Cross-posted at BlogHer.
The summer solstice puts the actual season a few weeks away, but the May and June proliferation of graduations, weddings, beach trips and barbecues mean summertime even if the calendar hasn't yet caught up. Since so many events often mean much capturing of memories on memory cards (and film? Yes, please?), it seems like a good time to make a little list of Ten Entirely Subjective Commandments for Successful Summer Photography.
Let's shoot, shall we? (Sorry.)
1. Get your gear in gear. Find your battery chargers. Um, actually, find your camera. Then make sure it works. Then make sure it's charged. It's sad to head out the door to a highly photographable, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime event and find out last minute that the pictures aren't happening due to preventable technical difficulties - like I did, at my sister's graduation last week, when I walked out the apartment door with the battery still in the charger, on the wall. DUH. Besides, even if you're not that spaced out, summer is a great time to scan photo sales if you find you're in need of an upgrade, and hopefully you'll have until next year when all the new models come out and your sweet camera is obsolete. The new crop of ever-cheaper, powerful point and shoot and entry level DSLR options is seemingly endless, if a little overwhelming. The digital camera space on Cnet.com is my go-to for comparisons and reviews.
2. Make friends with your camera, if you haven't. Read - at least skim - the instruction manual, preferably the part about what the different controls mean on the main dial. Yes, this might hurt a little, and I don't want to underestimate anyone's skill level, but at the nature photography classes I teach, almost to a woman the students are terrified of their cameras beyond "auto" mode, and this gets worse as the manufacturers pack more power and picture quality into basic point-and-shoots. You don't have to be a techie to learn a thing or two about what you can make this little machine do, but if you pick up a few pointers it will show in your photos. Does your camera have a "fireworks" option? Maybe. Do you need to understand how it works? Not necessarily, but if you even just know to click over to it your 4th of July pictures will rock. And the best thing is you never have to tell.
3. Work out your shooting rhythm when traveling and/or attending events in groups. My family is used to the fact by now that I'll always be lagging behind because I'm taking pictures, and I am very skilled at spotting the backs of their heads in the distance. Good thing I'm a fast walker who likewise knows when to step up my game if we're behind schedule. It means a lot to me that they don't nag me to hurry up - much - and I think they enjoy the results of my work enough now that they leave it alone.
4. If you're always the photographer, get in the picture, even if it's one, even if it's just to say you were there. If you have "I hate photos of myself" issues (which I clearly understand) maybe this is the season to work with them a little. If you don't, and it's just because you're always the one with the camera, that's even more of a reason to work your way in the frame at some point. On our recent trip to California for my sister's graduation, a picture-taking friend was along who shot one of the nicest pictures ever of us with our parents. My Facebook friends were shocked to see me in a picture that wasn't self-snapped in a ladies room (hey, whatever works), and I'm glad to have a memento of the occasion to frame for my parents and for us. Win.
Here we are, courtesy of Holly, aka blogblossoms, parent of one of my sister's classmates. Thanks again, Holly. We really appreciate it (especially me, because one Christmas present in a better-than-average frame? Done! And no, the wine glasses will not be cropped out. Tastees, they were tastes! Thank you, Temecula, California.)
5. Only two of you, siblings, spouse, bffs?? Ask someone close by to snap your photo. I know, I know it's tempting to stick with the arms-length couple self-portrait, and I'm all in favor because they can be fun, but sometimes you want to both be in the frame without your arms freakishly outstretched. Also, return the favor. I offered to take the photos of two different families in California last week so they'd all be in the picture, and it was almost embarrassing how grateful they were. Scoping out passersby for a potential photographer can be awkward, so offering puts people out of their minor social misery and also restores a little bit of faith in humanity. Again, win.
6. If you're traveling, dump memory cards every day if you can. If you can't, either because you lack a laptop or another storage source, alternate cards and leave one in the room. If the card goes wonky or worse yet, the camera is stolen, better to lose only part of your vacation shots than all of them. I typically split trips up on a few 4GB cards, with one 8GB in my bag for video.
7. Use your mobile phone to shoot in addition to or in the absence of a camera. Some parts of my trip to San Diego last week were not conducive to lugging the big camera around, and sometimes shots happened when I wasn't prepared with anything other than the iPhone. I'm here to tell you - some of these shots are some of my favorite of the trip. Add in my obsession with the ShakeIt app that allows iPhone photos to "develop" on the screen like tiny Polaroids, and yes - I'm sold, for the 1.99 cent cost of this little gem. (Thanks to Aimee at Greeblemonkey for that tip.)
The plumeria, they're everywhere in Ocean Beach! I'd pay money to take the gorgeous smell home with me, but the photo is the next best thing.
8. Edit and upload (or even print, remember that?) as the summer rolls along - and selectively, especially if you're short on time. It's tempting to wait until you've got a chunk of time to deal with the hundreds of Grand Canyon shots, but the deal is that if you do wait, you'll end up with a family wedding, kindergarten graduation and the first crab feast to deal with too, and that will all feel even more daunting. On Flickr, less can be way more, and better to document the best of what you've got than wait for the whole shebang. And the best will stand out when you skim, trust me. You know this.
9. Speaking of mobile phones, upload to your Flickr, Facebook, Twitpic, etc. on the go. Pick your online social networking and/or photo storage spot, plug the contact information into your cell phone, and rock it out. It's the easiest way I've found to practice my moblogging skills, which is a good thing considering my current lack of frequency in even updating my Flickr stream, much less my poor little blog. I am not (unfortunately) paid to shill for Apple, but my iPhone is my favorite and my favorite thing about it is that I can slap stuff up on Flickr and, increasingly, Facebook when I feel like it. Want to make your friends and family jealous that you're sitting on a beach and they're sitting at a desk in the suburbs? Go ahead. I do. I don't care who thinks I ought be reading my book instead of geeking out on the beach. I'm making my own visual, digital archive and I love it. I can even post to Typepad - my blog platform - by putting the contact information in my phone or using my phone's Web browser if I'm feeling particularly ambitious.
10. Finally, just take - and print! - the picture. Have fun. Walk the beach. Skip posed and go candid at family events and vacations. "Good pictures" are relative, and what works for someone else may not for you. Growing into photography has literally made me see the world differently, and it's gotten to the point where I don't have to buy a bunch of souvenirs when I travel or worry I'll forget special events as time passes. My digital photo record is one of my most prized possessions and it's even better when I can share it with my family and friends. Making sure some of these shots make it to print is a bonus, especiaily for gift-giving and surrounding yourself with meaningful, hopefully beautiful, images on a daily basis.
This is the shot that I'm going to hang on my wall and put on my desktop at work, so when things are getting rough I can remember walking the glorious Sunset Cliffs National Park, feeling better than I had in months. Happy summer!
All about Facebook Mobile, from Facebook.com.
Keep your summer photo mojo going with Photojojo's (that was completely unintentional) very fun time capsule. Hook up your Flickr account with their Web site and twice a month you'll receive photos from that time, a year before. I love it.
Sheri J's photoblog entry from last year: A Few Reasons I Miss Summer.