Photo Tip Friday: Lighting - Part 1

by Mary Denman

Welcome back to Photo Tip Friday.

This week, I'm beginning a series on lighting in photography

Why? Because lighting is so important and is very dynamic. Especially sunlight. 

If you don't understand how lighting changes the mood of your photography, you may be missing out on some powerful shots. 

So this week is dedicated to helping you understand sunlight

Here's the big tip that you need to remember. 

The very best natural lighting is before 9:00 am and after 3:00 pm.
The light from 9:00 to 3:00 is known as devil lighting. 

Why? Because in the middle of the day, the strong sunlight creates stark shadows. You can use this in your photography, but it takes more work. And people don't photograph as well in the middle of the day unless they are completely in the shadows. But more on people photography in another post!
Mary Denman Photography

Let's get started.

In order to show you the effect of sunlight throughout the day, I took a picture of the same flower, from the same place, four different times during the day.  

This first picture was taken at 8:25 a.m.  

Notice how the iris almost looks like it's glowing? The long rays of the morning light illuminate the iris from behind since I was facing east for all of these shots. 

Mary Denman Photography

Then, I went back at noon. 

Notice that the shadows are much more stark? The stem has almost disappeared in the shadow from the iris. 

Mary Denman Photography

Then, I took a picture at 3:30 pm, once the sun was heading back down in the sky. By this point, the sun was behind me and so it illuminates the front of the iris.

Compare it to the noon shot. 

Mary Denman Photography

Finally, I took a photo at 7:00 pm when the sun had already set. There was no direct sunlight at all. This creates what is called a flat picture. 

Can you see the dramatic difference? You see almost no shadows, and it's harder to see the definition of the petals. 

The flower stands out from the background because it's white. But see how depth perception is flattened? 

To sum up: 

You can't always take pictures at the best time of day, but if you're aware of the effect light has on your photos, you can start trying to use the best lighting to improve your shots. 

And, the more you're aware of how lighting changes, the more you can learn to work with it. 

For bloggers: How could this flower inspire a blog post?

For cell phone users: Whether you're using a DSLR camera or a cell phone, you need to be aware of lighting. The newer a phone you have, the better quality optics you have and that means you'll be able to mimic a DSLR camera more closely. If your cell phone is older, you'll have to be more aware of lighting.

Cell phones read the lighting primarily where you focus. They aren't able to read the overall lighting as well as a camera. So, by knowing this, you can help your cell phone read the lighting where you want by telling it where to focus. In this case, it would be on the iris.

So, how has lighting been a challenge for you or when has it created a great shot? 

Which of these pictures do you like the best and why?

Hope this tips helps.

Keep on clicking. 



Photo Tip Friday: The Dynamics of Lighting in Photography (click to tweet)


  1. Great post! Thanks for the experiment. The morning shot is my favorite. Blessings, Tina

    1. Thanks Tina. Even though I know how lighting changes, it was really fun to see it play out during the day! Have a wonderful Easter!

  2. What a great post! Thanks for taking the time to go back and take photos throughout the day. I love examples to prove your point.

    1. You're welcome Beth. It was an iris in my yard and I enjoyed watching the lighting change. I hope your recovery is going well!

      Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Corrine. You sure have had some amazing adventures!

  4. Love this tip, Mary! I don't have a pricey camera so I need all the basic tips I can get. :) The pictures were enlightening (no pun intended).

    Happy Resurrection!

    1. I'm glad it helps. You can still get good shots with a non pricey camera. The more you know, the more you can improve your shots!

  5. I definitely like the second one best because there's such a contrast between the iris and the dark background

    1. Isn't it amazing how much difference the time of day makes in the photos? thanks for dropping by Ellen!

  6. Great post! I don't know much about photograpy but I just learned a lot! I'm amazed at the difference in photos just because of the time of day.

    1. Thanks for dropping by Lisa! I'm glad you learned something. :) Light is amazing when you study it's effects. I loved your post by the way!

  7. Hi Mary
    This is fascinating, I guess most of my photos are of the moment and I don't get to choose the time, but if I ever have a well organised life I now know when best to be out taking photos. Which for me should be early in the morning, we have such strong light in Australia I wonder whether I will need to be up even earlier?!!!
    Wren x

  8. Mary, thanks for this helpful post. Have a joyous Resurrection Sunday!

  9. I haven't been reading your blog but a few days, Mary, and I love it. I know I'll learn a lot from you.

    On a different topic, I'd like to schedule a time for you to take some headshots for me at BRMCWC. Can I do that now or do I need to touch base with you the first night of the conference?

  10. What a truly useful post Mary. Thankyou!

  11. the best one is the afternoon shot. Thanks for his really helpful =)