Photo Tips | How to Take the Best Photographs in Bright Sunlight

Photo Tips: How to Take the Best Photographs in Bright Sunlight | Not Dressed As Lamb
Another photography tips post! Today I’m talking light, which is the key to getting better pictures. The more light you have, the higher the quality of your pictures, because photographic film reacts to and likes light (I know digital cameras don’t use film – it’s just easier to explain the old fashioned way)!

Think of it this way: The more light there is travelling through the camera’s lens and shutter, the more information the film has to interpret. The more information on the image – the sharper and more detailed the photos.

You could break down your (outdoor) lighting conditions into three very basic groups: cloud, rain and sun.

  • Cloudy is straightforward – your light will be evenly diffused wherever you shoot, so you’re not really restricted in any way unless it’s extremely dark due to extra heavy cloud cover.
  • Raining is obviously tough but there are ways round it – I’ll do photographing in the rain in another photo tips post.
  • And if it’s sunny, you’ve actually got a lot of different effects you can create – so read on for the low-down!

1. Strong, daytime sunlight is your only option

Although it’s a camera’s dream to have lots of sunshine, it can be a photographer’s nightmare. Too much light and/or the wrong time of day can cause lighting headaches and you can easily end up with unflattering results – it can cast high contrast shadows on your face and outfit and makes you squint. Here’s the best tips for how to work with strong, direct sun:

Aviod squinting by wearing sunglasses

Some bloggers feel a bit of a poser wearing sunnies (doesn’t bother me), but don’t forget they’re an accessory in themselves. If the sun is blinding your eyes they really are a necessity… you don’t have to wear them in every outfit post.

Stand in some shade

Make sure it’s not dappled light or it will cause havoc with the photo’s exposure. If the sun is strong there will still be enough light (remember the sun is four quadrillion times brighter than a 100W light bulb). Here’s how we got round strong sun in two outfit photographs by standing me in a shaded area:

Phototips: How to Get the Best Results in Bright Sunlight

Turn around so that the sun is behind you

Personally I think this is the best way to get flattering light when the sun is really strong. The photographer has got to be careful – and probably experiment a little with exposure settings – if you want to avoid flare from the sun. However you’ll get that wonderful backlit halo effect:

Phototips: How to Get the Best Results in Bright Sunlight
To see how much of a difference positioning can make, compare the two images below… we purposely photographed me facing the sun first, knowing it would be far too harsh. As well as the unflattering shadows mentioned earlier, it has totally bleached me out – I pretty much look like I’m wearing white from head to toe:

Phototips: How to Get the Best Results in Bright Sunlight
So be brave and move your position in relation to the sun. It may take a few goes to get the shooting angles and exposure correct, but it really is worth it.

Please note: The photographer must not, under any circumstances, look directly at the sun either through the lens or otherwise if shooting into the sun. Safety first, folks.

2. There’s occasional cloud cover in the sky

If you’ve got sunny intervals, waiting for clouds to cover the sun is often a preferable option. At the time of shooting yesterday’s outfit post, the sun was constantly peeking out from behind the clouds, so we experimented a little with the lighting. Before showing you the rejects, the final image I chose was this one:

Photo Tips | How to Get the Best Results in Bright Sunlight

As you can probably tell, the sun had gone behind the clouds for this shot. But because the cloud cover was very thin, it cast a really eery light. It was a sort of strange glow, which created a lovely depth to the image and made the outfit pop.

Want to see what the other options were? See below – we experimented…

1. With full sun (not good – it bleached out my top)

2. With backlighting (photographer and model had to swap positions, but the background was much less appealing)
3. Back in the original position, but with the diffused light when the sun went behind the clouds… we knew straight away this one looked the best.

3. The sun is setting (or rising) – the “golden hour”

The golden hour is the hour of the day leading up to sunset (or the hour after sunrise). As most of us are dressed and can be ready for a shoot in the evening as opposed to the early morning (I couldn’t possibly look awake that early in the day), a sunset will create a beautiful light in your photographs and won’t be as harsh as overhead sun:

Phototips: How to Get the Best Results in Bright Sunlight
The beach photo on the left was taken literally as the sun was setting on the horizon, so the light was very soft and very warm. And the image on the right shows how creating flare from the sun during golden hour is easier for the photographer than at midday (because the sun is much weaker). With some careful positioning, your photographer can position the sun to just peek out from behind you and create some beautiful sun flare spots. This takes practice, but it’s probably my favourite effect to create with the sun.

The golden hour is a favoured time of day for many photographers to shoot – you’ve just got to be ready to get your timing spot-on (you can find yourself in a race against time with the sunset, but the results are worth it).

4. Be adaptable depending on your outfit, the location, and the time of day

I know I’ve said don’t shoot in harsh sunlight… unfortunately I’m going to give some examples of where it can work! Always be ready to break the rules (though my ‘rules’ are really only tips of course).

Deep, bright colours photograph well in very strong, direct sunlight:

Phototips: How to Get the Best Results in Bright Sunlight

Like the paler colours above were bleached out facing strong sun, these vibrant colours would have been deadened if the sun had been behind me. With some exposure experimentation and correct angles (to avoid a really big, dark under-nose shadow), we got depth, tone and good contrast all at the same time.

Secondly, the location and/or the contrast of colours and background are sometimes better suited to full sunlight on the subject:

Phototips: How to Get the Best Results in Bright Sunlight

The stripes of the nautical outfit were echoed in all the lines of the horizon and gates in the background, and the sun on the field made the green luminous, giving a great contrast to the white top. And it goes without saying that if you have a gorgeous, sandy beach to shoot on, you’ll want to take advantage of the bright white sand and blue sea – especially if your outfit is a dark contrast as mine was.

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Let me know if these seem doable – and please do come back at a later time to report back on how (if) they have helped you at all!

The best advice really is to experiment. I’ve given examples only from my outfit posts because I could give you details of how we came to shoot them that way, but do look at more than just the outfits of your favourite blogs.

Here’s my choices of blogs with great photography who use fantastic lighting (I’ve tried to pick more than just the usual “top tier bloggers”, hopefully you’ll find some great new blogs to follow as well):

A Southern Drawl

Prosecco & Plaid
Eat Sleep Wear
Aminta’s Fashion
Forever Amber
The Marcy Stop

Study their images. Look at the lighting and the position of the sun. Are they standing in the shade or in the sunlight? What does the time of day appear to be? Rarely are they standing under and facing harsh, midday sun… at least, not without sunglasses!

But if you find any good examples that prove me wrong, leave a comment with the link to a particular post, I’d love to see them!



Linking up with: Brilliant Blog Posts



  1. 13 July 2016 / 10:04 pm

    So many nice pics and outfits as usual! #brillblogposts

  2. 13 July 2016 / 9:27 pm

    You're so photogenic! Very helpful post, thank you! I'm usually whipping out my iphone and desperately hoping it will work out ok!

  3. 17 April 2015 / 8:43 pm

    Some great tips and wonderful images! A truly professional blog πŸ™‚

    • 30 April 2015 / 1:52 pm

      Thank you Joanna – I hope the tips help! C x

  4. 25 December 2012 / 4:23 pm

    Love these tips!
    Thank you

  5. 15 November 2012 / 9:31 pm

    wow great tips. Do you have any tips on a non dslr camera? Just bought a Canon sx40 HS and it does take good photos if taken by me however if my husband's turn to take my photos it is always not as clear no matter how I teach him how to handle the camera so I don't even want to buy a dslr because there is no point since he's my photographer, sigh..


  6. 9 October 2012 / 8:43 pm

    This is my first time on your blog and I absolutely love it! Also, these photography tips are super helpful. Thanks for posting!

  7. 1 September 2012 / 6:27 pm

    I went to my camera supplier (a great shop with good service just around the corner) twice because of your advice. I am now in the process of returning my camera and lenses and getting a new one from him, because I cannot do everything you advise. I followed a short course with him but that was nowhere near as instructive and simple as your explanations (told him that). You finally let me see the light (haha, this remark is by accident).

    • 2 September 2012 / 12:11 am

      Greetje I am so, so pleased!!! And also extremely flattered… it's great that my little bit of knowledge has directly helped someone. Let me know how you get on with your new equipment!!! C xo

  8. 28 August 2012 / 11:29 am

    Thanks so much for these wonderful posts Catherine. They really have been ever so helpful! now just to get my photographer to read them to πŸ˜‰ hes more of a landscape photographer…xx

  9. Gray Skies
    27 August 2012 / 10:11 pm

    Catherine, thank you so much for linking to my blog! I love all the posts in your photography series. When I first started taking outfit photos for my blog I would just take them anywhere, and sometimes they would turn out horribly and I wouldn't know why (but now I know it was because of the lighting). But eventually, through a lot of trial and error, I figured out the best locations for shooting in bright light, and the best time of day for photos.

  10. 27 August 2012 / 5:50 pm

    WOW – thanks for all these amazing comments, everyone!!! I'm so glad these photo tips seem to be helping everyone – even if you only get one or two ideas out of it. Glad to know it's been worthwhile!

    Catherine x

  11. 26 August 2012 / 11:38 am

    Love all the tips, I really have to take them into account because my photographer has problems with the light and so do I… Really good post, seriously! Following you πŸ™‚
    Andrea in Fashion

  12. 26 August 2012 / 10:33 am

    I love your "photo tip" posts, I find them really useful. I really struggle with this sort of thing, especially when it comes to lighting!
    Enjoy your break xo

  13. 25 August 2012 / 10:28 pm

    Nice outfits…I like your style.*_*
    Would you like to follow each other on BLOGLOVIN and GFC???
    My Blog

  14. 25 August 2012 / 9:23 pm

    thank you for sharing all these useful tips with us, love you!!!!!!

    Love, Ylenia from Longuette

  15. 25 August 2012 / 12:22 pm

    Brilliant advised, Catherine, mainly living in a sunny place.
    I am so chuffed to know you missed me, ahhhhhhhhhhhh
    Thank you, my dear friend.

  16. 25 August 2012 / 10:23 am

    these are some great tips…i mostly shoot indoors due to lack of good outdoor locations nearby and also lack of a photographer..

  17. 25 August 2012 / 10:09 am

    Thank you for the great tips!! We've been enjoying bright sunny weather the last couple of days and I've been wondering how to utilize it when taking photos.
    Lovely weekend:)

  18. 25 August 2012 / 6:42 am

    ohhhh i really needed this! thank you thank you thank you!!!!!
    i'm a new follower! have a lovely weekend!

  19. Rebecca
    25 August 2012 / 6:01 am

    You are soooo sweet to be sharing these tips Catherine….MORE POWER TO YOU!!

  20. 25 August 2012 / 2:36 am

    Wow okay so I'm very glad I stumbled across your blog, these are such great tips! Thanks for taking the time ot put them together, I definitely have learnt a thing or two πŸ™‚

  21. 24 August 2012 / 8:55 pm

    Great tips Catherine! Thank you for sharing, me and my boyfriend are always trying to learn about taking photos, so this will come in very helpful! πŸ™‚

    Take care, Daniella xox

  22. 24 August 2012 / 8:26 pm

    We don't have a fancy camera, so we struggle with our photos. Thank you for the tips! I'm sure my husband will appreciate them πŸ™‚

  23. 24 August 2012 / 8:12 pm

    These are great tips Catherine! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your expertise.

  24. 24 August 2012 / 7:41 pm

    Thanks for more great tips, Catherine! I count Forever Amber and Grey Skies among my favourites as well – glad to see them featured, and look forward to checking out the others.

    I must also add that the red/white/blue headscarf is a particularly lovely look on you!

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