This is a great time of year to get out and do some photography. So here are 10 summer photography tips to give you some ideas to help you get motivated to out there.
Here is a quick list, I’ll expand on each one below?
- Golden hour
- Blue hour
- Avoid the sun
- Shoot into the sun
- Get wet
- Long exposures
#1 – Golden Hour
There are certain times of the day that are better than others for doing photography. One of those times is the golden hour.
Golden hour occurs twice a day – right before sunset and right after sunrise. The sun is low on the horizon which means the light is more directional, is a bit softer due to atmospheric haze, and is usually warmer – hence the name.
Of course, you can photograph a beautiful sunrise or sunset during these times, but it’s also great for portraits as well. These are the times that I schedule my portraits or do people photography.
Lastly, don’t forget to play with the longer shadows cast by the low angle of the sun during the golden hours. Use the shadows and position yourself so you can side-light the subject to capture lots of texture.
#2 – Silhouettes
This tip goes hand in hand with the last one and that is to use the sun to backlight the subject and create a silhouette. By simply positioning the sun behind the subject you can easily create a stunning silhouette image.
To create a stunning sunset image, find an interesting subject for the foreground and add a silhouette. Make sure the shape is something that is easily recognizable like the pumpjack in the image above (a common site here in Alberta).
But there are a few things you need to keep in mind when doing this technique including subject posing, exposure, and camera angle.
Now for comparison, look at the image above. Can you tell what it is? Not as easily right, the subject is a bit lost and it’s overly busy. Try to make your silhouettes simplified with nice clean outlines like the ones below.
Read more about this topic here: Silhouette Photography Tips – 3 Keys to Great Photo
#3 – Blue Hour
So if you have followed the first two tips and you’re out photographing the sunset, do NOT pack up and head home after the sun is below the horizon! Stick around a while longer and shoot blue hour as well.
This is something many new photographers and beginners miss out on because they leave too early. Make sure you aren’t too eager to go, and keep shooting until the light has faded in the sky and it becomes a deep, rich ocean of blue.
TIP: Get the PhotoPills app for your phone. You can enter a date and location and it will give you the sunrise, sunset and blue hour times that correspond. Then you can make sure you are there are precisely the right time.
If you’re in the city, it’s the best time to do “night” cityscape photos. If you wait to late to shoot or start too late, you’ll get a pitch black sky instead of dark blue.
Get some tips on shooting at blue hour here: 5 Tips for Creating Spectacular Photos at Blue Hour
#4 – Avoid the Sun
There are pros and cons of the summer months. The days are longer and we get more hours of daylight, but that isn’t always a good thing for photographers. The sun is high in the sky most of the day so unless you want to shoot at blue and golden hour exclusively, at some point you might be out when the sun it at its peak.
So how do you handle that? Do you simply stay home? Or what other options do you have?
I suggest just avoiding the sun however possible. The reason you want to avoid the sun is that it produces very harsh, contrasty, unforgiving light. Read more here: What is Quality of Light and How to Use it to Take Better Photos.
So avoiding the sun would mean getting into the shade beside a large building or tree, or it could mean moving indoors. But you can always find some shade, somewhere if you try hard enough.
#5 – Shoot into the Sun
You may have heard or been told never to shoot directly into the sun. This is a bit of a myth. While it is true you don’t want to do it for an extended period of time, there are also some good reasons why you might want to aim your lens at the sun.
Note: There is a risk of damage to your camera sensor when pointing at the sun for long periods.
Certains subjects look great with backlighting such as leaves and foliage, cocktails and beverages, and anything semi-transparent. Use the light positioned behind the subject in those scenarios to your advantage.
By aiming your lens directly into the sun you can also intentionally create a sunburst or sun flare, as seen in the image below. Make sure to use an aperture of f/8 or smaller. Read more here: How to Create Sun Flares for Effect In-Camera.
#6 – Get Wet
If the sun is too hot for you, consider going for a walk during a rain shower. To create some images that will set you apart from the pack and stand out – don’t be afraid of going out during inclement weather.
Most people choose comfort over going that extra mile to get a great image, so if you’re willing to get a little wet you might come home with some really stunning images.
Just make sure to cover your camera and yourself to protect you both from the water. I love that my Fuji X-T3 is fully waterproof and I’ve been caught in a quick downpour without any rain gear and it performs great, no issues.
NOTE: There is a big difference between “water resistant” and “weather sealed”. I would never have taken my Canon bodies out in the rain without a rain cover (weather sealed). But my Fuji cameras and lenses are water resistant to a much better level and can withstand it.
#7 – Long Exposures
Another way to create images that are different and unique is to grab your tripod and go do some long exposure photography. Any image where the shutter speed is extremely slow (long) can be classified as a long exposure. There’s not set rules about it.
The point is to use the slow shutter speed to capture something moving in your image. Here are some examples.
Here are a few articles that involve long exposures to give you some ideas and tips on how to execute each technique.
- Guide to Photographing Light Trails at Night
- How to Shoot Star Trails and Sample Images for You to Practice Stacking
- Long Exposure Techniques for Creating Interesting Effects
- How to Create LONG exposures with a Neutral Density Filter
- How to do a Zoom Burst Special Effect with Your Camera
- Three Special Effects for Night Photography
As the last article above mentions, you can also use long exposures to do light painting. Read point #10 below for more on that technique.
#8 – Get all the Details
Stuck for something to photograph? Think macro!
By getting closer and thinking about details you can capture something not usually seen by the naked eye. Don’t worry if you don’t have a special macro lens, I got you covered on that one with some easy, inexpensive ways to do close-up photography on a budget.
Look in your garden or nearby park. You could spend hours photographing flowers, bugs, and details of nature.
Look around your house. Try to see ordinary, everyday objects in a new way.
That book on the shelf with gold text on the spine – take it out and examine it closer. Check the garage for old rusty tools, or old work boots. Get creative.
You can also photograph details without even going macro. Just use a long telephoto lens and zoom in close to the subject. Find ordinary objects around your house and look at them closer. See what details you might be missing.
Read these for more tips:
- Simplify – June Photography Challenge
- The Ultimate Guide Macro Photography
- 6 Tips for Taking Stunning Close-Up Photos
#9 – Go Abstract
Something fun you can try with just about any subject, anywhere, and anytime is abstract photography. Use techniques like intentional camera movement, zoom bursts, and reflections to make viewers wonder how you did it.
The scene above used for each of the three images below as well. Can you figure out how I made each one?
#10 – Experiment
My last tip for you as you venture out this summer is to just experiment. Try new things and have fun. You can’t do it wrong, but you might learn something or find that you love a new genre of photography you haven’t tried before.
Try light painting! All you need is darkness, a tripd, an interesting subject, and a flashlight.
Try a new lens, tool, shooting technique, or genre of photography. To make the image below I used a crystal lensball.
I did a little experimenting and playing around myself lately and I created a set of portrait templates for Luminar AI. The image above as created with my Bokeh Bliss Template and I made it by accident – this is what we call a “happy accident”!
If you want to find out more about my template collection called Fabulous Faces – CLICK HERE.
In summary, use these 10 tips as an idea board. Bookmark it, then come back and try another one each week if you get stuck.
Please share your favorite summer image in the comment area below as well, I’d love to see it.