5 Ways to Capture Stunning Photos in Bright Sunlight

by | Technical, Light, Top Tips | 0 comments


Summer is a fantastic season for photography, with its long daylight hours and warm, vibrant colors. However, shooting in bright sunlight can also present unique challenges.

My motto has always been “Shoot for the light, not the location.” I say it all of the time. I tell my clients when I photograph their sessions and tell my students this every day.

Learning to use the light correctly will make your photographs go from mediocre to absolutely amazing! And what better time to use light than on these long summer days?

In this post, I give you five effective techniques to help capture stunning photos in bright sunlight this summer. From understanding the golden hour to utilizing proper exposure, these tips will enhance your photography skills and enable you to make the most of the summer light.

5 Ways to Capture Stunning Photos in Bright Sunlight

Embrace the Golden Hour

The golden hour, which occurs during the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset, offers soft, warm, and diffused light that can transform your photos. During this time, you are dealing with less bright sunlight. And this light helps in creating a beautiful golden glow and long shadows, and golden hour light wraps itself perfectly around your subject.

Plan your photography sessions accordingly to take advantage of this magical light as the sun fades fast. Get to your location early, get set up and make sure you think through your shot and your camera settings and shoot in manual for the best results.

It’s easy to play with shadows and textures and silhouettes with golden hour light, but be aware that the shadows can sometimes interfere with your subject.

Have fun, play with lens flare and remember that if you don’t get your shot one day, you can always return the next.

5 Ways to Capture Stunning Photos in Bright Sunlight

Experiment with Backlighting

Backlighting is a technique that involves positioning your subject against the sun, with the light coming from behind. Backlighting creates a stunning halo effect, adds depth and drama to your photos, and lets you utilize bright sunlight.

Experiment with different angles and compositions to achieve striking results. Be sure to use a lens hood or your hand to shield the lens from lens flares and maintain image quality.

Head to the beach as the sun is setting and play with the perfect silhouette. Anything can create a silhouette. Just make sure that it has a distinct form. Nothing creates a memory more than capturing your kids looking off into the distance as the sun slowly sets. Have fun when creating those memories.

Utilize Reflectors 

When shooting in intense, bright sunlight, the strong overhead light can create harsh shadows on your subject’s face. To overcome this, use a reflector to bounce light onto your subject and fill in the shadows.

Reflectors come in various sizes and materials, such as gold, silver, or white, allowing you to manipulate the light’s color and intensity. They are affordable and easy to carry.

Seek Open Shade for Even Lighting

While summer light can be beautiful, it can also be unforgiving, causing excessive contrast and blown-out highlights. When the sun is directly overhead, it casts hard light, thus causing harsh shadows on your subject, or dappled light: the spotty light that comes through the trees. It creates spotty shadows on your subject.

To avoid these issues, seek out areas with open shade, such as under trees or awnings. These spots provide more even lighting, making it easier to capture well-exposed images without losing details in the highlights or shadows. Experiment with different angles to find the most flattering light for your subject.

Control Exposure

Proper exposure is crucial when shooting in bright summer light. The strong sunlight can often fool your camera’s metering system, resulting in overexposed or underexposed images.

Take control of your exposure by using manual mode. Pay attention to your white balance to ensure you capture a balanced range of tones. Additionally, consider using a polarizing filter to reduce glare and enhance colors, particularly in landscapes and outdoor scenes.

I love natural light, and summer light is magical. Mastering the art of capturing stunning photos in bright summer light requires understanding the unique characteristics of this season’s illumination. By embracing the golden hour, experimenting with backlighting, utilizing reflectors, seeking open shade, and controlling exposure, you can overcome the challenges and create remarkable images that truly showcase the beauty of summertime.

Once you master summer light, your photography possibilities are endless. Remember to have fun when creating those memories, practice, and if you want to learn to understand your camera and its settings today, make sure to check out my Beginners Photography Essentials Class!

So grab your camera, explore these techniques, and let the summer light inspire your photography!

Lifestyle Photographer & Mentor

Hi, I’m Dena, a natural light lifestyle photographer with 20+ years of experience capturing other people’s memories and teaching photographers how to understand and easily use their cameras.

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