I Don’t Use Lighting Equipment Because I Care About You


I was on little road trip recently, when the need for BBQ became so overwhelming that I had to stop at the first restaurant I could find. It happens sometimes. I’m not proud of it, but when Pork speaks, I listen. Luckily, there was an adorable little BBQ place in the next town. A tiny little mom-and-pop joint, which in my opinion, are always the best.

The smell of smoked meat was so overwhelming that I don’t even remember entering the restaurant; it was all a giant blur in my quest to get to that mouth-watering Pork, but on the way back to the car, I took notice of what I had missed earlier: a bulletin board next to the front door; a massive cork board filled with hundreds of business cards, flyers and postcards, all advertising local area businesses.


I love these bulletin walls; they are a smorgasbord of everything you could possibly imagine. For the most part, the wall contains advertisements for lower cost businesses: oil changes, babysitting, Avon, but always, without fail, you will find flyers and/or business cards for photographers. And, without fail, I always seek them out.

Most of the time, the photography flyers have a picture of a cute baby on them, or something very vintage and yellow. Every scrap of paper is hoping you will pick IT to take home with you and, as such, each has a tag line or catchy phrase. As I surveyed the paper landscape, one 8.5×11 flyer caught my eye. It had several snapshots on it and the words:

“I only use minimal equipment to keep my clients cool and their costs down.”

Now, it might have been all that pulled pork in my belly that dulled my senses, but I had to stand there and read the line a couple of times out loud to fully understand the selling point, which was that this photographer was using a lack of lighting equipment as a marketing tool for his clients.

It was brilliant.

“You know all those stands and hot lights and umbrellas and soft boxes those other photographers use. Well, I could have all that stuff, too, but I don’t. And you know why? Because I want to KEEP…YOU…COOL. All those lights will do is make you hot. Those other photographers don’t care about your internal temperatures, but I do. I don’t use lighting equipment because I care about you.” 


Now, don’t get me wrong, there are incredibly talented portrait photographers who only use minimal equipment. These guys and gals are fantastic at seeing the light. They know where to shoot, how to position their subjects and how to expose to squeeze every bit of natural light from their surroundings. Their images reveal a knowledge of lighting that is undeniable. The images on that flyer? Not so much.

But it started me thinking about what other selling points we could use to turn a negative into a positive in the marketing of our photography businesses. This is what I’ve come up with. It’s a short list, but then, on a 8.5×11 flyer, you’re not going to have a whole lot of room, so feel free to pick your favorites and maybe highlight them in a bold Papyrus font:

“I use my daughter’s “Dora the Explorer” lunch box as a camera case to keep costs low for you!”


“To keep clients comfortable, I let them pose themselves.”

“My prices are cheap because I allow clients to edit their own images.”

“I abstain from photography education because it costs money and I’d have to pass those costs on to my clients. And I refuse to do that.”

Of course, if you’re going to advertise on a bulletin board outside a fantastic BBQ restaurant, I’d recommend the obvious: FREE pulled pork sandwich with every session. 

Throw in a side of slaw and this girl is in!

Image credits: Glistening – Mum’s Pork Ribs by avlxyz, Bulletin board by anyjazz65, Lighting 1 by Katherine Albin

  • bob cooley

    Pretty funny, I like the: “I use my daughter’s “Dora the Explorer” lunch box as a camera case to keep costs low for you!”. That’s spot on.

  • Spider- Man

    when I see that I always think it is code for “I use natural light cause I am not sure how a strobe works…”

  • Elias R. Tlalolin

    he is a ¡pavato !jajajaja

  • Realistic

    Someone should put an end on this planet soon.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    My lack of experience means I won’t be bossing you around.

  • Alan Dove

    Also known as the “piss in their ear and tell ‘em it’s raining” approach.

  • Kay O. Sweaver

    Well, this is kind of mean.

  • bobcfarrell

    Did someone explain sarcasm to you using pictograms or sign language? This is one of the worst articles I’ve seen on this site for some time.

  • bobcfarrell

    Oh, and about as funny as running out of toilet paper

  • mrbeard

    “to enable the wedding party to see their exciting images in real time, all pictures will be taken with my cameraphone using instagram, to enhance your wedding experience (wifi dependent)”

  • OC Shooter

    “In order to get your photos to you faster, I only shoot jpegs in auto mode.”

  • Courtney Navey


  • Spider- Man

    but not as funny as using natural light, because you care. Hope he gives them sunblock UVB and UVA rays can KILL

  • Spider- Man

    The P stands for ‘professional’ right?

  • Warren

    “To stop my strobes from being a discomfort to you, I opt to rather use my camera’s pop up flash”

  • juanrubalcava

    You can’t go wrong with Dora.

  • Frederick Engles

    Whats the purpose of this? honestly? are we just poking fun at some random local in the middle of nowhere that put up an ad in a mom and pop shop?

    really? Whats the end game here? we are making fun of some random person you feel superior too?q

  • denley wong

    I definitely live by this motto: “I abstain from photography education because it costs money and I’d have to pass those costs on to my clients. And I refuse to do that.”
    lol. classic. Thanks for the article, made my day!

  • Daniel Thomassin

    Bonjour Merci beaucoup pour vos conseil! Bonne Soirée.

  • Zos Xavius

    Only according to ken rockwell

  • Denis Vahey

    I really have to question what Cheri Frost contributes to PP. Sickening use of juvenile sarcasm.

  • Grokular

    What gets me the most is insulting phrases like th e implication you need an “education” at some higher institution to be a good photographer. The elitism is strong with this one to be sure.

  • Italo

    Not really true in my opinion. At least not in all cases. There are a bunch of fantastic natural lighting portrait photographers out there who challenge even the most famous strobe photographers in lighting knowledge. When you get to a point where you’re really good, trust me when it’s far easier to control everything about your light than make something amazing out of what’s available to you. It’s a style, one really hard to master technically and good natural light photographers will always have my ultimate respect.

  • Nic

    I’m noticing a growing trend with articles on this site leaning away from interesting articles about photography as technology and art, but leaning more towards the author whining about other photographers/organisations that they don’t seem to take a liking to.

    Each article makes this site come across as more passive aggressive and elitist.

    Perhaps I’ve just opened Pandora’s box, so say what you will.

  • jayhawksean

    Maybe, “I don’t buy those expensive lenses to help keep your costs down. Plus, those expensive lenses are super sharp and nobody wants to see your pores.”

  • Chris Scuffins

    What happened to the old ethos; its not what you have but what you do with it? Who even cares if they use lights or not? Knowledge and experience are to key to good results, not how many speedlights you have. This post os just gear snobbery. Good job.

  • Frederick Engles

    Yes. Its like the writer of this article is completely blind to the circumstances surrounding her experience at that BBQ. Rather like when she was writing this article. Too ignorant to realize that she comes across as a complete elitist tool.

    This type of trashy article has no place on peta pixel. Unless thats the new direction they are taking things. I want thoughtful pieces about photography not smear campaigns by elitist pricks.

  • Burnin Biomass

    Now I’m gonna have to use dry ice to compete with keeping my customers cool! Dang you raising bar!

  • Bill

    Man, was a lead astray on the titling of this article.

    I thought for sure, when I read the tag line, that it was going to be some in-depth article about minimalist style lighting techniques and how one photographer uses this as an edge on his competitors.

    Or was I reading way too far into that one.

    What’s wrong with a little grass roots advertising? Did you ever stop to consider that maybe this poor guy does not have the kind of budget set aside for fancy tri-fold brochures or the, as you said, 8.5 x 11 handouts.

    I don’t care if the photographer has a flashlight as a light source and using toilet paper as a diffuser, [been there, done that], if it turns out good results and the clients are happy, goal achieved!

    This article could have went so many positive ways, but digressed into an unwarranted attack on a local photographer that was probably brought on by indigestion.

    BTW Cheri, your photo of the ribs makes them very unappealing or maybe you used too much lighting equipment!

  • Tou

    wow this is just so sad. even sadder that the people at petapixel put this out. this author has to pick on an anonymous photographer to make herself feel better.

  • SYunghans

    Now I’ve been using natural light for years as a photographer. I have a minimal kit which DOES include a flash that I usually try and bounce of white walls when actually use it. I did get an education, I started learning photography in a dark room with an enlarger and chemicals and my own photo paper even. I built cameras, I rebuilt a few, and I SWEAR by natural light. I shot for a newspaper which also limits your use of fancy softboxes and studio lighting and got great shots. It’s not about the equipment, it’s about the user. I can take better photos with a Quaker Oats container than some of the “photographers” I know in the area where I work. One of those photos was in my portfolio when I got the newspaper job even. I don’t knock the lighting and equipment, but I also value the shooter who knows how do get great work with very little in his or her camera bag.

  • SYunghans

    By the way, the image of the ribs was taken with a flash, possibly even a pop up flash. The bulletin board image was shot with a more sophisticated flash set up, but it’s still a flash and the studio image on the bottom was obviously shot with studio lighting. Meh… Moving on now.

  • MT_Nat_Photog

    This post has made me hungry for BBQ, but unfortunately I’m in Montana and not Texas. :(


    My 13 year old daughter takes better pictures than me.
    As long as we’re confessing…

  • Gman

    Spot on, that’s exactly what it translates to. Every time I read “I’m a natural light photographer” on a photographers website, I read “I don’t know how to use a flash”

  • Spider- Man

    Yes there are. But this person uses the excuse that people use studio lights to charge you more money. Not that they have used studio lights and prefer natural. This is a fauxtographer, a soccer mom/dad who got a sweet deal on a costco DSLR kit…

  • Gon

    I only shoot at the mall, because if I shot outside, I would have to get my clients some sunscreen and that would make the session more expensive. by shooting at the mall, I keep it more affordable and skin cancer free. also, they have AC, so they are cool during the sessions.

  • Samantha

    There’s nothing constructive about this article. It’s author and most of the people commenting are elitist snobs. Using natural light effectively is a skill…you have absolutely no idea whether this person has that skill or not.

  • Zack

    None of the photos in the article are hers. They never are. At least she’s not using animated gifs anymore.

  • Dannell Morgan

    Hahahahaha! All of those comments made me LOL! <3

  • peaceetc

    I think you missed the part where she talks about those who use natural light well and know what they are doing, but the photos on the flyer showed otherwise in this case.

  • peaceetc

    The article mentions the flyer had sample photos. She also points out it is definitely a skill and can be used well. Please reread it before making assumptions.

    And no, I’m not the writer. I just know how to read.

  • mr arsephoto

    wasted my time reading this

  • 9inchnail

    But the thing is that this photographer tried to sell his lack of equipment as a pro argument. He’s not saying “Hey, I don’t have this and that but I know what I’m doing”, he’s saying “I’m the better choice because I don’t have XYZ” and that’s just ridiculous. A halfway professional photographer would at least bring the equipment, check the conditions on the scene and then decide if he needs lighting or not.

  • 9inchnail

    Welcome to the internet, let me be your guide.

  • 9inchnail

    Dude, you do realise that those photos were taken by the person who wrote the article. The person claiming not to use any flashes is someone entirely else and actually the centre of the mockery of the article.

  • Felipe_Paredes

    so go and buy the British journal of photography.