Outdoor Headshots or Studio Headshots? Natural Light vs Studio Light.

It is a hard choice to make between having studio photos taken, or natural light and outdoor photos taken. Both produce beautiful results but sometimes one is more suitable for you than the other.

Studio Light:

Studio photography is not just cheesy family portraiture on a bright white background. In the studio, your photographer has a lot of control. They can shape the light, where it goes, what shadows there are, and how much contrast there is. It is also easier to create specific catchlights in the eyes, and this can really draw attention to them. Building sets can also be another great opportunity that studio environments hold. Cleaner backdrops and specific set ups can be a little easier and these options can make your images stand out. If you are wanting consistency between multiple shots or across people, a studio setup is a great idea.

The studio also provides opportunities to mimic natural light. This can be reproducing harsh shadows from the sun, backlighting, or even soft diffused light from a cloudy day. The advantage to studio photography is that it is not weather dependent. A photographer can get consistent results despite the time of day or forecast, while also being able to reproduce that look weeks, months and years ahead.

Natural Light:

A lot of clients love a natural light look. Particularly with acting headshots, it is quite “in-vogue”. Natural light, when not too harsh, gives opportunities for really even, bright light and produces beautiful skin tones. It can be diffused to be quite soft and ‘filling’ and it reduces harsh shadows in wrinkles and lines on the face. Natural light also gives opportunities of that beautiful golden sunrise and sunset (golden hour) light – which can be harder to reproduce in a studio. I find natural light a very flattering light across all people.

You also have a world of environments to discover. It allows you to explore beautiful locations, scenery and backdrops that cannot be reproduced in a studio.  Additionally, the use of reflectors and diffusers allow a level of manipulation to the light. You get different results at different times of the day (read more about this here), but the photographer can control and reflect the light back to ensure specific results – if that be soft and even, or strong and contrasty. This often depends of the available light, height and angle of the sun, and the weather.


Below are some comparison images of natural light (left) and studio light (right). At my studio, I have the opportunity to use natural light in a studio environment. This allows for clean backgrounds which can be great for headshots. You can see this in some of the examples below as well as find more of my work in my full portfolio, and read a little more about my studio and my outdoor sessions here.

Melbourne Headshot Photography - Julia Nance Portraits

Melbourne Headshot Photography - Julia Nance Portraits

To Summarise:

Natural light vs studio light portraits can be a tough decision. When controlled and understood, both can be manipulated by the photographer to create fantastic results. My advice is to think about what your images will be used for, and what you want to say in them. Knowing what background or environment you want is a big step in understanding what would be a better option for you. Some things can only be achieved in one environment and not the other. If you love a particular style of work, go with your gut.

In my sessions, we will discuss all your ideas, what your images are for, and create a bit of a mood board. If we have time in our session, we can possible do a bit of both! I have had clients in the past think they want one type of session, and when collecting images of examples they like, they have discovered they actually want the opposite. Whatever you choose, you’ll end up looking fabulous, trust me! Get in touch today to start discussing your headshot session. If you know what you want, why not jump online and book a time!