I’m always skeptical of people calling themselves “natural light photographers” because what I hear in my head is “too cheap to rent a studio”. That’s until they start pulling out bag after bag of light panels and reflectors.
To me that’s natural light only in the sense you’re utilizing the hydrogen ion key light positioned 93 million miles from subject. Otherwise, it’s the best of both worlds when it comes to lighting.
Light panels are handy in many situations and are light enough to pack around without feeling like a pack mule.
In the old days if I needed to soften sunlight coming through an office window it would involve a roll of fabric and some gaffer tape. That still works, but these days a couple light panels will do the job without the tape and are useful in more situations.
If you’re doing a shoot at the beach and it’s going to be past 9 am, you’ll likely be needing light panels and a reflector.
Remember, when shooting at the beach, it can help a lot to cut some old tennis balls to fit over the feet of your panel, tripod and reflector stands. You’ll also need some bags to make sandbags to weigh down the base if the wind picks up.
For those of you with the time and talent to make them yourself, light panels are an easy weekend DIY project. PVC is cheap and you can always use an inexpensive shower curtain and a bag of clamps to hold it in place. The only reason I like the aluminum frames better is PVC can get brittle over time and if you clamp down on the grip jaw you can break it.
For more information on using light panels: