Ah, summer. Campfires, road trips, and pictures, lots of pictures. Summer is a great time for mastering the shots that either aren’t possible or just aren’t the same at any other time of the year. If you primarily shoot portraits, now is a good time to expand your photography horizons (pun intended) with some landscape shots. And if you’re a sucker for those dramatic landscapes, why not try that Golden Hour portrait? We’ve gathered up a handful of summer picture ideas to inspire your summer shooting–which ones are you going to try this year?

The dramatic summer sky

summer picture ideas - SummerskybyZachDischnerImage By Zach Dischner, Flickr

We love a good photo that’s every bit as dramatic in the sky as it is on the ground. Pick up a graduated neutral density filter before heading out on a day with storms brewing–or a bright blue sky with fluffy clouds, depending on the mood you are going for.

The un-cliche sunset

summer picture ideas - sunsetbyanitaritenour

Image by Anita Ritenour, Flickr

It’s safe to say nearly everyone, non-photographers included, has taken a sunset photo sometime in their lives. With so many photos out there, it makes it hard to actually snap a sunset that really makes people pause like this one. Mastering a sunset that doesn’t just get scrolled past should be on every photographer’s bucket list. Keep your eyes open for the ideal conditions and possible locations, and don’t forget to adjust your white balance for the best colors.

The backlit flower

summer picture ideas - backlitflowersolarisgirlImage By Solaris Girl, Flickr

Okay, so flower photos are probably as cliche as sunsets, but shoot towards the light and those thin petals just glow. The key here is to use spot or center weighted metering, otherwise you’ll end up with a silhouette. (Not sure what metering is? That’s okay; we have a quick guide on understanding metering).

The water long exposure

summer picture ideas - longexposurebynigelhowe

Image By Nigel Howe, Flickr

Long exposures are a lot of fun, and when you’re shooting water, you end up with a soft white flow that makes your image stand out. You don’t need an ocean for this to work either–and any water that’s moving will do the trick, from a waterfall to a lake with soft waves. Make sure to bring a tripod and read-up on a few basic tips first.

The reflection shot

summer picture ideas - reflectionKevinKrecjiImage by Kevin Krejci, Flickr

Speaking of water, don’t forget that nice reflective quality. While you’re at the beach or after a good rain, pay attention to reflections and use them to your advantage. To adjust the intensity of a reflection, use a polarizing filter.

The up-before-dawn shot

summer picture ideas - upbeforedawniancarrollImage by Ian Carroll, Flickr

Did you know Golden Hour isn’t just before sunset–it’s just after sunrise too? I know, you thought summer days were for sleeping in. Popular summer destinations are also much less crowded when you’re up before the sun.

The shot that makes weeds beautiful

summer picture ideas - close up of flower bybradleypjohnsonImage By Bradley P. Johnson, Flickr

Maybe you don’t want dandelions in your yard, but that doesn’t mean you should pull them out of your photos. Photography is a way of viewing the world, and taking something unwanted and turning it into something beautiful is certainly a part of that.

The birds…

summer picture ideas - BirdByChuckCockerImage By Chuck Coker, Flickr

Summer is the best time for taking shots of colorful birds. While some stick around all winter, you’ll find more feathered friends around to shoot (ahem, with the camera) than in the cooler months.

And the bees.

summer picture ideas - beebyphotophildeImage by Photophilde, Flickr

Bugs make excellent macro practice. They’re tricky, since they add an element of motion to shots that might otherwise be very still, but these images are certainly well worth the effort.

At the pier

summer picture ideas - PierbyEricBryanImage By Eric Bryan, Flickr

Adding lines to a photograph draws in the eye–piers and docks are the perfect chance to practice working with lights. Experiment with how your position changes the line to get different looks.

At the carnival

summer picture ideas - carnivalbyAJBatacImage by AJ Batac, Flickr

If you’re in a photography rut, head to a carnival. During the day, there’s all kinds of color to photograph. At night, the lights and big rides make for some pretty spectacular shots.

Natural light portraits

summer picture ideas - portraitoftwogirlsbyAlexImage by Alex, Flickr

If you’re not a portrait photographer, summer is a good time to step out of your comfort zone. Taking pictures outdoors doesn’t require more gear than for, say landscapes, thanks to the sun.

Paint with sparklers

summer picture ideas - lightpaintingdanielleelderImage by Danille Elder, Flickr

Sparklers aren’t just for kids–they make pretty cool light paintings too. Make sure to bring the tripod to this shot, and if you don’t want the person doing the painting to show up in the shot, make sure they wear black.


summer picture ideas - fireworksbyTambakoImage by Tambako The Jaguar, Flickr

You don’t need someone to hold sparklers to paint with light–just head to a fireworks show. Again, you’ll need a tripod and a longer shutter speed. Scout out different locations ahead of time and add in a reflection, a city skyline or both!

The summer storm

summer picture ideas - lightningbyDimitriImage by Dimitry Kalinin, Flickr

Summer often brings its share of storms–and storms bring their share of photo ops. This shot was taken with a light sensitive trigger, since you can’t predict when lighting will strike, it’s the easiest way to master these beautiful shots.

Raindrops after the storm

summer picture ideas - rainbypeasapImage by Peasap, Flickr

Don’t put your camera away after the storm is over. Raindrops add a cool element to macro photography–sometimes, you can even capture a reflection inside a single drop of water.

End with the stars

summer picture ideas - starsbyscottcresswellImage by Scott Cresswell, Flickr

Get away from the city on a cloudless night with just your camera and your tripod. You won’t be sorry. Photographing the night sky is tricky, but the results are certainly worth the effort.

How many of these shots have you mastered? What would you ad to the list?