Summer is a welcome period for landscape photography, as it offers fully leafed vegetation, the prospect of warm, sunny days, fields carpeted with flowers, and the opportunity to capture dramatic images of our natural environment.
But how can you create beautiful summer landscape photos? That’s what this article is all about; in it, you’ll find plenty of tips, tricks, and secrets for amazing results. I discuss lighting, weather, composition, and so much more, all with the aim of dramatically enhancing your shots.
So whether you’re new to landscape photography and are looking to do some fun summer shooting, or you’re an enthusiast aiming to improve your images, here are some tips to help you on your way!
1. Start with an idea or a theme
To capture successful images of summer, start by thinking about the types of themes and subjects you want to photograph. Ask yourself: What subjects interest me most?
Of course, what you shoot largely depends on what is around you; for example, in the UK, summer is a brilliant time to see wildflowers in bloom. There is always an explosion of reds and pinks, as fields are often carpeted in poppies. There are also bursts of purple as lavender fields flourish, and this can also make great subjects for summer landscape photography.
2. Think both wide and abstract
Water – such as lakes, rivers, and streams – as well as dramatic weather, make great subjects for wide-angle summer landscape photography.
But in addition to capturing the sweeping vistas of gorgeous landscape scenes, don’t forget to look for the finer details. You may find stunning gems, such as insects or animals hidden in the landscape, or intimate aspects of the wider scene, such as individual flowers emerging from the soil.
3. Don’t forget to location scout, if possible
A great way to identify good places to shoot? Do some location scouting!
Of course, you may already know places in your local area that are great for photography, but make sure to look at them with a photographer’s eye; consider where the sun will be at different times of the day, how the location will be affected by the weather, etc.
In addition to relying on locations you already know, do some research. You can simply walk around and explore – you never know when you’ll stumble across a great scene! – or you can do a bit of Googling. Look for places other photographers have shot, recommendations from locals, and lists of the best landscape photography spots near you.
Then, the next time you’re ready to head out with your camera, you know exactly where to go.
4. Look for those splashes of color
When it comes to summer landscape photography, careful use of color can truly transform your photos.
For optimal results, aim to simplify your shot’s color palette, focusing on a few dominant colors. If these colors happen to be complementary or analogous, even better! Such color combinations can tie the entire composition together and immediately draw the viewer’s attention.
Don’t be afraid to incorporate vibrant bursts of color into your shots. Wildflowers are perfect for this purpose. Place them in the foreground, allowing them to catch the viewer’s eye before guiding their gaze toward the captivating backdrop.
Speaking of which:
5. Combine foreground and background elements
Looking to capture stunning landscapes that are full of depth? Here’s a nifty technique for you.
Start by identifying a majestic background subject like a towering mountain, a mesmerizing sky, or a captivating tree.
Then add some foreground spice! Seek out intriguing elements closer to your lens, such as colorful flowers, fallen logs, meandering rivers, or swaying grasses. Really, anything that piques your interest can work.
Play around with your framing until you can showcase both the fascinating foreground and the captivating background in a single shot. You might need to adjust your lens aperture to achieve the desired depth of field (unless you’re aiming for a shallow depth of field effect, that is!).
The result? A mesmerizing effect that will hold your viewer spellbound!
6. Check the weather (in advance)
When undertaking summer landscape photography, be sure to always check the weather conditions before heading out. Although the weather can be more stable in summer, there are often periods of heavy rain and dramatic conditions that can severely impact the outcome of your images.
Aim to shoot on the days when the weather suits what you would like to achieve. For example, if bright landscapes are your preferred shooting subject, go out on sunny days. Alternatively, if dark, brooding skies or rain is your thing, then look for overcast, gloomy, stormy days to capture the shots you’re after.
7. Consider the time of day
Days are longest and nights are shortest during the summer, with the day length decreasing after the summer solstice. There is therefore a longer period between first and last light compared with the spring or autumn.
Consequently, the sun will stay higher for longer during the summer, which means you will have more daylight time to do summer landscape photography. On the other hand, it makes night photography difficult, plus it pushes the golden hours (see the next tip!) into the early morning and late evening.
So make sure you always think about the changing light before heading out, and always check a sunrise and sunset calendar; that way, you can maximize your shooting time and get the type of shots you’re after.
8. Shoot when the light is best
Consider the light you like best for summer landscape photography. Do you prefer harsh light? Soft light? Dramatic light? Make sure you get out to shoot when the light fits your interests.
Generally speaking, the best light is at the start and end of the day – because as the sun rises and sets, the light offers golden hues and magical contrast. The vibrant colors at this time are amazing for summer landscape photography, so aim to set your alarm early and stay out late to maximize the best of the summer light.
In contrast, the light at midday is usually a lot harsher, especially when you have direct sunlight. So make sure to take this into consideration when photographing the landscape.
If you are out doing summer landscape photography in the middle of the day, be aware that the midday heat brings haze, which can make images look flat. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to be aware of the effect so you can use it – or avoid it – in your photos.
9. Make the most out of the conditions
Often, you have limited time at your chosen location to do summer landscape photography, so make sure you get the most out of the conditions you are presented with. Whether you’re dealing with rain or bright sunlight, you’ll have ample opportunities to capture the landscape at its best.
For instance, you can use overcast skies and rain to your advantage. There are still subjects that you can photograph; woodlands are great areas to shoot under cloudy skies, as are waterfalls. The rain can increase waterfall fullness, and both waterfalls and woodlands tend to look more photogenic in overcast light.
10. Handle the heat appropriately
Summer can be scorching hot, and the sun’s relentless rays can be unforgiving.
It’s crucial to take appropriate measures to stay cool and safe. Keep yourself hydrated by carrying plenty of water, apply sunscreen when needed, and don a hat for added protection.
If extreme temperatures are in the forecast, consider staying indoors for a few days or plan your outdoor photography escapades for the early morning or evening hours.
11. Incorporate wildlife into your shots
While this article focuses on landscape photography, let’s not forget that some of the most breathtaking shots include both wildlife and scenery. These are all about capturing the wildlife in its natural habitat, which can be challenging but incredibly rewarding.
Take a moment to research the wildlife you want to feature in your photos and consider how you can approach them closely without alerting them. You might want to use a blind to discreetly photograph your subjects or brush up on your stalking skills.
Then find a location that boasts stunning scenery and abundant wildlife. While national parks are excellent choices, don’t worry if you don’t have one nearby. There are countless other incredible spots to explore and capture amazing wildlife-landscape images!
12. Use leading lines
One approach you can utilize in your landscape images during summer is leading lines, which refer to lines that lead the viewer’s eye into the frame. It’s a pretty popular technique, and it’s a great way to create photos that engage with the viewer.
In summer, there are specific things you can find in the landscape that you can use to lead the eye, such as roads, walkways, hedgerows, lines of flowers and vegetation, coastal paths, and trees. Of course, there’s no set list of acceptable leading lines – so feel free to experiment and test out different options as you go along.
13. Keep your gear protected
Bad weather can make for great photos, especially when the rain starts to fall. However, bad weather can also seriously damage your equipment.
Therefore, if you like to capture dramatic weather, make sure you keep your camera protected at all times. Always bring a rain cover, and make sure it’s snugly fitted over your camera. When you go to capture a photo, you may need to temporarily uncover your camera to adjust your lens’s focal length (if you’re using a zoom), so make sure you work fast and expose your setup to the elements as briefly as possible.
Pro tip: If you like dramatic skies but don’t want to risk getting your gear wet, look to capture your summer landscape images in the period just after a storm has passed. You may even get lucky and see a rainbow!
14. Select your settings carefully
I am often asked about the best camera settings for summer landscape photography, but in truth, it really depends on what you are trying to achieve and what you want to emphasize in your scene.
As a general rule, an aperture of around f/8 to f/16 will help create more depth in an image and keep your entire scene sharp. If you want to keep parts of the frame out of focus, an aperture of, say, f/4-f/5.6 is the way to go. And a low ISO will give a higher-quality file (such as ISO 100-400).
As for the shutter speed: If you’re shooting handheld, stick to 1/50s or above, though the specifics vary depending on your technique, the lens focal length, whether your gear packs image stabilization, etc. Of course, a sturdy tripod will let you go much lower, and you can use it to create all sorts of interesting artistic effects, such as motion blur in waterfalls.
Finally, make sure you shoot in RAW. RAW files are larger than JPEGs and do require editing before they can be shared online, but they offer far more latitude in post-processing so that you can make adjustments to colors and tones as needed.
15. Photograph in your own backyard
Many landscape photographers believe they have to venture far and wide to capture stunning photos. But guess what? You can create breathtaking shots right in your own backyard!
With the right composition, lighting, and settings, even those seemingly “boring” nearby parks can give rise to captivating shots.
Start by exploring the parks in your area. Go on some scouting adventures, where you hit the trails just to see what treasures you can uncover.
Don’t worry about capturing those classic breathtaking scenes, and focus instead on capturing the true essence of each subject through your photographs.
Summer landscape photography tips: final words
We’ve reached the end of our article – but your summer landscape photography adventure has only just begun!
Now it’s time to grab your camera, head out into the great outdoors, and put these tips into action. Let the summer breeze guide you, let the sun kiss your skin, and let your imagination run wild. Summer landscape photography is your chance to freeze moments of natural splendor, to capture the essence of the season in all its glory.
So go forth and seize the summer! Happy shooting, and may your summer be filled with unforgettable moments and breathtaking images.
Now over to you:
Do you have any tips for beautiful summer landscape photos? Do you have any summer images you’re proud of? Share your thoughts and photos in the comments below!