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6 Tips to Better Beach Photography

With spring quickly approaching, many of us will be taking our family vacation in the next couple of months. The beach is one of my favorite places for portraits, and if I lived closer to the beach, I think it would be my go-to shooting spot. Now, the beach is great and all, but it can be a bit tricky in terms of lighting, so let’s look at a few ways to maximize beachy-goodness in your photos!

1. Sunrise and Sunset: Depending on where you are vacationing, you will be able to take advantage of the gorgeous, diffused light provided by the early and late hours of the day. These are prime shooting times, because you will be able to avoid harsh shadows, and maximize the gorgeous colors in the sky that occur during sunrise and sunset. If you find that you are having trouble getting the right amount of light on your subjects, don’t be afraid to use a reflector, or even the flash on your camera at a very low setting, as fill light.

2. Umbrellas: If you are on the beach at high noon, try photographing your subjects under a beach umbrella. The umbrella will diffuse the light, but the rest of your scene will remain bright.

3. Piers: You have to love the classic under-the-pier photo! Not only do piers provide shade, but they also add interest to your composition through lines and texture. Experiment with placing your subjects at various points underneath the pier in order to accentuate the lines in your composition. Getting low to the ground will also help you get a dynamic angle as you photograph under the pier.

4. Action Shots: One of the really fun things about the beach is the amount of activity and sports. From sandcastles, to frisbee and paddle-ball, take the opportunity to get candid shots of your friends and family at play. Also, experiment with angles and focus. For example, if your 5 year-old is building a sandcastle, try focusing on the sandcastle, with your child out of focus in the background. This is just one example, but the possibilities are endless in terms of composition and focus.

5. Long Exposure: A really dramatic type of portrait is to use a slow shutter speed to capture the movement in the water while your subject remains posed. Now, this may be difficult if you are working with kids because this requires your subject to hold as still as possible, but if you are working with older kids and adults, this can be a really fun experiment. Depending on the lighting conditions, you will want to have a slow shutter speed (start off with a one second exposure, then make adjustments from there) but have a narrow aperture of at least f/6.3 in order to capture the detail behind your subject. Long exposures also work well under piers, because the stillness of the pier accentuates the movement and blur in the water.

6. Off Camera Lighting: If you are feeling particularly adventurous and are familiar with off camera lighting, you may want to try photographing your subject at sunrise or sunset with a flash off to the side. This setupcan be particularly interesting, as your subject will have even lighting on them, and the background will be darker and more dramatic, which will make your subject stand out from the background. A word of caution here, though – be mindful of the wind, especially if you are using a shoot-through umbrella, you don’t want your flash to blow over.

These are just a few examples of ways to take advantage of your environment at the beach. If you have more ideas or tricks that have worked for you, please feel free to share them!

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