Tuesday, July 23, 2013

summer photography tips

Yep, I probably should have put together at least a month ago. But as this is my first summer with an SLR, I feel like I've kind of been making it up as I go. Now that we're more than halfway through the summer (kind of in denial about that), I feel like I'm actually somewhat qualified to write this post.

1. Be Prepared For the Weather
In the Midwest, we seem to completely forget how to handle any type of weather that we are not currently experiencing. After months of freezing weather and not being able to leave the house without a coat, it's really easy to get sunburned and dehydrated after just a few hours out in the heat taking pictures. Here are a few ways that I've been preparing for the weather for photo shoots this summer:
  • Check the weather forecast. Since I started planning regular photo outings, I've been a little obsessed with checking the weather forecast and radar every day and doing my best to plan accordingly. I don't want to be an hour from home and get caught in a huge rainstorm (although it is going to happen one of these days).
  • Dress in layers. You never know when the weather will change or when you'll end up in freezing air-conditioning or a stuffy, un-air-conditioned building. I like to keep a cardigan or long-sleeved shirt on hand.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. I wear sneakers for virtually every photo shooting session during the summer. There have been several occasions like Solvay Coke when it really wasn't safe to wear open toed shoes, and it's better to be safe than sorry. It's also best practice to wear shoes that will be comfortable for extended periods of walking.
  • Bring sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray, and/or a hat. I really don't like to carry a lot of gear with me...ever, but I got serious about keeping sunglasses and sunscreen with me this year.
  • Bring water. If you're going to be out anywhere on a regular basis in the summer, it's well worth investing in a plastic or aluminum water bottle that you can wash and re-fill.

2. Consider the Time of Day
This hasn't been a huge factor for me at this point because I've mostly been focused on getting out regularly and checking out new places in Milwaukee instead of setting up certain kinds of shoots. However, if you're doing things like portraits, even for personal use (i.e. taking pictures of your own kids that you want to frame), or certain types of SLR specific shooting (i.e. long exposures of water), it's really important. As such, you should plan accordingly.

(photo taken by my friend Steve)

3. Develop a System for Managing Your Gear
The SLR undertaking has been a whole new ball game for me, and it's taken me a while to figure out how I can manage all of my gear. It's one of those things that will keep changing as I purchase new items and adjust my "must have" list, but there are a couple big things that have made a huge difference for me.
  • Great camera bag. No matter what type of camera you have, SLR or not, you should have a camera specific case and/or bag. Throwing it in a purse, backpack, or shoulder bag is not acceptable. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted, and I actually stumbled on an awesome option completely by accident. Currently I'm using a bag from this shop and am so happy with it. There is no single bag that works for everyone. Find something that fits your personal style, that can comfortably house everything you need, and that will be comfortable for extended wear.
  • Get a comfortable camera strap. Some people choose not to use a strap, even with an SLR, which is totally fine. It's a personal preference. I do like the neck strap but decided that I needed a padded strap with my 28-135mm during the warm months for the weight and the heat. There are so many great, affordable strap options. There is no reason not to have one that you really like and can use all the time.

4. Keep a List of Ideas
If you've been following my blog or reading my HubPages articles for a while, you've heard me discuss the important of keeping a list for any creative endeavor. I've been keeping lists of ideas for jewelry, HubPages articles, and blog posts for years now. This spring, I also started keeping a list of places and things that I want to photograph. Some projects are really simple half an hour ideas right in my neighborhood while other projects are day long excursions. Don't be afraid to jot notes down in your phone while you're out or away from your computer or your permanent list so you don't forget.

Additionally, I get a number of ideas for photo shoots and projects on Flickr and like to mark those photos as favorites, which is what you see above.

5. Challenge Yourself
Sometimes I have a short period of time or get an opportunity to photograph a place that I've shot before. I want to take advantage of these opportunities, but don't want to take the same photos over and over again. I try to challenge myself during every shoot, but this is especially true for repeat locations. The above photo is a perfect example. I've been going to Greenfield Park at least once almost every season since we moved to Milwaukee two years ago. The last time I was there earlier this month, I wandered through a little bit of the golf course for the first time, which was pretty awesome.

Don't get overwhelmed at the idea of coming up with new challenges. Many times I do little things like experimenting with new angles and shooting with manual focus.

6. Take Risks
If you told me even a year ago that I'd been itching to go take pictures in cemeteries and abandoned factories during my time off from writing, I would have laughed. You should be taking risks with your photography all year round, but summer is such a great time as the weather is often favorable and most people have more free time. My current schedule simply doesn't allow for as many all day excursions during any other season, so I plan as many outings as possible during the summer.

Do you have any photography tips for summer?


  1. I love your comment about not being able to handle any weather we aren't currently having...lol...so true!
    And great photo of you through the window that Steve took!

  2. Really great tips! I checked out the camera bag shop, and the camera bags look awesome. Lots of choices. And I love the advice about taking risks. =0)

  3. Great advice! I've discovered the hard way that sometimes the time of day is really, really important. I love that last photo in the old factory - it's really cool!

  4. You certainly are a 100% midwest girl! I love all your tips and advice. I'll comment on two of them:

    The camera bag. So important! I've carried my camera in my purse since digital cameras first came out. I think I'm now on camera number 8. Back when my daughter lived in Indiana, she worked for the Best Buy Geek Squad. She said that you would not believe how many broken cameras they had to fix because people would just throw them in their purses or totes.

    Take risks! Love that one! I also like to photograph things that most probably wouldn't. When I worked for the printing business I would walk past this old spiral staircase that was attached to the outside of a turn of the century building. One day I decided that even though it was old, out of commission, and rusted, I was going to take some pictures. To this day, one of those pictures are my favorites!

    Love your fun posts!!!

  5. Great tips Rose! I'm still trying to figure things out so appreciate any advice! I've just been taking my camera only on hikes since I really hate carrying things with me. I did get a nice camera strap though which helps. I end up with my sunglasses on top of my head too so when I look straight up at the tops of the trees in the forest they fall off backwards. You'd think I'd learn to not do that!

  6. The biggest challenge in my area is getting a bright enough day!
    People sometimes look at me strangely when they see me taking photos of obscure things ;-)

  7. Totally right to look into the weather forecast. I don't have as fancy a camera as you do, but it still has enough manual settings that need to be re-worked if it's overcast. Plus, "scattered" storms doesn't mean that one won't form right over you and your friend when you're half a mile from the car. We made it back juuuuust in time, haha.

    Speaking as a relative camera novice, what's your favorite thing about having an SLR?

  8. Wonderful tips! You are right on! I like the advise to challenge yourself. Sometimes I get a little lazy...

  9. Great tips! I hope to finish a camera bag before my trip to NH in August.
    And I like your tip -- take more risks!

  10. I like #4 tip a lot! Usually I'm never preparing for it, so most of the time end up with a random photos and they have no cohesiveness or not good together. Thank you for helping me improving!


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