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Summer Photography Tips


How to take pictures: Shoot into the Light

Summer is a great time to be outside. We have plenty of opportunities to use the light of the sun. One of those is to shoot into the sun (aka the contre-jour technique), and it is a creative way of capturing photos. Shooting into the light can make dreamy, pretty portraits and transform flat, formless landscapes into something much more beautiful. Here are some tips on how to do it.

1. Use spot metering
If your aim is to avoid silhouettes, change your metering mode to ‘Spot’. Spot metering means that your camera will expose whatever is in the centre of the
scene which will likely result in a blown out, overexposed background. If you shoot in RAW you may be able to pull back a lot of the lost detail in the background in editing. 

2. Aperture and ISO
Try to shoot at a larger aperture and a low ISO. The low ISO will lower the noise in your picture, and the large aperture will create nice bokeh in
the background further obscuring background details that you might not want visible. 

3. Manual mode
Try shooting in full manual mode. Check your exposure level indicator (usually in the bottom of your viewfinder)  to tell when the exposure falls on the underexposed (-) or overexposed (+) side of the scale as you change your camera’s settings. Turn on your highlight indicator which will make overexposed highlights “blink” on your LCD or viewfinder. To get soft, dreamy colours on you want your subject to be a little lighter than usual. Aim for a stop or two below the point where the ‘blinks’ appear on your subject. 

4. Focus
When shooting into the sun, your camera will struggle to focus on the subject. Try moving so the sun is hidden behind your subject and then autofocus, using focus lock. Then re-compose your picture with the sun in your scene again. Make sure you move only very slightly and sideways, so your subject stays in focus. Make sure you’re using single point AF for a precise way to lock focus.

5. Work with the Surroundings
Use the objects in your background to filter the sunlight. Let it shine through those objects, like trees etc to soften the light and create a nice effect. Change your position to experiment with low and high angles. By stopping down to f/11 and smaller you’ll get a starburst and more detail in the background.

6. Find golden light
When the sun is low in the sky, the light travels through more of the Earth’s atmosphere, and that softens it beautifully. This soft light is warm and flattering to your subjects. This produces more directional light because of the low angle making shadows and scenes look more interesting.  The best time to find golden light is approximately an hour after sunrise, and an hour before sunset, depending on the season and weather conditions. (We’ll have more on shooting at ‘golden hour’ in another tutorial.)

7. Rim lighting
This happens when you’re shooting in a backlit situation. If you have a dark background, you can see a faint glow outlining your subject. This is called rim lighting, and it draws attention to your subject by separating it from the background. You will need to change your camera angle and position so that the sun is directly behind your subject.

8. Flare
Flare happens when the light hits your lens, generally in backlit situations. To get flare, experiment with how much sunlight is hitting your lens. Make slight movements to see which angle produces the best looking flare. Different lenses at different apertures also affect the flare result.

9. Use an external flash for portraits
Add light to your subjects face by giving it a little 'pop' of flash. Power the flash down a bit so it enhances the backlit effect of your picture. Use it off-camera for a more natural result. Read more about shooting with flash in our article: Beginner's guide to off-camera flash.

10. Landscapes
Including the sun in your landscapes can add depth and interest to your scene. It can draw the viewer into the scene. Placing the sun at the edges of your picture will obscure it slightly and draw the eye to the beautiful light hitting the scene. In a sunset or sunrise, you might choose to make the sun the focal point near the centre of the frame.

11. Use a Graduated ND Filter
With the sun being so much brighter than the surrounding landscape, a graduated neutral density filter will help to capture a well-exposed image by darkening the sky area in your image. Either a filter with soft graduation or reverse graduated filter will work best.

12. Bracket multiple exposures
Capture well-balanced images when shooting with the sun by bracketing multiple exposures and blend them in photoshop. This works well when the sun is at it’s highest position in the sky because the contrast is higher. Expose one image for the landscape, one for the sky and a darker exposure for the brightest areas.




Embrace the hours and hours of sunshine on your days off and take lots of photos. Here are some ideas for your inspiration.


1. Start early

Really early. The days are so long that if you want to catch sunrise you've got to set that alarm! But it's worth the early wake up because a summer dawn can be amazing. Plan where you intend to go a day or two in advance. If you’re away on holiday, make the most of your chance to shoot a new location. If not, photograph the sunrise from a favourite spot.
Locations that contain water are ideal for dawn photography because the water mirrors the colours in the sky. Take a tripod and arrive at least half an hour before sunrise so you can capture the twilight glow in the sky.


2.Go structural

The sun gets to its highest point in the sky early in the day in summer, where it stays until around 5pm. On a clear day, the light can be very harsh and intense, and with the sun overhead, shadows are strong. If you like to shoot graphic images, strong sunlight is ideal. Buildings, bridges and other man-made structures look stunning on a clear summer’s day against deep blue skies, so head to the city and experiment with unusual viewpoints and wide angle lenses to create interesting compositions. Look for simple, abstract details and make the most of colour contrasts such as yellow and blue or red and green. Experiment with monochrome for these images as well.


3. A Polarizing Filter is your friend

polarizer is a must for giving summer photos a good boost. It will deepen a blue sky and emphasize clouds, it will eliminate reflections and reduce glare so colour saturation is increased. To get the best effect on the sky, keep the sun on one side of the camera. Polarizers lose two stops of light, so keep an eye on your shutter speeds. A tripod will be handy if you need to stop the lens down, or you could increase the ISO so you can use a faster shutter speed.


Overcast early morning or evening light will evenly illuminate your subject, making it an ideal time of day for photography.


4. Shoot portraits in the shade

Summer light out in the open is harsh and unflattering, but if you step into the shade of a building, tree or doorway the light is soft, shadows are very weak and contrast is lower. Use a white ground or floor for a nice natural light reflector. Details and still life images also work much better in shade. If you’re in the open and no shade is available, holding something above your subject’s heads will work – an umbrella, diffuser or sheet of card. This technique also works well for close-ups of flowers.


5. Shoot silhouettes

Place a solid object between you and a bright background and you’ve got a silhouette. The object could be any simple, easily-identifiable shape such as a person, tree, boat or building and the background could be anything from a bright sunrise or sunset, or shimmering highlights on water. Mix and match as you like.


6. Shoot the shadows

Strong sunlight means strong shadows. When the sun’s high they’re short and are cast vertically down walls and doors. When the sun’s low they lie across the landscape. Use a telephoto lens to fill the frame with shadow patterns and make them your main subject, or use shadows as leading lines in wide angle shots.


7. Go on a picnic

A relaxed picnic puts people in a good mood, so it's easier to take some nice family portraits. If you take a tripod and use your self-timer or remote you can also get a few shots of the whole family together having fun. 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. Arrange the family in dappled shade and use a flashgun to brighten faces up.


8. Make colours pop!

Summer is a time for lots of vibrant colour in the garden. It can be hard to take shots that reflect that with the hazy summer light. The best time for to maximize coolour is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. If the sun is too bright it washes everything out, so it's best to avoid garden photography when the sun is too bright (midday) as it rarely turns out well.


Have fun capturing your summer fun. Share your photos with us. Tag us @cartersphotographics #wherewillyourcameratakeyou



Embrace the hours and hours of sunshine on your days off and take lots of photos. Here are some ideas for your inspiration.


1. Start early

Really early. The days are so long that if you want to catch sunrise you've got to set that alarm! But it's worth the early wake up because a summer dawn can be amazing. Plan where you intend to go a day or two in advance. If you’re away on holiday, make the most of your chance to shoot a new location. If not, photograph the sunrise from a favourite spot.
Locations that contain water are ideal for dawn photography because the water mirrors the colours in the sky. Take a tripod and arrive at least half an hour before sunrise so you can capture the twilight glow in the sky.


2.Go structural

The sun gets to its highest point in the sky early in the day in summer, where it stays until around 5pm. On a clear day, the light can be very harsh and intense, and with the sun overhead, shadows are strong. If you like to shoot graphic images, strong sunlight is ideal. Buildings, bridges and other man-made structures look stunning on a clear summer’s day against deep blue skies, so head to the city and experiment with unusual viewpoints and wide angle lenses to create interesting compositions. Look for simple, abstract details and make the most of colour contrasts such as yellow and blue or red and green. Experiment with monochrome for these images as well.


3. A Polarizing Filter is your friend

polarizer is a must for giving summer photos a good boost. It will deepen a blue sky and emphasize clouds, it will eliminate reflections and reduce glare so colour saturation is increased. To get the best effect on the sky, keep the sun on one side of the camera. Polarizers lose two stops of light, so keep an eye on your shutter speeds. A tripod will be handy if you need to stop the lens down, or you could increase the ISO so you can use a faster shutter speed.


Overcast early morning or evening light will evenly illuminate your subject, making it an ideal time of day for photography.


4. Shoot portraits in the shade

Summer light out in the open is harsh and unflattering, but if you step into the shade of a building, tree or doorway the light is soft, shadows are very weak and contrast is lower. Use a white ground or floor for a nice natural light reflector. Details and still life images also work much better in shade. If you’re in the open and no shade is available, holding something above your subject’s heads will work – an umbrella, diffuser or sheet of card. This technique also works well for close-ups of flowers.


5. Shoot silhouettes

Place a solid object between you and a bright background and you’ve got a silhouette. The object could be any simple, easily-identifiable shape such as a person, tree, boat or building and the background could be anything from a bright sunrise or sunset, or shimmering highlights on water. Mix and match as you like.


6. Shoot the shadows

Strong sunlight means strong shadows. When the sun’s high they’re short and are cast vertically down walls and doors. When the sun’s low they lie across the landscape. Use a telephoto lens to fill the frame with shadow patterns and make them your main subject, or use shadows as leading lines in wide angle shots.


7. Go on a picnic

A relaxed picnic puts people in a good mood, so it's easier to take some nice family portraits. If you take a tripod and use your self-timer or remote you can also get a few shots of the whole family together having fun. 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. Arrange the family in dappled shade and use a flashgun to brighten faces up.


8. Make colours pop!

Summer is a time for lots of vibrant colour in the garden. It can be hard to take shots that reflect that with the hazy summer light. The best time for to maximize coolour is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. If the sun is too bright it washes everything out, so it's best to avoid garden photography when the sun is too bright (midday) as it rarely turns out well.


Have fun capturing your summer fun. Share your photos with us. Tag us @cartersphotographics #wherewillyourcameratakeyou

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