Photography: How to Use Summer Light to Your Advantage

6 years ago

I get so excited for photography in the summer time.

It's when my favorite subjects (my children) are surrounding me all the time doing things I want to document.

Whether it's just a perfect sunlit afternoon,

a walk on the beach at sunset,

or capturing fireworks on the 4th of July,

  or just the overall fun of summer,


here are some things I have found that work!

1) Check your lighting and turn off your flash!

Lighting is key in taking good pictures. If you look for beautiful light, you are almost certain to end up with beautiful pictures. In the summer, there is good light everywhere.

When I first started family photography, I did it purely on my driveway in front of my garage. I know, that sounds very picturesque, right? But I got great results. I bought a black, king-sized flat sheet and hooked it up to the bottom of my open garage and shot away. Something about the light bouncing off the pavement with the backdrop created beautiful light:

Porches or garages are great in the shade. This next one was on our back porch. Again, the pavement creates a great reflector of beautiful sunlight to light up faces.

Open doorways, with you outside and your child or children looking out the door, also provides you with great light. This one was just inside our back door.

(Investing in a $9.99 fan creates a neat effect, too.)

Even though shady areas work great, don't limit yourself to just that. In the early morning or evening when the sun slants just so, there is gorgeous light to be found.

If it's too hot outside, you don't need to invest in expensive lighting equipment if you want to get good indoor shots.  You just need to know where to look for the light. Almost every home has got some good lighting somewhere if you just look for it. I utilize beautiful light inside my house wherever I have north-facing windows.

2) Learn your camera and watch tutorials on the internet.

Know which aperture to use when you want to take a portrait (the lower the number the better) and how fast your shutter speed should be for shots like this:



Know your ISO settings and know to adjust them when the sun starts sinking down low.





Some of the best summer shots can be found at night. If you know your camera well enough, you can capture things like this:




and this:


(More sparkler pictures in this post.)

You just have to manually set your camera to a really slow shutter speed setting (meaning the camera takes a long time to click and actually take the picture). This allows the camera to capture all the light you are waving around in front of it, but it also means you have to hold the camera super still (or better yet, use a tripod) so that you can get a crisp shot. In the Coronado picture above, I took individual pictures of each letter (one child standing in front of me waving around their glowstick in the shape of each letter) and then made a collage of the letters.

3)Composition: get creative with it.

Get down on the ground.


Look down at the subject from high above. Try standing on a stool or chair.


Get closer. The closer we get, the more we really "see." Try getting so close you only capture half of the face. Get close up and take pictures of toes, fingers, just a smile. You'll be so happy with the results.

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