How to Get the Best Summer Shots
Summer, the few months of the year when photographers come out of hiding, well, for most of us it isn’t true, but there are some out there who seem to hibernate for the winter and reappear when the sun comes out. You can’t blame them, the summer months offer many great advantages for getting great images, however, there are various challenges and difficulties that we may encounter on the way.
For many photographers, summer can feel like the best opportunity to get those shots that you’ve been planning for months. Locations that have looked dull and boring through the winter months have come alive during spring and are now at their most appealing.
As well as having the chance to visit fresh new locations, it’s also a great idea to revisit locations that you’ve worked at previously to see how they look in the summer sun. Beaches, gardens, BBQ’s and festivals all make for great settings for summer shots and will enable you to capture that relaxed summery atmosphere.
The Golden Hours
This may well be a term that many of you have heard, but don’t quite understand the concept of. Essentially, during bright sunny days, the sunlight through the middle of the day is extremely strong and bright, often too harsh to get good shots.
The golden hours are the periods of time around sunrise and sunset, during which the sun is far lower and shining from the side. It offers a warmer and less intense light. It is this type of light that photographers favor for their shots, particularly landscapes and portrait work.
Utilizing Bright Light Effectively
It’s vital when working with summer sunlight to avoid overexposing your shots. The vast amounts of natural light will blow out the sky in shots, so keep an eye on your exposure and if needed, stop down a bit to ensure your skies aren’t just a sheet of white. Below are a few creative ways in which you can utilize the bright sunlight and hopefully avoid that nasty overexposure.
Having vast amounts of natural light available will result in the chance to capture some shadows. You may have to wait until slightly later in the day, once the angle of the sun has lowered, but keep your eye out for shadows cast by people and architecture in particular.
Shadow shots also work quite well in black and white because the contrast between the light and dark areas is highlighted.
In a very similar fashion to maximizing the opportunities to take shadow shots, the summer light is great for silhouette shots. Get into a frame of mind that prioritizes shape and form and study the way in which shapes correlate and correspond.
Use architecture or people to help you form shapes that will make for good silhouettes. Remember, the more distinctive the shape the stronger the shot. You may even want to experiment mixing together defined shapes to make some interesting silhouette creations.
Get Your Reflector Out!
We’ve already talked about avoiding the bright sunlight during the summer months, but one way to utilize that abundance of light is to use a reflector to light a subject.
They are particularly useful for portraits and still life work, placing the subject side on to the sun, then using the reflector to bounce the light back towards the subject will allow the warm glow to bring your shot to life.
For me, a summer evening is the best time to do a portrait shoot. The warm light gives the shot a relaxed and joyful feel and people are happier in the summer sun!
Try finding locations that reflect the season, maybe a field with flourishing crops or a garden with summer blooms. In order to avoid difficulties with strong light, stand your portrait in a possible location and get them to turn on the spot. If you follow them around the 360 degree turn, you’ll be able to tell which angle to the light best suits the shoot.
Using Gradual Changing Light for Landscapes
The summer months give you a chance to get out in the great outdoors and explore the natural world, with the long days and vast amounts of warm light around, it’s an ideal opportunity to try to get those landscape shots you’ve been waiting to take.
Utilize the golden hours and try to work in one location over a few hours in order to capture it as the light develops and changes, you never know when a landscape scene is going to come to life before you as that glimmer of sunlight breaks through the clouds of the sunset casts an array of colours across the sky, but having that extra time to be patient and wait is key. It will give you the best chance of getting the shot you want.
Maximizing in Post Production
For me, post production is about enhancing the atmosphere within a shot, and in the case of a summer shoot, it’s important to maximize that warm vibrant feel. I would use custom white balance in order to ensure that my shot has a warm yellow tint as opposed to anything cold and blue.
You can also tone up the shot by adjusting the color saturation, but be careful to work in small amounts and keep the changes subtle, otherwise you’ll end up with a shot that is bursting with color, but looks entirely unnatural.
Over To You
So there we have it, a few essential tips for summer photography, now it’s up to you to put them into action and try them out for yourselves. Whichever genre or form of photography you prefer working with, landscapes, portraits, street photography, still life, the warm summer light is awaiting you. Try out different shoots to see the ways in which the summer light can give a different feel to your work.
Information from Simon Bray
Photo by Ekaterina Utimisova