Better Summer Photography: 3 Lighting Tips

The fun and hectic days of summer are upon us, and that means taking lots of photos at backyard barbecues, days at the beach, camping trips, and other fun outdoor activities. But just because it’s bright and sunny out doesn’t mean every photo is guaranteed to turn out right. In fact, summer photography comes with challenges—a glaring sun, blinding reflections from the water, just to name a couple.

awesome summer photography tips

Photo by Alan; ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/400-second exposure.

Here are three great tips for taking great photos this summer.

1. Set up a fill flash

We’ve all done it. You find the perfect backdrop and you position your subject in front of it, delighted you’re going to end up with the perfect photo. Then, when you go to review your shot, you see that your subject is dark because your camera lens was facing toward the sun.

How do you solve this problem? Well, you can try repositioning your subject, though oftentimes this isn’t possible without completely spoiling the shot you intended to get. Or, you could come back at another time, but this is most often not possible.

There are easy ways to get light onto your subject. One is to use a fill flash.

summer photo lighting

“My Photo Shooting Buddy” captured by Stewart Baird

To fill in the subject with your camera flash, you’ll need to be able to set the f-stop on your camera. First, take a reading with the light meter built into your camera. Be sure that your shutter speed is slower than, or equal to, your flash’s sync speed. Then, go ahead and set your flash so it exposes at an f-stop 1 or 2 stops larger than the f-stop you set on the camera (you are opening up the lens, so more light gets in).

2. Use reflectors

Fill flash isn’t the only way to bounce light onto the front of your subject. You can also buy reflectors or you can make them yourself using white cardboard. You’ll have to experiment with how much light to reflect back onto your subject, so be ready to take a couple of different exposures.

summer photography with reflector

“Oh, Happy Day” captured by Jesse Barker using a golden reflector

3. Reduce glare

First, try a polarizing filter. It could reduce or completely eliminate glare. It will also deepen the colors of the sky, trees, grass, etc. You will need to experiment a bit with your polarizing filter, but the results will be well worth it. The filter reduces overall light reaching the camera, so you will need to adjust your f stop accordingly.

summer beach photography

“Algarrobo” captured by Matt Hintsa using a polarizing filter

Also, glaring water surfaces may require taking a little more time with metering. For example, if you’re trying to capture sea foam on the waves as they break and the water is dark, try reducing the exposure by one stop. You can do this by reducing the f stop or reducing the shutter speed. If your subject is darker than the surrounding water (or other glaring surface) you can take your meter reading close up on your darker subject, and then step back to take the picture, overriding your camera’s automatic setting with the reading you got close up.

Put these three tips to use, and you’ll see a lot more of your summer time photos turn out the way you want. Of course, experimentation is the key. Don’t be afraid to try a lot of different exposures. You’ll be glad you did when you get the one shot everyone wants.

About the Author:
Matt Smolsky writes articles for a variety of clients, including Hoorray, a photo sharing website that lets new members create an online photo album and is the easiest place to create a digital photo album, calendar, and more.

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