Light … hey.

We like it a lot. And get kinda sad when it isn't around. But it can't be pretty all the time. We are going to show you how to get the best out of the most common (and pretty) lighting situations.

In our light section we are going to cover:

  • Full Sun
  • Shady
  • Overcast
  • Back Light Pretty Light
  • Rembrant-ish Pretty Light
  • Sparkly Pretty Light

This should get you out of most lighting situations you will come across.

Let's get started...


Full sun is when the sun is high in the sky, around 10am-4pm-ish in Summer and 11am-2pm-ish in the Winter (if you're lucky enough to see the sun at all!)

The coolest thing about full sun is that it's fun! It gives your photos a really happy, summery feel.

Because the sun is up so high, it creates harsh shadows, which can be ace for adding graphic shapes to your photos, but not so great for shooting portraits in. 

We tend to use full sun for big scenes, it has a cinematic quality about it, and everything looks super bold and punchy. It was awesome to shoot in when we went on a desert road trip in Kate's old Holden, with all that red earth and blue sky. 

When you try to use it to photograph small details it can overwhelm what you are shooting, by casting dark shadows. Making it look confusing, hard to see and distracting from the subject.

We pretty much always meter for mid tones when we are shooting in the full sun. Choose a point in the photo that's as close to middle grey in tone as you can get as a starting point. We scoured the internet for hours and finally found a great example of middle grey for you.


If you were to meter for the shadows, everything else would be blown out into whiteness, because the contrast between light and dark is so huge. Like this poor over exposed cat below.


We have made some little interactive images to help illustrate some of the points we have covered. You can click on the arrows throughout the class to see notes and metering points.

Full sun is not great for shooting portraits in.

Full sun makes people all squinty and not their prettiest selves. Not only that, but when you try to shoot a portrait in the full sun the boney bits above their eyes cast dark circle shadows, which make their eyes look like dark holes, no one wants dark holes for eyes! You can still have people in your photos though! Try and shoot them doing something, make sure to get them looking away from the camera (just not towards the sun!)

Let's recap …

Full Sun Homework

This task is super simple (unless you live in similar weather to us right now, then actually finding full sun may prove difficult!)

Get outdoors and shoot something in full sun. Whatever catches your eye! Think about how you meter, use the light and make sure you aren't blinding any of your subjects by making them look in to that burning ball of flames!

Nice and easy! 

If you are in the middle of winter (like us) at the moment and the chance to shoot in the full sun doesn't show up often, you might need to skip ahead to the next lesson and come back to this one when you have the chance

All isn't lost when you want to take a portrait on a sunny day though, you just have to...

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Walls and eaves create perfect little pockets of shade that you can pop your subject in. All that bright light outside your shady spot acts as a great giant reflector, bouncing a super even, pretty light back towards your subject. 

You can see this in effect in the photo below. Little Pepper is standing in the shade cast by the pink wall, and Kate is standing in the sun shooting in towards her. Behind Kate is a row of bright buildings acting as the reflector, you can actually kind of see them reflecting in the pink tile above Pepper's head in the photo.

In this photo, the shady pocket is created by the Eaves outside the tyre shop, Peta is standing in the sun, shooting in towards the girls.

Not only is shooting next to walls great for finding a good little spot of light to shoot in, but we love to photograph kids next to walls because it removes all the distractions that are usually around, and lets you focus on the cute little people themselves. Looking out for walls that are textural and colourful and fun to shoot in front of is a pastime in itself for us ;)


Get Shady Homework

Grab a cutie or two and find some shade! Look for fun spots to shoot your subjects, like this one Peta took of Maya and Pepper on our road trip to Uluru. How clever is she!


You might find a wall that has the perfect colour to match on outfit, or a pretty stand of trees. Keep your eyes peeled, there are awesome backdrops around us everywhere!


Overcast … is moooody.

Overcast days may get a bit annoying to live in throughout the winter months, but they are good for something... that nice, even overcast light.

On overcast days the clouds act as a giant diffuser, which makes the light really even and cuts out all the harsh shadows. This means you can shoot out in the open all through the day - yay!

Overcast light gives that moody, wintery vibe to your photos. Especially fitting if you're moody or it's wintery.

The light on overcast days is super easy to meter for. Because of the lack of contrast, you can't really go wrong when metering. Just go for a mid grey and you will be on your way.

Colour looks so good in overcast light. The grey sky really makes the colour pop out and become a feature of the photo.

In misty situations like the photo below, metering gets a little trickier. If you want to get the details of the shapes in the mist, it may take more time to hit the sweet spot with metering where the exposure is right and the details in the mist is still visible. Kate exposed for the grey in the trees in the mist, rather than the greys in the trees/rocks in the foreground that she would otherwise meter for.

Overcast light is perfect for shooting portraits in. Its soft, even light is super flattering, even for those of us that aren't as insanely cute as this little person below. You can shoot portraits just about anywhere on an overcast day, just make sure you have enough light. Shooting down an alleyway or under a thick canopy in the forest may not give you enough light, and things may start getting a little blurry.

Let's recap...

Overcast Homework

This one shouldn't be too difficult for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere at the moment!

When shooting your overcast assignment, try and use the things that make overcast awesome. As sometimes subjects can look dull when you're not using the overcast assets to their greatest advantage. Look for mood, colour or shoot a pretty person in some soft light. Easy!