Summer Heat and the Challenge of Outdoor Portrait Sessions

Summer Heat and the Challenge of Outdoor Portrait Sessions

Intro by Skip Cohen

Once again Sarah Petty knocks it out of the park!

So many of you have sessions and events scheduled outdoors, and while it’s wonderful to be outside, today in Florida for example, it’s 94 degrees. It’s hard to imagine how hot it would feel capturing a great family portrait today down here, even in the shade.

As always Sarah shares advice that’s tried and true. Based on her own experiences she shares eleven different ideas to help you through those summer-hot sessions.

One more thing to remember…You’re working to raise the bar on your skill set and capturing the ultimate image. If you’re melting in the heat while trying to capture a family portrait your heart just isn’t going to be in it – you can’t capture images that tug at people’s heartstrings if your own heart is off somewhere else!


By Sarah Petty

With my hair stuck to my neck and my makeup melting off my face, I feel like I’m shooting in a sauna every summer when I head to an outdoor photography session with my high school senior clients. It’s definitely my least favorite time of the year for outdoor photography sessions. And working without a studio this summer has put me outside more than usual. So to lessen the ick factor, I prepare ahead of time. My clients need to look their best and feel good. And I don’t want to spend the whole session feeling gross either.

Here are my favorite outdoor photography tips for beating the heat this summer.

Schedule With Purpose.
When you’re working with clients to schedule the perfect session, make sure you consider which times of day are a little cooler. Your clients won’t necessarily keep this in mind, so be the expert! Early morning and late in the day work best because it’s not uncomfortably warm. The lighting is also gorgeous.

Come Prepared to Hydrate.

Make sure both you and your clients stay hydrated with plenty of liquids when having outdoor photography sessions.

If you’re on location, you won’t have access to the fully stocked fridge or air conditioning at home or in your studio. Bring a cooler with lots of ice and drinks. It’s always better to have more than you think you need. Make sure you’ve got enough for the clients and your assistant, too.

Keep the Motor Running.
You might not be able to duck into an air-conditioned house on location, but your car can double as a weather reprieve. Keep your car running with the air on blast. This way, you can step in for a quick cool down and your client can use the car to change if they want a choice of outfits.

Plan the Itinerary Ahead of Time.

Planning your outdoor photography sessions ahead of time lets you squeeze in fun & refreshing outdoor water attractions as a final stop.

If your outdoor photography session includes a number of locations, a water attraction makes a great final stop. You might go to a splash pad, a water park, or even water skiing or playing in a lake. Added bonus: you get jaw-dropping action shots and everyone gets a cool down at the end of the day.

Bring a Battery Powered Fan
If you’ve scheduled an outdoor photography session, a fan can be a lifesaver. The wind won’t always work with you so fake it. The fan gives you the perfect windblown shot and keeps you cool.

Consider Your Client’s Ages.

Take into account your clients age when having an outdoor photography session. The very young and the elderly are especially sensitive to the Summer heat.

If you’re photographing the very young or the elderly, you need to be extra careful with the temperature during an outdoor photography session. Make sure they’re comfortable and that there are spots for them to cool down. Make sure you’re prepared with blotting papers and cloths, too. 

How About A Cool Treat?
With my seniors, it’s fun to incorporate ice cream or Popsicle into the session. It provides a quick cool down on a hot day and I like having a treat, too!

Use the Landscape.

Use low lying lands and woods during hot days in your outdoor photography session. It’ll keep everyone cool.

When you’re planning an outdoor photography session, think a bit about how much the landscape impacts the temperature. Low lying and wooded areas can be a cool backdrop for a very hot day. A rooftop or the top of a hill is several degrees warmer during the heat of the day, so save those locations for either very early or very late.

Bring Supplies for Quick Comfort.
There are a lot of simple, inexpensive ways to cool down on location. Cold, wet towels are great. If you pour cold water over your wrists, it also gives your body a quick cool down.

Think Like a Boy Scout.
Professional photographers need to be prepared. For an outdoor photography session in the summer, make sure you’ve got all the essentials you’d have when heading to the beach or out on a hike. Sunscreen and bug spray are a must. You might also want to keep a first aid kit in the car and a little bit of perfume and deodorant, too.

Don’t Forget Your Own Comfort.

Make yourself comfortable while you are running around in your outdoor photography session.

I always bring a ponytail holder so I can pull my hair up. A change of clothes in case you get really dirty or sweaty isn’t a bad idea either.

Summer’s also a great time to update your price menu. And I’ve got a special treat for you….You can go here to download the same price menu that has helped me generate over $3 million in photography sales at Sarah Petty Photography. All for free! Get it here today.

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This article was written by
Sarah Petty

Sarah is a New York Times best-selling author, highly-acclaimed speaker, author, MBA and coach who started her own boutique photography studio after working for Coca Cola for 20 years and then meeting the marketing goals of a top regional advertising agency’s clients. She attributes the rapid growth of her boutique photography studio, which was named one of the most profitable in the country within just five years in business by PPA, to the creation of her own strong brand. Click on Sarah's photograph to visit her blog.

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