Tips for Shooting Photos Outside During the Hot Summer Months

Beth Grimm Photography

I shot this image at 4:00 pm in open shade behind my house

I shot this image at 4:00 pm in open shade behind my house

One of the biggest challenges photographers face is the weather. Depending on where you are located, the changing seasons can play a huge role in setting up photoshoots for optimal results. Once the temperatures skyrocket, you really need to plan out your shots ahead of time to make sure you, your clients, and your camera are set up for success.

Summer is hot because the earth’s axis is tilted towards the sun. That means harsher daytime lighting and longer days. While you may be able to begin a shoot at 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. (or even earlier!) in late fall or winter, some photography (think portrait sessions) needs to be able to be shot at 8:30 pm for that “Golden Hour” light. But what should you do if that’s not possible? Here are some tips I came up with to help with ideas and relieve some of the heat…

  1. Find the shade! You can typically shoot at any time of day if you are in enough shade. I prefer open shade (where nothing is creating shadows above your head) but I have even been able to get some good shots with a covering overhead. Watch out for distracting spotty light behind your subjects.

  2. Increase your aperture and shutter speed. Crazy as it sounds- I have actually been loving shooting at a higher f-stop. When I first started out in photography I rarely shot above 2.0 but now I find myself consistently shooting at 5.6. It all depends on how you prefer your depth of field to look. If you like to shoot wide open- you’re gonna have to bump up your shutter speed to take away some light.

  3. Face your subjects towards their shadows! Let the back of their head/heads block the sun creating a bit of a silhouette on their face. This will also help with squinty eyes. I would suggest underexposing so your sky isn’t completely blown out and you can increase exposure while editing.

  4. Go indoors! Indoor sessions can be tough. But they can be done. If you’re shooting in a home, make sure you are getting good use of natural light by opening all window shades and turning off any artificial lighting. If you are shooting elsewhere like a bookstore, coffeeshop, restaurant, etc, make sure your clients are as close to the windows as possible without any harsh lighting coming in. North facing windows always seem to help with harsh rays. Obviously turning off any overhead lighting at an establishment is probably a no-go so you’re going to have to depend on post-processing to help with white balance. It’s tricky- but being forced to shoot in not ideal lighting scenarios only pushes you to improve!

  5. Play with shadows and highlights. If you’re shooting products, sometimes playing around with the shadows of direct sunlight can create some really dreamy results. Photography is subjective and not every shot has to be the same. Play around with your camera settings while shooting in direct sunlight while also seeing what magic Lightroom can create.

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