Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Shooting Outdoors and Beating the Summer Heat

Shooting outdoors in extreme heat can be much more dangerous than you may think. I'm living in Sacramento (obviously) where it is not uncommon for the temperature to soar well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you're not properly prepared for shooting in those conditions, you and your subject(s) could run into a situation that could end your session early. If you ignore all common sense, it could even lead to a situation that is life threatening.

If you're preparing a shoot during the summer months where you know the location outside can get very hot, planning well ahead of time can get you positive results. If you are not stuck to a firm date, postpone the shoot for a day or two when the weather is expected to improve. If you don't have that luxury, here are a few tips that may seem obvious to most photographers, but often get taken for granted...

1) Hydrate!!! Always drink plenty of water before the shoot, and always bring plenty of water with you to a shoot (for you AND your models). Don't assume someone else will bring some.

2) Don't plan your shoot during the middle of the day when the heat is at it's peak. Plan your shoot for the early morning or the early evening. Not only is it cooler during those times, but the light is much, MUCH, better for photographs. Also... Try to plan the shoot for an hour or two at the most on days with extreme heat.

3) If you have to shoot during peak heat, shoot models in the shade. The fastest way to kill the quality of your shoot is to cook your models. Keep them out of direct sun as much as possible. If you need to back-light your model with direct sun, work them in short sessions while moving them to the shade every few minutes. If you don't, you will soon find you have sweaty models with sun-beaten hair and melted makeup.

4) Protect your equipment! Do not leave your camera or camera bag in the direct sun for too long. Want to ruin your pricey photography investment in a hurry? Let your bag sit in the 100 degree sun for any extended length of time. Keeping it locked in a car can be even worse. Keep your equipment on you. That way when you need to cool off, your camera and glass gets cooled off at the same time.

5) Choose a location near a river, lake or the ocean. If you need to cool off quickly, you have a big body of water at your beck and call. You can also shoot your subjects having fun in the water as well. A fellow photog I know, Mark Behrens, hosts regular "Trash the Dress" photography workshops during the summer months. If you're scratching your head, he basically hires models to wear extravagant dresses while they wade around in a pond or stream. Photographers then have the option of shooting the models from the shore or actually getting into the water themselves. Not only do his participants walk away with killer shots, but they have a most pleasant experience during a hot day.

Like I said, some of these tips are obvious. It is, however, amazing how often we can neglect common sense. I have done two recent mid-day shoots in temperatures over 100 degrees, and I can honestly say that it could have been much better had I planned them with a little more attention to detail. The first of the two shoots, I had to end early because my model was showing signs of heat exhaustion. The scary part is that I didn't shoot her in direct sun at all. The heat in the shade can be dangerous as well, so be careful out there.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, fainting.

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