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I’m a big fan of summer. In fact, I dislike winter greatly, and my favorite season is spring. But summer is probably number two on my favorite season list. Summer is great because it’s not cold. But it can also be so hot that you may walk a couple steps during a hot and humid day and return drenched in sweat.
Not cool, sun – not cool.
But in all seriousness, summer can be fantastic for photography because you can literally go out anytime with shorts and a t-shirt. In a way that’s liberating. In the winter you’re wearing layers upon layers; in the spring you may be wearing rain gear more often than not.
With this all said, I want to share some things to avoid during summer, and ways to conquer those avoidances. With these tips, you can improve your summer photographs.
Quite often photographers carry so much gear when they’re out making photographs. But how much of that is really necessary?
Look at your Lightroom catalog by using the Metadata Library Filter. Filter by the past year or two, and see what lenses you use the most. You can also dig in deeper by using the Lightroom Dashboard website to determine your most common focal lengths.
Once you know which lenses you use the most, stick with those.
For example, as I’m writing this I have my bag packed for a huge photowalk tomorrow in New York City. I’m only bringing my 35mm lens for most of the walk and the 28-300mm lens for distance. I could bring others, but why? I know from experience that I don’t need others for this type of event (photowalk).
Carrying less means a lighter camera bag, which means less struggle in the heat.
I mentioned in the intro that in the summer you can wear less. On hot summer days I am outside photographing in shorts and a t-shirt. I might keep a Scottevest jacket with me (rolled in a ball in my bag) just in case it rains.
I won’t be wearing flip-flop,s because those are horrible for standing or walking on for extended periods of time. But I will be wearing low-top sneakers made for walking. But before my sneakers are on, I will also have socks designed for hot temperatures, and walking. Arch support is extremely important, and in the summer if you don’t have proper sizing or support then your feet will feel it.
Don’t forget a hat as well. The hot summer sun can easily cause sunburn. Usually I wear a simple hat, but if I’m traveling I keep my Tilley hat with me, which covers my ears and neck at the same time as my head.
The hat’s brim is also very soft and flexible, so it doesn’t get in the way when you hold your camera up to your eye.
With the sun comes harsh light, strong light, and blinding light. The last thing you want is for photographs of people squinting. My suggestion for this problem is to avoid photographing in the direct sunlight, and instead, find a shaded area as there you still get a lot of light, but it’s diffused.
The other option is to still photograph in direct sunlight, but to add your own diffusion. Lastolite and many other companies make products perfect for that job.
On your side of things (the photographer), wear sunglasses, and remove them as needed when looking through your camera’s viewfinder or at the LCD.
The summer is an amazing season to photograph during sunrise or sunset. Don’t plan a photo session during the strongest sunlight, like noon. Instead wait until sunset like 7:00 or 8:00 P.M. The sunset can make a great backdrop, and can produce really fun golden light.
If you are photographing portraits, then bring a reflector or flash to add some fill-light on your subjects.
The last tip is to let less light into your camera using neutral density filters. Sometimes the sun is just so harsh that your can’t get your camera’s settings where you want. By using a neutral density filter you can extend the shutter speed for landscape photos or moving objects, even in harsh sunlight.
For portraits neutral density filters enable apertures like f/2.8 even in direct sunlight, because the filter is blocking light.
I have now shared five ways for improving your summer photographs. Remember that if you are comfortable, then your photographs will improve. If you are overheated, then that worry, stress and discomfort will come through in your work.
So get comfy and enjoy the rest of the summer weather.