By Joe Sanfilippo - 434 Photography
Living in Florida, I am no stranger to the heat and with this past summer's record breaking, triple-digit heat in the Orlando area, it certainly made it a challenge to photograph our seniors!
In your location, the scorching summer sun may not be as harsh as Florida, but it still might make you and your client think twice about venturing outdoors for a photo session. However, with a few tips and planning, you can still make gorgeous images even when the mercury hits 100 degrees.
FIND AND INDOOR LOCATION
A nice, cool, indoor location is the creme de la creme for battling the soaring temps of summer for you and your clients. For those photographers with your own studio - you are golden! On-location photographers without the luxury of a studio, may have to come up with some other ideas.
Most cities have studio space available for rent, while convenient it can get pricey. Luckily, some lower cost options are available as well - Local museums and libraries can be a great option to get away from the heat and get some really cool variety in your sessions. You can also chat with your client and see if there are any locations that they absolutely love - record stores, clothing stores, cafes, bowling alleys, roller rinks, or even an arcade.. There are tons of options and you never know what you and your client may dream up for your next shoot!
Now, with all that said - Our clients may have a different vision for their session with a specific outdoor location in mind, in this case it’s best to be prepared in order to get the best results possible.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
When it comes to shooting portraits during extreme heat conditions and if you must shoot outdoors, choosing the right time of day is super important. As photographers we already know that early mornings and early evenings offer softer, more flattering light and that "golden hour" gives us that magical, warm light that we all love. Luckily, this is also the best time of day to shoot when the temperatures are on the rise.
I personally love early mornings for my summer sessions, the sun is still low at this time and hasn’t had a chance to cook the asphalt and sidewalks yet. Additionally, I've noticed that clients who have been enjoying the cool comfort of an air-conditioned home or who have been relaxing poolside all day, can be a little grumpy when they need to leave that comfort and spend a hot sticky evening taking photos. The morning lets us all start off fresh and spend the rest of the day in the pool or in that nice cold AC .
Another reason I like shooting in the mornings is because of Florida storms. In the summer it is quite common for storms with torrential rain, lightning and high winds to arrive in the early evening - and they always seem to arrive just about the time I want to shoot. Even if you are lucky enough to photograph your client after a storm blows through - the humidity makes the air feel like you're walking through a pot of pea soup and can turn your client's perfect location into a soaked, muddy mess. Oh, and I forgot to mention the mosquito battalion waiting to turn you and your client into their evening snack in the steamy, post-rain sauna of doom!
FIND SOME SHADE
Sometimes we don’t always have the luxury of photographing our clients at the perfect time of day, especially with Seniors. In the summer, although school is out, schedules are still busy not only for the senior, but also for working parents - sometimes a midday shoot is necessary. When you find yourself in this situation, find some shade! While it won’t make the air feel much cooler or dry out that humidity, it will keep the hot sun off your skin.
No matter where you are, you are sure to find a nice shady area. Keep your eyes open and look for it. Buildings, a canopy of trees, or even a breezeway of a building are all fine choices. Finding the shade will help your client (and you) feel a bit more comfortable when the sun is sitting high in the sky.
This can not be stressed enough. Being dehydrated is not fun and shooting in the summer heat and humidity can cause dehydration very quickly. I always tell my clients to make sure they bring water with them to a session and in most cases they never do, so I always make sure I have plenty of bottles of water with me for myself and for them. They are usually so grateful that I have water available and it can be a real morale booster when we are slowly roasting in the Florida heat.
DRESS FOR THE HEAT
It may seem obvious, but choose clothing that is suitable for hot weather. So many times I have run out the door wearing a cotton t-shirt and cargo shorts on a hot summer day and regret that decision after about 5 minutes of sitting in my hot car.. When I am dressing for a shoot I wear moisture wicking shirts, shorts, even underwear! And no summer Floridian outfit would be complete without a comfy pair of flip-flops or a set of crocs.
Help your clients choose outfits that will photograph well but still offer a level of comfort. For the ladies, a casual sundress is awesome for the heat. For the guys, depending on the look they are going for, some linen pants can be a good option or even some golf shorts along with a nice colored shirt. There are many options for all your seniors. Talk to them about the look they desire and their comfort level.
POSING YOUR CLIENT
In the summer, the heat can be physically draining on some people. Try to use poses that are not physically demanding and keep the vibe of the session as calm and relaxed as possible. Sitting and leaning poses usually work really well for all seniors and can be a good way to beat the heat in the summer.
PROTECT YOUR GEAR
In the summer, take extra care when leaving a cold environment and heading outside to the heat. Condensation will form on your lens and camera. Keep a clean towel with you so you can wipe down the condensation and keep the camera dry.
Before you start shooting, give your camera a few minutes to “warm up” and acclimate to its new environment. I also recommend NOT changing lenses while there is any condensation showing on the camera. Last thing you want is any moisture dripping on your sensor or other parts of the camera's interior.
I personally think it is a great idea to keep some silica gel packets in your camera bag to help with moisture that can accumulate on the really humid days. They are cheap and effective and it really won't hurt anything by having them on hand so why not?
Summer time can often bring rain, sometimes unexpectedly. So it is important to keep something with you to keep you and your gear dry! Garbage bags work well, same for ziploc bags, old shopping bags or specific bags made for cameras and lenses.
Shooting in the summer brings many unwanted elements to your photo session, but one evil associated with extreme heat is SWEAT! We do everything we can to try to make sure our client is blotting their face with a towel if they are sweating, changing sweaty clothes mid session, and keeping them relaxed as possible during a shoot - but one thing is for sure: You will be editing some form of sweat when you are post processing. You may even notice sweat on your subject that you didn't see when you were photographing them.
When editing, keep a close eye on each photo you are working with and make sure you edit out any offending sweat spots and sheen that may show up your client. I guarantee they will notice right away when they see the photos and you will have to go back and edit more. It is best to get it done before your client sees the photos. In extreme cases, you may even want to outsource your edits.
RESCHEDULE YOUR SHOOT
Nobody likes a quitter, but sometimes mother nature gets the best of us. In extreme cases of heat, for your safety and the safety of your client it is sometimes best to reschedule if your only option is to shoot outdoors. Heat stroke is real and the last thing you want is for you or your client to get sick over a photo session. There will be some cooler days ahead and your client may thank you for the reschedule.
WHAT I BRING TO SUMMER SESSIONS
During every shoot, I like to be as prepared as possible. On all my sessions I bring a rolling cart with me to store all of my gear. It makes it easy for me and my assistant to carry all the gear from spot to spot and is large enough to fit a ton of stuff.
I have a list of items I always keep with me, but when shooting on a steamy, sweaty day I always carry the following:
● TOWELS: I like to keep at least 3 towels with me. One for the camera if I have to wipe down condensation. Another to wipe down wet areas on benches, walls, or anything I may have my client sit or lean on, and lastly, a towel that they can use to blot sweat on their face if they did not bring their own.
● WATER: As I said earlier, I like to keep plenty of water bottles with me to keep myself, my assistant and my client hydrated. It can be annoying to lug the few extra pounds around but it is worth it on those hot days.
● SILICA GEL PACKETS: I keep these in the camera bag just to help with some moisture that build up in the bag. It's a cheap safeguard.
● EXTRA BODY AND LENSES: I always have a back-up body with me. My standard lens kit is a 35mm, 50mm, and an 85mm. After seeing condensation get behind the front element of a lens during a wedding I decided to add a fast zoom to my inventory to overlap my primes in an emergency.
● GARBAGE BAGS: It's always good to have a few garbage bags tucked away somewhere. You can cover your gear with them or use them for something your client can sit on if needed.
● LIGHTING GEAR: Having a good set of lighting gear with you is a good idea, even if it is one flash and a shoot through umbrella, this can help battle shadows if you are working a mid-day shoot. Even a reflector can work wonders on shadows.
● RAIN UMBRELLA: I like to keep an umbrella with me in case it rains, your client will love you for it if it rains and it can also double as a cool prop for your photos.
There you have it, my top tips and ideas for a hot, steamy summer photo session. I hope you found this article helpful and some of the tips outlined will get you and your client through the next heat apocalypse with ease!
Joe Sanfilippo is the owner of 434 Photography located in Orlando, FL specializing in Senior Portrait Photography.
Originally from Long Island, NY - Joe has photographed hundreds of weddings and portraits throughout NYC and Florida for the past 15 years with a focus on natural, authentic, and confidence-inspiring images.