Summer is an amazing time for outdoor photography. With long days, warm weather, and tons of special events, there are endless possibilities for creative shooting. From early mornings capturing the sunrise to busy days photographing weddings to evenings documenting the local fair, summer is a magical season. Equipped with a few critical tips, you'll be able to step up your summer photography game and make the most of your shooting throughout the entire season.
Assess the condition of your gear
The start of a new season is a perfect opportunity to evaluate the condition of your photography gear, including lenses, bags, straps, and other accessories. Repair or replace any items that are broken or damaged. If you've been itching to upgrade your camera body, invest in a new lens, or try a new accessory, think about taking the plunge now.
Invest in circular polarizers
I always have circular polarizers in my bag, but I pull them out in the summer more than any other season. A circular polarizer (CPL) is like sunglasses for your camera lens. When you're shooting in bright outdoor conditions, a CPL filter helps reduce blown out areas and saturate colors, creating richer, more balanced images.
If applicable, pick up a few summer props
For family photographers, a carefully selected bag of props goes a long way toward adding character to sessions. You may even want to bring a few items to your engagement couple sessions. Vintage step stools in a field are a popular option. Blankets, balloons, and sweet summer treats (i.e. lollipops, ice cream) are perfect as well. When you're shooting in an iconic summer location, such as a county fair or beach, make sure to frame your subjects to highlight the summer imagery.
Streamline your gear management system
Juggling gear wastes time and energy, particularly when it's hot outside. Be honest about the gear you'll need for a given event or outing, and leave everything else at home. You may need to develop multiple gear management setups to cater to varying shooting needs. For example, a large backpack may be ideal for day hikes while a small shoulder bag is preferable for a quick newborn or engagement session. If you wear a camera or cameras, invest in a comfortable strap or strap system, so the weight is well distributed and you can access your gear quickly and easily.
Equip yourself and your clients for long hours in the sun
Unless your summer photography is limited to early morning sunrises and golden hour portrait sessions, most likely you'll be out shooting during some of the hottest and brightest hours of the day. Even when you're striving to shoot in soft, flattering light, inevitably you'll end up taking pictures in the sun during family vacations, gatherings with family and friends (i.e. birthday parties, bridal showers), and other mid-day events. Bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat to protect yourself. Encourage clients to bring the gear they need to protect themselves from the sun as well.When you're working with clients for summer portrait sessions and events, keep hair product on hand to minimize frizz. During a consultation prior to a session, recommend clothing that will be flattering in hot weather, including lightweight, breathable fabrics, as well as hairstyles. For example, a braid or updo may be preferable to big, loose curls.On the hottest days of the year, reassure clients that they will be spending a minimum amount of time in direct sunlight with broiling temperatures. When a family steps out of their car and is immediately shielding their eyes from the sun or a bride is breaking into a sweat before the ceremony is over, the last thing they want to hear is that they'll be standing right in the sun for their pictures. Spend as much time in the shade as possible, take breaks in an air-conditioned building or vehicle as needed, and take care not to push anyone past their comfort limit.
Dress appropriately and comfortably for the current weather conditions
Once you've prepared for your clients for their photography sessions and big events, follow your own advice to look your best, even when it's sticky and humid. Select clothing and footwear that will hold up well in the hot weather and keep you comfortable through long hours on your feet. When you're shooting on your own, you don't have to be concerned about looking professional. For example, lady photographers may prefer to wear dressy sandals with clients but would rather put on sneakers when heading out for hikes with friends.
Be prepared for a sudden change in weather
Summer storms often come on very quickly with little or no warning. When you're outdoors in the evening for a golden hour family session or some personal shooting at a favorite beach or park, the temperature may drop quickly as the sun sets. At a minimum, travel with a waterproof camera bag and camera rain cover as well as a long-sleeved shirt or jacket, so you won't find yourself freezing or with wet camera gear. Depending on the forecast for a given day, you may want to bring additional supplies, such rain boots, an umbrella, or a wind breaker.
Have water and snacks on hand
Summery photography can get miserable when you're thirsty and hungry. Don't ever leave the house on a warm summer day without a water bottle or two and a few snacks. Pack food items that you will keep you full and energized and that will hold up in the heat, such as granola bars, dried fruit and nuts, rice cakes with almond butter, and beef jerky.
Keep a running list of summer photography ideas
Whether you're looking for new places to visit around town with family or friends or you want to keep your client sessions fresh and interesting, having an ongoing list of summer photography ideas will keep your creative juices flowing. Create a list on your phone or stash a small notebook in your camera bag, so you can jot down ideas while you're on the go. Make note of upcoming events to attend as well, such as fairs, festivals, and concerts.
Long days and warm weather create an ideal environment for setting some new photography goals and challenges. Take advantage of an evening wedding reception to practice your back lit portrait technique or push yourself to edit an entire set of images in black and white. The PRTV Instagram challenges are also a great way to get out and shoot different subjects every week of the summer.
Do you have any additional tips for summer photography?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!