How to Photograph a Picnic: 6 Tips for Perfect Picnic Pics

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy and photograph a picnic! Picnics are a great opportunity to get outdoors, enjoy some good food and company, and take some beautiful photographs. If you’re new to photography or simply wanting to up your picnic photography game, here are six of my favorite tips to help you out.


My first step to taking great picnic photos is finding the perfect spot. There are soo many places to have a picnic; from your backyard, to a local park, or somewhere like the mountains or the beach. Look for a location with a little space and good lighting when you photograph a picnic. 

If you are shooting in a public place don’t forget to consider all the other people who might be out and about while you are trying to shoot. For example, when I shoot at one of our local parks, I always make sure to go in the middle of the week when there is hardly anyone there. If I try to go on a Saturday I am almost always disappointed and waiting for people to move out of the area where I want to shoot.

I love shooting at this location but it can be really hard because it gets crowded at sunset and sunrise. I have left here in tears more than a few times because I couldn’t get my shot haha! So plan accordingly!!!


When you photograph a picnic plan to get there early…or late. The best light for photos is typically in the morning or evening hours. Or an overcast day is always a favorite of mine!! I love that nice even lighting from a cloudy day. If you have to shoot mid day with full sun, look for a shady spot with some pretty dabbled light.

Depending on where you live, shooting in the morning or evening in the Summertime can be a much more pleasant experience than shooting in the heat of midday sun. Here in Virginia midday is usually hot and humid!

Child Summer Portrait

dabbled light can be a beautiful way to handle the challenges of mid day sun!


When I start planning how I am going to photograph a picnic, the first thing I like to consider is my color palette. Before I can start choosing what food to pack or props to pick out, I need to know what colors I am going to be working with. 

The first thing I usually pick out is my blanket since it takes up such a big part of the scene. Then I build the scene from the ground up. I consider how I am going to place my props and how they are going to flow together and interact.

If my color theme is blue and yellow I am not going to pack red strawberries. Am I going to use natural textures like baskets and a wooden cutting board or colorful dishes and napkins? Am I going for a rustic vibe or something more elegant like a tea party? These are all things I need to consider to set the mood of my photograph before I begin selecting my props. 

And don’t forget to consider the season when you photograph a picnic! Is this a Spring picnic with pretty blossoms in the background? Or is it a mid summer picnic with watermelon and lots of fresh fruit? Or is it a cool Fall afternoon picnic with the crunch of dry leaves and maybe a thermos of warm tea? The seasons play a big role in how you will approach the set up of your picnic. 


Props can be a great way to enhance your scene when you photograph picnics. These small details will add another layer of interest to your photos and help tell the story of your picnic experience. 

Here are some fun prop ideas you can include in your picnic setup

  • Baskets
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Hats
  • Flowers
  • Cutting Boards
  • Dishes and Bowls
  • Wine glasses and cups
  • Pretty cutlery
  • Books or magazine to read
  • And of course food!
  • Pretty Napkins/Dishcloths

In addition to photographing the big picture, be sure to capture some close-ups of these individual items.


Now that you have put in all the hard work of planning all the beautiful details of your picnic, it’s time to consider your subjects. Don’t forget to consider their outfits when planning your original color palette. You don’t want to spend all that time planning a beautifully color coordinated setup just to have your subjects dressed in outfits that do not compliment it! In the photo above I was going for a blue and yellow theme and working with the stripes of her dress and the dishcloth at the top.

Next you need to consider what you are going to have them actually do in the photographs. What story are you trying to tell? Is this a romantic couples picnic at sunset with wine? Or is it a group of children having a fun tea party and laughing? Or are your subjects reading and relaxing or napping in the sun? You can see that a lot of thought goes into how you set up your scene when you photograph a picnic.


And last, but certainly not least, I want to mention perspective. Now that you have picked out all these wonderfully coordinated colors, textures, props and delicious looking food, how are you planning to photograph it? 

Get creative with your compositions and don’t be afraid to experiment! Try different angles and perspectives to add interest to your photos. Shooting from different angles can give your photos a more dynamic look. For example, instead of taking a traditional head-on shot of your picnic spread, try getting down low in the grass or photographing it from above (this is one of my personal favorites if you can’t already tell from my photos haha!!). 

Or if you’re photographing people, experiment with different angles to capture their expressions and body language. Photographs taken from slightly above or below eye level can be especially flattering and effective. 


  • Find the Perfect Spot – Anywhere from your local park or backyard, all the way to the mountains or the beach!
  • Lighting and Timing – Choose a time of day when the light is going to be flattering like early morning or evening. If you have to shoot midday look for a shady spot. This will also help to beat the heat!
  • Colors and Textures – Choose your color palette for your picnic and choose coordinating props and wardrobe
  • Food and Props – These details will enhance your scene and add to the storytelling (refer to the list of great picnic props I shared earlier). Also consider what food are in season when you shoot (Summertime = Watermelon).
  • Setting Up Your Subject – What is the story you are trying to tell? What are your subjects actually doing during the picnic.
  • Perspective – Get creative and experiment with angles to create more interesting and dynamic photos.


Picnics are a perfect opportunity to hone your photography skills and I love to use them to practice capturing those special moments outdoors! With a little planning, you’ll be on your way to taking stunning picnic photos. Bon appetit!



I’m in a super fun blog circle this month with some of my photography friends. Check out my friend Brooke’s Tampa photo session at Picnic Island Beach!

Ruth Young is a professional, portrait photographer and photography educator located in Culpeper, Virginia. She photographs her daily life with her 5 small children and has a passion for teaching photography. For more about Ruth follow her on Instagram where she posts daily.


  1. Jillian says:

    So many great tips in this post!! I am definitely going to have to try some of these out this summer! Beautiful and creative images!

  2. Brooke says:

    what fun and creative tips for photographing summer!

  3. I love how these picnic images look like gorgeous flatlays. Beautiful work.

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Hi! I'm Ruth!

Welcome to my blog where I share all things photography related. I am a fine art photographer and photography instructor and mentor. I am also the mother to five wild little children who I homeschool. We love to explore nature while I take photographs along the way!

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