Photography is about capturing light and it's interaction with your subject. The most available light is the sun. When there are no clouds in the sky it becomes hard and contrasty. when there is a light layer of clouds it becomes softer and and less harsh but also flatter. When photographers use artificial or studio lighting they use the same terms of hard/soft light. In my opinion light is light. I use every available source of light I can get my hands on to get the look I want.
The big trap most photographers fall into (I am not immune to this just ask my wife) is that we like our gadgets/accessories and gear. We buy more and more equipment because we feel that it will make our photos look better. This might be true if you know how and when to use every thing in your gear bag. Just because I have a piece of equipment doesn't mean I need to use it in every situation. There are many photographers that achieve masterful results with the careful use of open shade (shooting on the shadow side of a building or under a tree) and a reflector. having said this there are an equal amount of photographers that create amazing images using enough gear to fill a moving truck. the key is to know what you want to achieve with regards to your image and how to get the desired result.
If you want to freeze action you are going to need enough light to have a fast shutter speed. That light can either come from the sun or from another source it really doesn't matter in my books as long as I get the shot.
If I am photographing a bride and I want a nice soft light that wraps around her I have a couple options. the following are just a few:
- shoot in open shade
- shoot with a diffusing panel between her and the direct sun
- shoot with a big light source close to her like a soft box or an umbrella (this can be indoors or out)
I love light in all it's forms