Today we’ve got 12 fantastic summer photo ideas for kids photography! We wrote this blog post in May (which is almost winter in our part of the world!), especially for our northern hemisphere friends (lucky ducks!). It features fantastic photo ideas for kids that embrace the outdoors and all the warmth, colour and fun that summer has to offer!
Be inspired by the stunning collection of vibrant portraits taken by Advanced Grad Dana Whitley, grab the photo tips then get outside and get shooting!
This summer photo idea is also a rite of passage and the spray gives you opportunity to get really creative. In this shot below which is taken during the golden hour, Dana has positioned herself with the sun behind her little guy, which illuminates the spray into flecks of gold. As a bonus, the sun directly hitting her lens created a gorgeous rainbow flare in the bottom left, a sun flare over her son and a bit of haze which lends a dreamy feel to the shot that fits perfectly with summer.
To purposefully create lens flares, leave your lens hood off and shoot into the light, adjusting yourself or the angle of your lens until you see lens flares. As you make micro adjustments of your position or camera angle, watch how the colours, intensity and size of the flares change. Look for a pattern you like then shoot it.
Including haze is a great way to convey a dreamlike feel in your summer photos. Once again shoot without your lens hood, and aim it into light that is largely unfiltered and and low enough on the horizon to be able to see the sun through the viewfinder or at the edge.
You can see haze through the viewfinder which makes it easy to control the look of your images. Cup the lens with your hand if you want to control the intensity of the haze. For a really glowy, dreamy haze that scatters throughout most of the scene, use a wide aperture eg. f/2.5.
If you want a little clarity, for example if you’re capturing a portrait and you want some separation between their face and the haze, frame with the sun at the edge or just outside the frame. Editing is a big help when using haze mindfully in your photos – the dehaze or clarity and contrast sliders will help get the final look you’re after.
To create a starburst in your photos, you’ll need to shoot with a narrow aperture. For a well defined starburst, shoot at minimum f/16 or narrower. The narrower your aperture, the sharper the lines of the starburst. For a softer and more subtle starburst, use a wider aperture of say f/10.
Get creative and have fun with bokeh effects. In this shot below it was created accidentally, as spray from the hose hit the glass on her lens, and the light bounced off, creating gorgeous bokeh im the foreground. If you’re game to try it, you’re brave! But I’m not going to recommend you purposefully stand in water with your camera… however I can tell you how to add foreground bokeh in another way!
Tape some fairy lights on copper wire to the front of her lens. Manipulate the wire to put at least a couple of cms between the lights and the glass of your lens. If it’s touching the lens, you’ll risk scratching the glass, and the light they create will be blown out. Then choose a wide aperture of say f/2.5 for the best effect.
More water play but this time swimming, obviously a summer classic!
One of the best ways to create really strong, professional looking photos is to eliminate clutter in the background. Now you can’t move the pool or the beach, we know this. But you can control your position and angles. In this shot Dana got up high and shot down, using the water as backdrop and framing out any other element.
What other elements make this shot so strong? Those ripples and shadows add depth and interest and work to frame her son beautifully at the same time. His bold coloured swimmers add a pop of colour… if he’d been dressed in say, pastel blue, he wouldn’t pop and it wouldn’t be nearly as striking. His teal floaties tie in with the colour of the water, and his outstretched arms add interesting lines. Lastly his face upturned toward the summer sun give us a perfect view of him.
Bet you didn’t realise there was so much going on!
Don’t forget the details! Our first instinct for a shot like this would be to take it front on. But in this way she gets to include the water, frame out any clutter, and show him facing the water which not only makes more sense, but his position and the large proportion of water included as negative space gives us the suggestion of the action to come. Genius huh!
Just set it up, get in position and capture them doco style. All you need is a fast shutter speed and the ability to use your camera in continous focus drive mode.
For action like this, you’d want a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 to eliminate unwanted blur.
Get down low for the best view!
Related: Get Sharp Photos of Kids in Motion
Not all summer photo ideas need action. Capture those lazy afternoons where the kids are kicking back and chilling out.
Remember to vary your angles for lots of variety and capture details as well as wide shots and if they’re not the sort of kids who can sit still for long… give them something to eat!
Whatever their wheels… bike, scooter, roller skates, etc… the tech aspect remains the same when capturing summer photos of kids o the move. You’ll need a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion, and an ability to shoot in continuous focus mode will really help. But if that technique is a little beyond you just yet, switch into burst mode and take LOTS of photos. You’re sure to get a handful of keepers.
Alternatively, use a slow shutter speed to create some blur and convey the motion. The trick is to ensure the blur looks intentional and not accidental, so experiement with different shutter speeds, checking your screen as you go to determine if you like the effect. For bike riding, start with a shutter speed of around 1/50 and tweak from there, but bear in mind the speed of the motion of the bike riding will affect blur too.
In a creative rut? Want to step outside your comfort zone and try something new? I’ll admit, panning isn’t easy, so give a go but bear in mind it might take a lot of practice to nail it. But when you do… it’s so worth it!
Related: Beginners Guide to Panning
We love this fun summer photo idea and once again, as with all action shots you’ll need a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion.
Given the clutter in the surroundings (cars and houses) this could have been a snapshot. But Dana found a way around that by distracting us with a powerful and unexpected composition. She got down low and included a vast expanse of sky, which helps tell the story of summer fun. This only works because the sky is beautifully blue and the clouds are a bonus which add depth. If the sky were flat on this day, the composition would not be anywhere near as effective. Including the tree branches just out of focus works as a foreground element which is an easy way to add depth to wide shots.
This is one of those fun activity I discovered by accident! Place a sprinkler under the trampoline at a time of day when you can backlight them and create a beautiful sparkle effect. Notice Dana has included the tree branches – technically, given her position it was unavoidable, but once again they work as a handy foreground element.
A timeless activity that makes for great photos! We love this shot below for the negative space, the windows on each side which not only frame him but the included reflections add another layer of depth and texture to the shot. This was taken at a time of day when the sun was low enough to illuminate the lower part of the wall and the shadows created by the trees are a point of interest.
Another timeless activity to capture (again, fast shutter speeds people!). If you don’t have a playground in your yard for this classic summer photo idea, head out on a location scout for a photogenic playground. Look for lots of trees that block the view between the playground and any neighbourhood clutter, and good looking play equipment. Timber always looks better than plastic as it’s timeless, and less reflective.
What we love about this activity is it doesn’t require any equipment except a piece of chalk; you can set it up in good light; it’s classic, it’s fun, and it’s free!
In this shot Dana set up late in the day for those long summer shadows, and positioned herself so that she could include the shadows.
There are some foods that just scream summer, and watermelon are one of them.
In this shot the red of the watermelon adds a dynamic element to the shots against a backdrop of more neutral tones. The other aspect of this shot which makes it work is stripping the boys back to their shorts. This pared the shot back to just a few elements, ensuring the boys and the glorious colour could be the hero.
Dana also shot through fairy lights in front of her lens which added some extra interest and a cool creative aspect.
What do you get when the sun sets behind trees with small gaps for light to peak through, combined with a wide aperture? This kind of glorious, magical bokeh! It helps to have open sky behind you to illuminate your subjects to combat the low light.
Give them something to do! In this instance having them blow handfuls of dandelions created an extra layer of interest and movement to the shot.
Take a look back through all the images in this post and tell me what you notice. They clearly speak summer, but can you put your finger on why?
The common thread is bold, primary colours. Lots of red, green, yellow and blue (ok technically green isn’t a primary colour). And where they’re wearing patterns, it’s simple classic patterns of strikes or checks. It’s a way to pare back the elements in your photos, and isolate your subject. In the same way that stray objects can distract, so too can busy patterns or logos. So keep that inmind when your kids are dressing if you’re planning on trying some of our fun summer photo ideas!