The summer brings with it joy, reverie and several photo opportunities. Raj Lalwani tells you 25 tips to keep in mind, as temperatures rise.
Winters are fascinating and the monsoon romantic, but it is summer that brings along with it a bundle of sunshine, both in our personal as well as photographic lives. There is no season that is as versatile, come to think of it. From clear, blue to the stacking up of high, white clouds, from strong, directional sunlight to the first pre-monsoon rainshowers, this season has it all. Sure, it is hot, muggy, even uncomfortable, but keep the following simple tips in mind if you want to make great pictures this summer.
1. Wake Up Really, Really Early
In summer, the sun rises early and sets really late, thus meaning more time for photography! You should be out and about at least 45 minutes before daybreak, to capture the true magic of a summery dawn.
2. Plan Your Day Carefully
Will you be reaching the best-looking location in the harsh, ugly light of high noon? Where will you be when the light starts getting softer? Schedule your commute accordingly.
3. Find Some Shade, Both Inside and Outside
If you are shooting outdoors, explore the area beneath a tree or a narrow lane, where the shade would soften the otherwise harsh light. Alternatively, step inside a doorway or explore the inners of a monument.
Here are Three Things to Keep in Mind While Shooting the Great Outdoors This Summer
7. The Onboard Flash is Invaluable
If you are travelling with friends and want to make a portrait, fire the onboard flash at a reduced power. This will soften shadows, especially if it is around midday.
8. Travel Light
Instead of carrying a lot of equipment and sweating your way through a hike, pack less, so that you can walk for longer and discover more frames.
9. Invest in a Good Camera Strap
With extreme heat and sweat, the skin around your neck can get irritable. Buy a padded neck strap or one that goes around your shoulder so that the weight of the camera does not add to your weather woes.
10. Summer-like Moods Around You
There are several visually attractive events that take place during this time of the year. From festivals like Holi to hibiscus and marigolds that bloom through the season, from the congregation of butterflies to the joyous cheers of students leaving their schools on the last day before holidays, happiness and summer always go together.
11. Every Summer is Different
The heat in coastal India is different from the way the season acts in the interiors of the country. Of course, if you travel to the hills, summers are pleasant in terms of weather and just as lovely photographically.
12. More Drama to the Light
The monsoon sees some dramatic light play, but it is only in summer that the light is consistently strong and directional. This helps you play with shadows and experiment with some graphical imagery. Increasing in-camera contrast will make these shadows starker.
13. Learn to Read the Histogram…
…since light can be extra harsh. This makes it difficult to view the LCD.
14. Fitness Helps
The more humid it gets, the more draining it can be. Keep yourself photo fit!
15. Keep Water
The best of photos often need you to walk great distances. Carry water with you, especially if you know that you may not have easy access to bottled water.
16. Underexpose to Make Colours Deeper
Summer is characterised by scenes that are full of yellow and blue tones. Both these colours look deeper and more attractive, when the picture is underexposed by half a stop.
17. Creative Use of White Balance
The warmer the White Balance, the more summer-like is the mood that is created. Use the Shade White Balance, especially while shooting late in the evening.
18. Getting the Sky Just Right
Skies in summer can look featureless and boring if the light is not used effectively. Search for an appropriate vantage point so that the exposure of the ground and that of the sky is not too different. Alternatively, underexpose the overall scene and use flash to light the subject.
19. A Polariser for Perfect Skies
Just the way you would not want to walk out in the harsh sunlight without sunglasses, similarly, the camera’s lens would do a lot better with its own sunglasses, that is, a polariser. It will also minimise glare and reflections.
20. Wear a Hat
Sunglasses are impractical while shooting, so wear a hat that helps prevent the sun from shining right into your eyes. Buy one without a brim ideally, so that it does not come in the way of you putting the camera to your face. A hat can also be used to shade your lens if you do not have a hood!
21. Harsh Light Can Make Great B&Ws
If you are unable to make the light soft enough, use its harsh nature to your advantage for graphical monochromes.
22. Photograph Around Water Bodies
These make great photo spots during the summer for two main reasons. The skies are usually clear and reflect beautifully well in the water. Also, there is a lot of interesting activity and people-photo opportunities around a beach, pond or river bank when the temperatures are really high.
23. Freeze Water Splashes
Seen those attractive photos of children having fun splashing through water? A fast shutterspeed is essential, or you can use flash to capture the water’s motion.
24. Not Just the Season, Also the Lifestyle
Remember, summer is not just about the weather. It is a change of lifestyle and activity, all of which can make great photos!
25. Experiment with Your Cellphone…
…to make the vibrant colours even more fun with Hipstamatic and Instagram!
This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Better Photography.