geared up as if you were using strobes anyway so that defeats the purpose.

But mainly…

You need the sun to work.

This doesn’t closely apply to available light photographers using neon lights or street lamps etc. The weather conditions really forces you if you can work or not. Flash photographers on the other hand can introduce lights to mimic different conditions.

This is a little extreme but you get my point. Photo from Wikipedia.

Reason 2 - Flash photography is expensive

Reason 2.1) A war on your wallet

Lighting is awesome but it’ll cost you. Prices did decrease over the last 10 years, thanks to market shakers like Paul C Buff, Youngnuo or the ever present Godox. But it’s still expensive.

A great strobe like the Godox AD600 will cost you in the US $550 and $730 in Canada. They are amazing and flexible lights but that is a steep price to pay if you book a session that only gets you $200 in revenue. You can use the smaller and inexpensive speedlights of course but…POWER! Some companies *cough Profoto* are trying to sell you $1000 speedlights although they won’t call it that. Lighting is expensive.

If you are well-versed enough into flash, you’ll know that these are only lights, modifiers to shape your light come in afterwards to add more pressure on your dwindling budget. They range from the price of a small car to less than $10 (it’s mind boggling)

$7,189.00 USD. Yes. You read that right.

Do they produce the same results…?

You think we’re done? Hahaha, no! 

Now that you have all of this, how are you going to measure it? You need a light meter! Did you get your color calibration tool? How are you going to make those lights flash out of your camera? You need a trigger! Are your lights floating by some kind of magic? You need light stands!

The needs in flash photography are almost endless.

So a big +1 to natural light for this - a camera and a reflector and you are on the way to the stars! But wait - there’s something worth mentioning. We all know that time is the biggest factor a photographer has to work with. Time spent marketing, time spent planning, time spent shooting. Time is of the essence when you are a working pro. The money flash photographers spends during the shoot to nail the almost perfect shot in camera, natural light shooters have to spend it in post-processing. Fixing the issues of exposure, noise, sharpness in post is time consuming and are issues that are fixed quite quickly with a single strobe. If your time is a limited resource, a strobe is definitely a time saver.

Reason 2.2) “I have to carry all this?”

But that’s not all! Hauling all this material and expecting to place it yourself requires extra arms and legs, so you have to get an assistant. But that assistant HAS to have a basic knowledge of photography and lighting. That’s more money spent per session.

What if you are new at this? Do you have anyone to show you around the great techniques of lighting? Then you need to educate yourself! You take a couple of courses and you spend time practicing with your lights. Yay more money spent!

Reason 2.3) The technology is complicated to implement in your flow

After completely draining your poor wallet, using flash correctly is complex. You have the light power, speed lights or strobes, light meters, sync speeds, power sources, color temperature of the flash, gels and the ambient, modifiers and a whole lot of other things to think about. All of these things plus the posing, composing, getting good looks from the subject and interactions - flash is yet another layer to add on top of your workflow.

It’s a huge learning curve. It’s painful to learn.

Reason 3) Mastering flash is difficult

You don’t like flat images, me neither. You don’t like overexposed shots, me neither. You don’t like images that the lighting doesn’t look like it belongs. Me neither.

Learning how to position lights and which modifiers to use for a specific intent is a life-long pursuit. Getting good at managing those different situations where nothing is favorable and you are pressed to yield results is stressful. You invested so much into this gear and it’s not yielding the results - what a mistake you think you made!

This might be the secret story of many ‘natural light’ photographers. Integrating these tools is difficult and might not be worth it for some type of photographers (I am think wedding photographer here). But for the rest of the photography community, integrating those tools might have been painful at some point - to the point it wasn’t worth pursuing further. This should be of consideration for ‘flash’ folks.

I’m hardcore, I use flash during wedding portraits :D

Natural light photography on the others, in my humble, opinion is mastered by very few. Most photographers who claim to use strict natural light aren’t that great at lighting. I can only name a few that do incredible work using available light such as Elena Shumilova  but she does extensive post-processing to get those results. Post processing isn’t bad in itself but there are ways to get similar results in camera and focus on more important details.

Flash photographers are judgmental

We’ve all seen that meme. It’s pretty funny I must admit. But placing yourself on the other side of that joke and you start seeing things differently. The aura of superiority that some flash photographers might put off some people that are on the fence with artificial light. I say this being a HEAVY user of artificial light. I firmly believe that flash produces better work and more crafted work. But, I can also appreciate an image without it and even did a video on the subject. And most flash users are doing it wrong.

Natural light photographers are judgmental

You know who they are. Snarky comments about how every single shot taken with the assistance of artificial light looks fake. How natural light compliments better every single subject. How cumbersome flash photography is. How flash photography bothers their clients and makes them look less professional because it takes away their focus on the client.

If you take the time to integrate the tools of flash, this becomes quickly a non-argument. And let’s also be real, you have a headshot booked for 7PM on a December evening - what do you do if you are a strict natural light shooter? You are in trouble it seems.

Natural light or not?

Sometimes, the situation calls for natural light, sometimes flash is REALLY needed. I believe the best way to approach is:

  • An understanding that both can do wonderful things standing on their own
  • Combining them can produce some incredible work
  • Remember that techniques are tools in a toolbelt to fix situations and enhance our vision. Don’t think like a hammer, not every situation is a nail. See what the situation calls for and go with the BEST approach.

“I believe that flash and natural light can coexist.”

In frame, Maude Miville!

So I hope this bridges the gap between both camps.

The challenges that comes with flash photography requires an enormous amount of time and practice before being called an ‘expert’ or a master. This olive branch should be within someone head when criticizing a ‘strobist’.

Being a pure ‘natural light’ photographer is also difficult as managing harsh sun, cloudy weather, dimly lit environments etc without the aid of flash.

The study of light being natural or artificial is a life-long pursuit which not everyone is inclined to learn both. We as ‘strobist’ are ought to be more forgiving. Whilst natural light photographers should try to understand that these are great tools.  

Although I veer to the artificial camp, I like to think that mastery of both natural and artificial light is an excellent way to stay on your feet. You never know what kind of situation your assignments will give you so you have to be ready for whatever is thrown at you!

*hoping no one starts a Twitter war because of this*

I truly hope this discussion was helpful to bring peace to both camps. I am personally very centrist when it comes to techniques - whatever works is the best technique. Whatever gets you booked again and again because of the quality of your work is the best technique. But know that both camps have their points.



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Glasses or no Glasses?

Quick entry today! Glasses or no glasses during your professional headshot session? 

I say both!

Although they are really cool, we’re not talking about shades here :p

Portrait of Fwonte Montreal Musician. Portrait by YvensB in Montreal

The question CAN be tricky if you are heading into your headshot session. The trick is to ask yourself: If I meet your for the first time - how likely will I meet you wearing your glasses? 

“If I meet your for the first time - how likely will I meet you wearing your glasses?”

It’s as simple as that for one specific reason - people love consistency. A person before meeting you, usually looks you up online. They have this expectation set before even reading your career highlights. 

Now, they meet you but you have your pair on - our little lizard brain perceives the inconsistency which could affect you negatively (to a certain extent).

On the other hand, if you are like me and only wear glasses when you read or work extensively (It’s 10PM at the computer right now), it is up to you! If you are in this situation and I had to cast my vote, I wouldn’t wear them during the portrait session to avoid this inconsistency. 

Daniele R. looking great with her glasses! Professional headshot by YvensB in Montreal

Will there be any reflections in my glasses?

Now if you are worried about the reflection in your glasses, that is the photographer (my job) to make sure there are no glares or reflection in your glasses. You got other things to worry about so let us worry about this! If you need to know, you can always discuss it before your booking if it worries you. I typically show a with and without to the client and see if that is pleasing.

As usual, if you have any questions, get in touch here

Best of luck and talk soon,


3 Tips To Help You Book Your Dream Headshot

Here is a story; You worked at your job for a while and you definitely are ready to move on - but your LinkedIn profile has seen more active days and your profile photo is from *cough*…a while ago. You are curious to know more about how to prepare for your headshot session.

So, here you are reading this. Good news! This article is here to help.

There are 3 things you need to mostly consider for your dream headshot session and they are all connected under the same umbrella: intent.

Intent is a beautiful thing. It truly is. Intent brings focus to our decisions and actions. Intent hones our perception and becomes a conductive line to our plans. So here’s how we will use intent to help you prepare your headshot session!

Lighting and all it’s wonders!

THE BIG QUESTION: Where do you want to your career to go?

Whether you are building a business, trying to fill your company’s vacant position or taking a higher leadership position in a different company, take a look at what is being done. Find a bridge between your personality and how others in the industry are selling their own brand. 

1) A Tip on how to dress for your headshot

Although generally the suit and tie animal is facing general extinction in most industries, take a look at what leaders in other companies are wearing as an outfit in your industry. Typically, I advise my clients of 2 outfits, one relaxed business-like and one casual. Why? There are 2 stances you should have in your profile pictures, one for your public profile on LinkedIn let’s say, and one for internal profile with your teammates and clients.

From casual to….


I offer the explanation to my clients that the casual one mostly serve as looking ‘approachable’ to your team as it is one of the top qualities needed as a leader or as a part of the team.

An example: You work for a tech startup or a company: Visit the Facebook governance wesbite or it’s leadership page if you are in tech if you would like to work there. How is the CEO dressed? How is the CIO dressed? How is the CFO dressed? Take cues from where you want to go and build your brand from there.

But when in doubt, a light colored shirt and a sport jacket works wonders.


For make-up, the general rule is to avoid heavy makeup. I recommend to my clients to apply make-up you can typically wear everyday.

2) A tip for an outdoors vs studio photo session

This is one of the most complex decision for you but we have a ways. You should check 3 things.  

  • Intent! Once again, intent is important. If the situation calls for bright colors because this is for a blog about holistic nutrition, then choose the one that fits your brand. In a pinch, nature always does the trick!
  • If your company policy asks for a specific color, then this is mandatory - we can’t go around it. Any special color might be an additional cost to you in the case you need a purple backdrop let’s say.
  • I typically recommend a neutral grey for most occasions as they typically fit everywhere. White backdrops can be also a safe bet.
  • Here is Melanie, a naturopath. We also took studio pictures but it did not work for her goal but these fit great. A lesson to always know what the intent is!

    If outside fits your intent better make sure to have a rain check since gloomy weather don’t make for great portraits! Selecting the correct colors that will serve as your backdrop is also important. 


    Lookout for oranges and blues as they typically turn out great.

    A nice color backdrop can be the perfect marriage between serious but colorful. Extra bonus points if you are a public personality!

    3) A Tip on selecting your photographer!

    First thing you should look for is consistency in style and in delivery. Do they all look similar and does the photographer has one or more image that looks like your intent? The you might have found the right one!

    If you can get a good sense of how he works by his blog, videos of him and how fast he responds to your emails are typically good indicators of the level of service you should expect. 

    If your vision requires retouching, it should be natural looking (look for pores) - this should help with keeping makeup light.


    Bring examples of what you want to your photographer - this really helps him imagine what you like and what type of lighting is desired! 

    We hope this will narrow down your selection. If you need more help or want to book your own headshot, don’t hesitate to visit our headshot gallery or contact me for a booking!

    Talk soon,