SUMMER’S HERE: 5 GREAT TIPS FOR SHOOTING AT THE BEACH
It’s summer! And for many of us that means vacation, and often a beach vacation. Beaches offer a lot of photo opportunities, but also prevent some unique challenges. To help you bring home the best pictures from your trip to the beach, we have compiled a list of five things that you should keep in mind.
1. The most dramatic beach photos are taken near sunrise or sunset
There’s no denying it, the beach is a bright, sunny place. That’s part of its draw. But that is what makes shooting at the beach so difficult. As a result, the pictures that you most often see, with vibrant skies and reflections of sun in the water, are taken when the sun is low in the sky – during the “golden hour”. By shooting in the roughly half-hour window before and after sunrise, you can capture those beautiful skies.
During the golden hour it is also very easy to get great silhouette photographs of people, like in the above picture, or of landmarks such as palm trees. Simply expose for the sky behind your subject. Of course, silhouettes can also be the result of a wrong exposure, but we’ll discuss how to prevent that below. But know, if you want silhouettes, these are the times of day to get them.
2. Don’t be afraid of the elements.
Sure, a lot of beach photos show calm water and cloudless skies, but many great shots have been taken in adverse weather conditions. Heading out when the beach is foggy, or when the trees are bending in the wind, or when the sky is ominous and cloudy can make for some unique pictures, especially when you are less likely to deal with crowds of people in your pictures.
Additionally, you don’t have to worry about bright sunlight when the skies are dark and stormy, which actually makes these pictures easier to take sometimes.
But, if you do decide to head out on stormy days, you should consider a camera cover that protects your camera from rain, flying sand, and more. It is also a good idea to store all of your gear in an all-weather bag, and change lens quickly inside of the bag for maximum protection.
3. Make use of lens filters.
When you are at the beach lens filters can drastically affect the quality and look of your photos. Whether it is a UV filter, which simply protects the front of the lens from the elements, or a polarizing filter which reduces reflections or glare, or a specialty filter, the results can be dramatic and the protection vital. Further, filters allow you to alter the look of an image without excessive post-processing work.
For example, the photograph above was taken using an ND (Neutral Density) filter, which reduces the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor and can allow you to take long-exposure photographs even in sunlight, depending on the darkness of the filter. Just remember, if you are going to shoot long-exposure photographs, you need to use a tripod to keep the camera still.
Color filters can also change the dynamics of a picture, whether the filter is used to make skies or water more blue, make sea grass more green, or one of many other creative uses. We personally use this set of color filters, which also includes three different ND filters in varying darkness level, for maximum variety.
4. Use a lens hood.
Shooting in bright sun can often cause lens flares. While there is a time and place for a strategically used flare, too much flare can ruin an otherwise good picture. Using a lens hood (we have lens hoods for all sizes available here), which are made for all lens diameters, can help prevent too much haze or lens flare and allow your photo to have better contrast and more detail on the subject.
5. Learn to manually adjust your camera’s exposure and use flash when necessary.
DSLR cameras are often very easy to use, and you can be assured to get quality pictures in “Auto”. That changes at the beach though. The bright sky and sand often can easily throw off a camera’s auto exposure settings. To avoid this, try shooting in manual to get the exposure correct, use exposure bracketing, or use spot metering to expose for your subject’s skin. Also, as a rule of thumb, if it is bright daylight, use the “sunny 16 rule” to help estimate the proper exposure.
Despite the bright light of the beach, it is not always easy to properly expose your subject, even in manual mode, while capturing a great background. Remember when we said that sometimes you don’t want a silhouette? A great way to avoid an unwanted silhouette, so that you can properly expose both your subject and a great sunset, is by using an external flash or an LED light. It may take some trial and error to master this (and there are plenty of tutorials online), but the result will be well worth it.
As always, we hope that you found this article useful. We’d love to see your best beach pictures, so leave a comment below or post on our Facebook page.