Photo Tips | Outdoor Photography

 Young girl shielding her eyes from the sun with her hands cupped like sunglasses. 

Young girl shielding her eyes from the sun with her hands cupped like sunglasses. 

Tips for Outdoor Summer Photography

 Little girl squinting at the camera

Little girl squinting at the camera

Asking your kids to NOT squint is like asking them NOT to hold their breaths underwater...

You know what I'm talking about right?

When the sun is super bright and you want that picture of your kids in front of the animals at the zoo but they are all squinting. Their cute faces have lines on where their beautiful expressive eyes should be, underneath furrowed eyebrows. The clue that they aren't actually mad is that their mouths are in a rictus.

Ugh.

Relax...your photos from your fun day trip are not doomed to be filled with images like these. I have some outdoor photo tips to help you out!

 Boy sitting on stone steps at Vikingsholm 

Boy sitting on stone steps at Vikingsholm 

Outdoor Photo Tip #1: Use Open Shade

Perhaps the easiest answer is to take most of your shots under shade, but the trick is to have them face a light source, so their faces aren't completely in shadow (which is worse than them squinting, IMHO). This is called Open Shade. A good example is under an awning or in a building's shadow. I took the photo, above, of my son at Vikingsholm. It was midday, with the sun blazing overhead, but under its massive shadow, I was able to take a non-squinty portrait of him.

Outdoor Photo Tip #2: The area should have even light

In other words, the bigger the shade the better, so bright areas in your photo aren't blown out, nor too dark in parts that are shaded.

Outdoor Photo Tip #3: If you use shade under trees, take notice of dappling

 Little girl in dappled light with a sad face. 

Little girl in dappled light with a sad face. 

Dappling occurs when your subjects are under tree shade, and the leaves allow sunshine to peek through.  It's easy to miss, but you will definitely see the effect when you look at the pictures afterward. Personally, I avoid tree shade, unless it's all I have to work with. It's helpful to have someone (or something to) block the sun with their body or a reflector in this case. I've found that unless you are a family of giraffes, having photos with spotty faces and bodies isn't a good look to have.

Outdoor Photo Tip #4: Photograph silhouettes

If none of the above conditions exist, or the background is not to your liking, consider photographing your subjects in silhouette or backlit - this technique is particularly beautiful at the beach. Imagine a picture of your kids holding hands, with the sun setting behind them.

Outdoor Photo Tip #5: Candid shots

 Young boy playing at a water table, laughing next to a boy wearing a hat. 

Young boy playing at a water table, laughing next to a boy wearing a hat. 

Photos of them in an activity might be more fun and memorable than squinty photos. Most kids prefer that anyway, so these shots work out in your favor. 

Now that the weather is getting better, I encourage you to try out these tips. I wrote an article about my favorite places to go during the springtime. I hope some of the things I've shared here will encourage you to capture those memories! 

Claire Toney is a Family Photojournalist and Child Photographer living in the Sacramento CA suburbs. She is happily married to her husband of 20+ years. She has 2 children and 2 dogs.