Despite the early sunrises, late sunsets and harsh daytime sunlight of summer it’s still one of our favorite times for photography. Being outside with your camera in the warmer months just feels so good.
If you’re struggling to come up with creative ideas during summer, however, we’ve got a few tips that might help.
1. Head to the beach
Some might argue that beaches are more dramatically beautiful during the stormy winter months, but they’re usually more pleasant, less bracing destinations in summertime. And there’s lots of activity to photograph.
When you’re planning a photographic trip to the beach it’s a good idea to check the tides times as well as the weather as the best time for beachscapes is often just after high tide when the pristine sand is gradually revealed.
Arriving at low tide on a popular beach will often mean that the sand is churned up and covered in sun worshipers and their footprints — although these can make great photos.
Before you step onto the beach, think about what type of shots you want to take and fit an appropriate lens, ideally you want to avoid changing lens once you’re in the sandy environment. A telephoto optic is great for shooting seaside activities from afar, but you may want something a little shorter if there’s someone you’d like to shoot as portrait subject.
A wide-angle lens, however, is ideal for giving a sense of space.
2. Have a picnic
A summertime picnic with a few tasty treats puts everyone in a good mood and increases your chances of getting a few nice family portraits. If you take along a tripod you can also get a few shots of the whole family together having fun.
For the best results, arrange the family on a blanket in dappled shade and use a flashgun to brighten things up and inject a little sparkle. If you have a wireless remote, or your camera has Wi-Fi connectivity built-in so you can control it remotely via your phone, you can trip the shutter from within the scene.
Even so, make sure you’ve set the camera to self-timer with a 2 second delay so you have time to hide the remote. Alternatively, set the camera to the 10 or 12 second delay and run into the scene — that can be more fun anyway!
3. Have a little flare
Flare is something we often take great pains to avoid, but it can be very attractive and it screams ‘summer sunshine,’ so why not try taking a few shots that actually make use of it? It can work very well in portraits and some landscape or detail shots.
If you’re shooting around the middle of the day you may need to shoot from a low angle (unless you’re using a very wide lens) to get flare.
In extreme cases you may want to include the sun in the frame, but on others you just need the sun to be shining across the front lens element to start some light bouncing around inside the barrel.
4. Play with a Polarizer
Blue skies can be turned almost black by using a polarizer, and although it’s probably not a look that you want very often, it can produce some interesting results and it’s fun experimenting.
A polarizer can also help bring out the white clouds in an otherwise blue sky, cut down on reflections in water and boost saturation.
5. Travel light
One of the great things about summer is that there’s so much light during the day, even when it’s not especially sunny or you’re in a shaded area.
This means that you’re more likely to be able to use small apertures and still have hand-holdable shutter speed than you are in the winter, so it’s safer to leave your tripod at home. Why not take advantage of this extra freedom and go out with just one lens on your camera?
Carrying less gear will mean you can travel further on foot and explore more photographic opportunities. You can always return on another day with an alternative lens.
6. Shoot a childhood summer
Think back to your childhood summers, what do you remember? Exciting voyages of discovery on your new bike perhaps? Or maybe day trips to the coast, meeting an elephant at the zoo or exploring an ancient castle with an ice-cream quickly melting over your hand?
Your kids or grandchildren are creating their childhood memories now, and shooting them would make a great summer project for you that they will thank you for in about 20 years time.
If you don’t have any youngsters in the family, why not recreate your own memories and shoot them?
7. Take some
The habitual problem for photographers is that they are always taking the photographs and are rarely in them. Resolve to put this right this summer and take photographs of you and your significant other (or just you) wherever you go.
Don’t be tempted to just use your phone and shoot everything at arm’s length though. Use your proper camera and take care with the composition, tripping the shutter remotely or using the self-timer so you can be in the shot. Don’t forget to use fill-in flash.
8. Shoot monochrome
Blue skies and summer flowers all make for great summer shots, but the bright sun and deep shadows can be great for monochrome images, especially in cities.
For the best results we recommend shooting RAW and JPEG images simultaneously with your camera’s Picture Style or Picture Control set to monochrome. That way you’ll see how the scene looks in black and white, but have plenty of data for making monochrome conversions post capture.
9. Shoot summer sport
The football and rugby seasons may be over, but there are still some great summer sports out there to shoot.
You could try you hand at shooting sailing or surfing down at the coast, cricket or bowls at the local ground, or perhaps cast your net a little wider and investigate the photographic opportunities of a polo match.
The sport itself is an interesting subject, but the supporters can also be fun. Take a nice long lens to enable you to frame your subjects nice and tight.
10. Make your own postcards
Even if you’re not going away this summer you could still try shooting images suitable for turning into postcards.
The challenge is to find the perfect locations for the shoot that shows what’s best or most beautiful about your location and then shoot them in away that makes them look great.
Don’t just pop out and take a few snaps, think about the best time of day, the ideal weather, which viewpoint to use and whether you need to use any filters or apply a particular technique.
Who knows, if you have some prints made you might even be able to sell them at a local shop.
About the author: Jeff Meyer is the editor of PhotoVenture, a photography blog for everything post-capture — improving photos, image management, sharing and more. This article originally appeared here.