5 Tips for Great Outdoor Photos

Great outdoor photosToday I am so excited to introduce a new series of photography basics that we created in collaboration with Kelli Trontel. We had so much fun developing these ten articles that cover many of the basic questions that people ask me all the time! We look forward to sharing a few photography posts each week for the next month!  

Sun vs. shade1. Look For Shade The sunshine is the most gorgeous natural light source, but depending on the style of shot I am going for, especially in the middle of the afternoon where the sun is throwing harsh light and shadows on my subject, I look for shade. Not just any shade, but shade that is close to a light source. For example, my subject is in the shade, but right in front of my subject is a sidewalk that the sun is shining on. This will bounce light, even into shady places. Stepping inside a shadow from a wall or building will give you an opportunity to capture flattering images of your subject, while still benefitting from the sunlight that is all around you. See the photo above for a perfect example of what one step into a shadow can do for your photos! 
Natural reflector

2. Use Your Environment As A Natural Reflector One of my favorite techniques is utilizing my environment to reflect beautiful light on my subject. This comes in handy, especially in situations where I do not have a friend on location with me to hold a reflector, when needed. As I look for the perfect location, I am also looking for a light colored wall (usually painted white) directly across from where I would shoot. This opposite wall will then be used as a reflector! Having this extra punch of "light" on my subject automatically brightens the eyes and cast a beautiful glow to the skin. There are many things that I look for in a location- not only is the actual backdrop important, but the environment around me, which plays a vital role in the overall outcome of my images. Here's an example of a photo taken oppostite a large white wall…
Natural reflector 2

Natural reflector 3
See how pretty the light looks on her skin? This is one my favorite secret tricks for capturing beautiful skin tones! 
Magic hour

3.  Magic Hour There's something so magical about the glowing light that the sun produces at certain hours of the day. When I have a scheduled photo shoot, I always to try to shoot one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset, also known as the "Magic Hour". Of course this isn't always the case, but "Magic Hour" is a special time of day where everything is just right! During these times the sun is low in the sky, which produces a soft light which is so much more flattering than the harsh midday sun.  This golden light is so fun to play and experiment with- this would be a great time to capture some pretty sun flare as the sun is setting. One thing to keep in mind while shooting during "magic hour" is how fast the light changes- you definitely want to factor in any set up time to ensure you take advantage of the this short, but sweet light.
See the potential?


4. Don't Judge A Location By It's Environment This is like the saying "don't judge a book by it's cover"….same concept. You can certainly find a gem of a location in the roughest looking building, if you look for it. I used to drive around and wait for that "perfect" location to jump out at me, but I've learned to see past the obvious after a few of my favorite images came from a location that I took a chance on and looked to find the "interesting" and "beauty" in it. Choosing a location with diversity is key. Choosing a location truly brings out the inner artists- it's definitely something that can be learned if strengthened and utilized often. When you are looking for locations, like the example above, keep your eyes peeled for beautiful details. The entire building may not be something you would use, but sometimes you just need a small wall, sign or doorway to create the perfect photo! 
Back lighting

5. Backlighting- Making It Work The perfect lighting situation doesn't always exist when we need it, but it's a strength to be able to make any situation for work for you. When the shade cannot be found, another technique is to use your light source to backlight your subject. To do this, place your subject directly in front of the sun…and by this I mean their back  is to the sun! This will produce a different style of image, but having light leak through their body, especially the hair, is so pretty. The background will be bright and your subject will pop from the photo! 
We hope you've enjoyed these tips! Check back soon for more photography tips + tricks! xoxo. Elsie, Emma + Kelli 
  • Loved these tips! I have just started a DIY blog recently and I’m still figuring out how to shoot decent photos – this has helped me!


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  • Great Blog! Thanks for sharing these Valuable photography tips. Keep sharing such beautiful posts.

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  • Thanks for the tips!

    I am just curious about the last one.. every time I placed my subject back to the sun light, the subject’s front will be way too dark because of no light.. I need to experiment more to make that work!

  • Great tips…I struggle so much with the sun. I will definitely keep this in mind.

  • I always liked to take pictures to my surroundings but since I’ve got a digital camera everyting as been more fun to experiment because it costs zero money 🙂

    Because of my business I always read more articles about indoor photograpy (and still haven’t read my camera manual) but this tips are amazing and makes it sound easy. I need try them out!

    Thanks for the great info!

  • I’m loving these photography tips – thanks so much for posting them! 🙂

  • Thankyou! I’ve definitely learned a few things here 😀 The building as a light reflector I would never have thought of!

  • Already LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVING this series! Great tips! Lighting is key and with a photographer boyfriend I know all about scheduling shoots! If he schedules two in a day he schedules them around the magic hour! =)

  • It’s unusual for a post to still be bouncing around my mind days after I’ve read it. I cam back to say ‘THANK YOU for such great tips’. As soon as I get my remote for my dslr (in a few weeks) I have some great locations already in mind.

  • Thank you so much for this post, Your tips are very practical. I have learned something new today. Keep it up.

  • these are some great tips, elsie! besides the fact that the magic hour makes for great photos, it’s also a really nice time to be outside 🙂

  • Magically.
    Are you able to share your secrets with your side braid bun? in on of your photos?!

  • These are great! The first two really stand out to me, as I didn’t know them as much. I love learning from your experience.

  • These are great tips! I definately needed them since I was having so much trouble with lighting. Thanks for sharing!


  • Hey these are such wonderful tips… I really liked the idea “try to shoot one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset”… never thought of it before…



  • this was a lot of fun to read and quite helpful, too! (: thank you for these tips! i’m really looking forward to more photography tips.

  • Great tips. Thank you for shering. Amazing blog really!


  • Loved this! I actually have a very similar post in the works too! 😉 Kudos!

  • Ah great tips! I’ll be using these all month as I am challenging myself to make, photograph and blog about a new necklace every day! I need to crank out some good photos!

  • Thanks for the great tips! I have one question. What is the best white balance setting to use during early morning/sunset shoots?
    thanks xo

  • Elsie, Emma & Kelli you guys are awesome!Thanks for the wonderful tips, I can’t wait to use them. Do you have any tips on taking family photos, diffrent poses we can use for big families rather than just sitting or standing and looking at the camera… thank so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge

  • Such an inspiring post! Good basics filled with your insights–thank you!

  • This post is just in time! I’ve been wanting to take some photos in the mornings before I head off to work but was worried about how to make it work. Thanks for the great tips!

  • These tips couldn’t have come at a better time for me! I’m doing In the Picture project with Urban Muser. Just curious, when taking selfies, do you set up a tripod when you find a location or do you always try to have a friend to take the photo?
    Catherine Denton

  • Thank You for this Girls! You’ve given some great ideas. I would have never guest a white wall building across the street would be a ticket for lighting issues…..Brilliant!

  • Oh man, these are such great tips! I’m always looking for ways to be a better photographer, not that I am one AT ALL, but this really helps the average iPhone-picture-taker like me! Thank you!



  • I have been so excited for this series! A big goal of mine this year is to work on my photography skills and to use my camera as much as possible. This post is definitely a big help, thank you so much! <3

    pea.ess. Emma is the cutest ever! Love her style.

  • Thanks for this. I love this post! The information great and the photos to illustrate are too!

    Loulou Downtown

  • Such wonderful tips, thank you Elsie, Emma and Kelli! I always try to find great light and locations for my outfit pictures, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Your second last picture is a good reminder that, indeed, only a little spot can already be great as a background in your picture. I’ll keep that in mind the next time I’m shooting!


  • This is such a great, handy post! I love these! Aaah, these are going to be so useful once I really start getting serious about taking pictures. These are so helpful, thank you! (And I love that last picture!)

    Jessica | Vixenelle

  • Never considered the use of a white wall as a natural reflector! As I look around my area for locations, I will have to keep this idea in the back of my mind! Great tips for outdoor photography in general! Excited to see the other posts in this series.

    xo, Jen

  • Thank you so much for sharing these! I’ve recently started a blog and have been experimenting more with photography so I always love hearing tips from someone with more experience than I.

    Absolutely love your blog!

  • Thanks so much! These tips really help 🙂 I’m just starting to take outfit and product pictures but haven’t found the magic just yet. Can’t wait to use these tips!

  • Great tips! Dena and I’s favorite time of day is that magical hour!
    <3 Makenzie

  • Great tips! We are a Venezuelan non profit and seldom have funds. for professional photographers! We’ll take advantageof this series…

    In friendship,
    Angela Couret

  • Great tips. I use these everyday and they truly do work.

    ♥ sécia

  • These are such good tips!! Thank you! I’ve been wonderig how to improve my photos 🙂

  • great tips, always seeking to make my photos better…also visited Kelli’s blog, she’s great!

  • Great tips! If you ever have a chance I would love to read some indoor photography and low light photography. LOVE!

  • These are great tips! I have my first photoshoot next week and these are going to be so helpful! Thanks Elsie! 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing these tips! They’re very useful and I can’t wait to use them!

  • I am really excited about this series– I am getting back into photography. I put down my camera for awhile, but now I am ready to pick it up again.

  • Wow, these are some fantastic tips!! I never would have thought of looking for white buildings to use as a reflector. Man, this makes me a lot more eager to go out and shoot some photos downtown!! Thank you so much Kelli!

  • This is a genius series idea! i absolutely love the photos and especially the clean, lush style, Thanks for always being so inspirational and awesome!

    ps. Mutemath and Canon Blue are performing in my city, Salt Lake City on Feb. 14th and I bought tickets thinking what a wonderful way to spend lovers day! Then I read on here a few days later that your hubby is with them!

  • Thanks so much for these great tips! So many obvious things I never thought of or things I now realize I was doing wrong 🙂 xx

  • great tips! I will def be using those next time i’m taking outfit pics 🙂

  • Super informative post! Shooting product shots for my Etsy shop is always so stressful and I prefer to shoot outdoors–but it doesn’t always work out quite the way I’ve envisioned it in my head! I need to take some of these tips into account next time and just relax! 😉

    I can’t wait for the rest of this series!

  • wow what great tips, I’ve learned so much! Thanks so much for sharing, ladies! 🙂

  • I rarely comment on any posts, but I am truly grateful for the tips, so thank you.

  • Great tips! I’m certainly no photographer but I’ve just started blogging and although it’s finance, and not fashion, I definitely want to incorporate my own photos into my posts (don’t great photos make all the difference?).

  • Wonderful tips – you are so generous to share these with us. Thanks!

  • I never would have thought to use another building as a natural reflector! That’s for the great post!

  • These are some good tips, things that are quite easy to do but can make a huge difference to the quality of your pictures. Thanks for the advice!

  • Excellent tips, thanks for sharing!

    x Michelle | thefeatherden.net

  • Absolutely brilliant, thank you! I have definitely noticed it is impossible to get a good photo in the midday sun, I’m glad it’s not just me 🙂

  • This seriously made my day. Thank you!! I am having my boyfriend take an outfit post for my blog this afternoon and I don’t think he has much experience – eeep! But these tips are great and I definitely will have to make him look them over before we head out :]

  • Good to know what I’ve been doing wrong on some occasions! I especially like the idea of seeing the potential in locations. Any tips on how to create photos that, when posing, don’t look too posed? I’m trying to take photos of what I wear for work but the only way I’ve found to get a half-decent photo is to take a million! I find the whole thing rather cringe worthy but still want to share it with people.

    R x


  • wow. AWESOME tips! seriously, incredibly helpful. i can’t wait to go out and take more pictures now!

  • These are some great tips!

    Despite taking darkroom photography in high school I am still learning new tips and tricks with my DSLR. That is one of my favorite things about photography! You can never stop learning 🙂

    a cup of subtle tea

  • Excellent tips! I can’t wait to experiment more with outdoor photo shoots.

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