Capturing Summer: 4 Tips for Taking Beautiful Photos This Season

What happens when you think of summer? Perhaps you visualize a lake at sunset, road trips by wide-open prairies, soft blue skies with puffy clouds, or brightly colored carnivals and dripping ice cream. You picture the joyful faces of your friends and family. Often, we remember the past through images.

Related: How to View Burst Photos on iPhone

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I became a photographer because I wanted to preserve these memories. As a new mom, I felt an instant nostalgia for the moments I was experiencing. I wanted to hold on to every minute with my young sons. So one summer a few years ago, I acquired an iPhone and began to use it as a way to capture those moments. I found summer to be a great season for photographers: no school, outdoor weather, more daylight hours, and an endless list of adventures ahead.

In this article, I’ll share four tips I’ve discovered that will help you capture the moment this summer. I will explain how to use Burst Mode to catch high-action moments, how to take full advantage of Portrait Mode on the iPhone 7 Plus, why you should consider lighting before you take a photo, and finally, how to use an app called Touch Retouch to clean up your shots. Let’s get started!

1. Catch Summer Action with Burst Mode

Summer is a time bustling with activity—trips to theme parks, adventures by the lake, and hours spent rounding up excited children. Perhaps you’d like to catch some of that action with your camera. Maybe you want to snap a shot of your friends as they cruise by on a roller coaster or of your nephew as he jumps off of a pier. Fortunately, the iPhone’s Burst Mode feature helps you achieve that perfectly timed photo.

To activate Burst Mode, open the Camera app, frame your shot, and then hold down the shutter button (as opposed to tapping it once) and your camera will take multiple photos. If your volume is on you will hear a series of rapid clicks for each photo you take. You’ll also see a photo count flash on the screen as you hold the button down. While the subject was moving in front of you, you captured all of the movement.

Once you’ve snapped all the pictures you want, go to the Photos app to review your photos and pick out your favorites. Your collection of burst images will say Burst at the top right corner, along with the number of photos contained within the burst. Tap Select on the bottom. From here, you can select your favorites and delete the rest, so that you do not fill your phone’s storage.

2. Use Portrait Mode to Capture Professional-Looking Shots

The ability to adjust your camera’s aperture to create a shallow depth of field is one of the main reasons photographers use expensive DSLR cameras. With the release of the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple has now given the iPhone similar capabilities, combining Apple’s software with the iPhone’s dual-lens camera system to create a softly blurred background behind subjects. Apple has named this feature Portrait Mode because, yes, it is great for portraits—but don't stop there! This mode is also great for any photo that has a single subject in the foreground that you want to draw attention to.

To use Portrait mode, open the Camera app and select Portrait from the slider menu along the bottom. Next, tap the screen to select your area of focus. You will see the words Depth Effect in the bottom of your frame. That indicates that you are in Portrait Mode. Choose something that is roughly 8 feet away (the camera will guide you to do this as well) and keep your subject as still and well lit as possible. There are a few things to avoid when using Portrait mode. The feature is not meant for action shots or for taking photos in low light.

Additionally, since the 7 Plus uses a digital process to blur the background, complicated subjects can confuse the camera. For example, the software may have trouble with a person under a tree branch with a lot of leaves surrounding them. The camera is reading everything that is on an equal plane (or distance) from the photographer. So it may keep all of the leaves in focus and only some of your subject. Singling out one simple (and well lit) subject is the key to taking great summer photos with Portrait mode.

3. Keep Lighting on Your Side

One of the most important factors in a photo is lighting. Just knowing a few basic rules can really make a difference in your photos. In the summer, the days are longer, giving you more time to play with natural light. However, mid-day light is stronger and harsher, which can work against you in certain circumstances. The key to capturing a good shot in summer lighting is positioning yourself and your subject correctly in relation to your light source.

Let’s pretend we are out at the lake on a pretty summer evening. We are standing with our toes in the water and we can see the sun setting on the opposite side of the lake. If I ask my son (the subject) to run out to the end of the pier, he will be located in between myself (the photographer) and the sun (the light source). When the subject is located directly in front of the light, he is backlit, so he will appear as a silhouette in my photo.

Now, say I ask my son to run up on to the beach. I turn my back to the sun so it is directly behind me. So now the photographer is positioned in between the subject (my son) and the light source (sun). In this position, my son will have the soft light of the sun set directly on his face. This would be an ideal spot for a portrait. He is fully illuminated by the soft evening light.

Now that we have discussed positioning, one more factor to consider is the type of light you are dealing with. Soft light, for instance, is usually found in the early morning, evening, or on a cloudy. This sort of light is ideal for capturing photos of a person’s face.

The other type of light we generally deal with is harsh light, which is that bright light in the middle of a sunny day. This light usually causes people to squint and have strong shadows on some areas of their faces. Strong mid-day light can be great when photographing your subjects from a distance, but it’s not ideal for portraits. If you want to take a portrait, simply place your subject in the shade of a tree or building. Keep the sun to your back and your subject face towards the sun.

Bonus Tip! Discover Catchlights

Try standing a bit above your subject (perhaps have them sit in some grass) and have your back directly to the sun. Have them lift their chin to slightly look up at you. Do you see little reflections of light in their eyes? Those are called “catchlights,” and they can really help your portraits come alive!

4. Clean Up Your Summer Photos

Here’s a secret: Nearly every photo I share has been edited with TouchRetouch ($1.99). Like me, you have probably wondered how some people’s photos look better than others—despite being taken in the exact same location and with the same subject. Over time, I’ve learned that most photographers improve their photos by eliminating any ugly distractions, such as dirt, garbage, telephone wires, etc. These items are easy to remove using TouchRetouch. Although these details may seem small, once they’re removed your photo will look much cleaner.

To use TouchRetouch, first download the app, open it, and then tap Albums to select the photo you want to edit. Next, tap the Object Removal button on the bottom left corner. Carefully glide your finger along the object you want to remove and, once it is highlighted in green, tap GO. Your item will completely disappear! Be sure to save your edited photo by pressing the Share button in the upper right corner and export the edited photo to your gallery.

These four tips are sure to help you improve your photos this summer. All you need to do is remember the basics: Burst mode, Portrait mode, lighting, and editing! As you head out on your great summer adventures, be sure to remember: Burst, Portrait mode, lighting, and polish. These four tips are sure to help you capture many priceless moments this summer.


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Jill Emmer's picture

Jill Emmer is a self-taught iPhone photographer from Minneapolis. She is a mom of two young boys and is part of an adventurous, outdoors-loving family. She enjoys taking whimsical photos, playfully using color and scale to create unique story-telling photos. You can find more of her work at