Do you struggle with beach portraits on your beach vacations? When you get home from a day out at the beach do you find your beach photos are poorly exposed, un-interesting, are unnatural and don’t reflect the true enjoyment of the day? These are common problems many amateur photographers face so you are not alone. Fortunately there is a solution and there are some tips and tricks you can use that will instantly improve your beach portraits and beach photography.
Beach portrait photography tips – use props
The beach is a place to act like a child, mess around and have fun so make sure this is what your model is doing. Whilst static beach portraits can look awesome they don’t show the “fun” side of spending a day at the beach, however using props will.
Some of the best beach portraits use props and the things you may want to incorporate in your beach portraits include inflatable toys, rubber dinghies, sun protection kit (sun cream, hat and glasses), picnic lunch and drinks, relaxation kit (MP3 player, ebook reader or physical books) etc.
Choose the right prop for the right situation and you will see an instant improvement in your beach portraits.
Beach portrait photography tips – Go candid
If you point a camera at someone they generally do one of two things, and that is clam up or act over the top and play up to the camera. Neither reaction is natural nor make good beach portraits.
I have found the best way of capturing natural beach portraits is to go candid and take photos without the subject realising before it is too late. When taking beach portraits this way you have to have your camera to hand at all times and you have to act fast. A semi-auto mode (either shutter priority or aperture priority) is ideal for this type of shooting – just remember to tweak with exposure compensation to ensure you consistently nail the exposures.
I have to put a disclaimer with this tip and comment that you should only take candid beach portraits of people you know (family, friends, your children, your significant other etc.) and respect other people’s privacy and right to anonymity. You should never take beach portraits of strangers and people you don’t know without their express permission.
I mostly use a dslr camera for all my photography however there are times (typically when I am out with my family) when I can’t be bothered to take the dlsr camera and lenses. At these times I take a Canon G1X, a top end point and shoot camera that is simply awesome. The Canon G1X is a great camera for candid photography because it is small and discreet.
Beach portrait photography tips – use an ND filter
Beach portraits are best on hot, sunny days and in these conditions the high levels of ambient sunlight can cause havoc with the exposure settings.
When taking beach portraits the focus should be on the subject, and whilst it is nice to include a bit of background for context this should be intentionally blurred out and thrown out of focus.
Throwing the background out of focus requires a wide aperture, and if the ambient light is high this may not always be possible unless you carry around another bit of kit – a neutral density filter.
A neutral density filter is a vital bit of kit you should have in your bag as it allows you to shoot wide open, hence throwing the background out of focus and keeping the subject the focal point, in the brightest conditions.
Use a neutral density filter for your beach portraits and I can guarantee you will see an instant improvement in your shots.
For beach portraits I sue screw in ND filters. Screw in ND filters fit the lens perfectly and stops any grains of sand from getting between the lens and the filter, there is no light leakage (so no hot spots) and they are also well priced too. I typically use Hoya ND filters however I have used Zomei ND filters in the past, and these are also very good.
Beach portrait photography tips – get up close and personal
If you do have willing models and haven’t got to go candid to get natural looking beach portraits this is an excellent tip – get in nice and close.
Many people like to use a tele lens, stand back from the subject and zoom in tight for frame filling beach portraits. This method is okay but you won’t get an engaging portrait shot using it. If you want to get engaging beach portraits you need to use a lens with a shorter focal length and then move in nice and close to the subject.
Being closer to the subject allows you to speak to them, communicate with them and direct them, i.e. interact with them.
Interacting with the subject will make them feel at ease and more comfortable, and in return you will get more engaging and natural looking beach portraits.
I use a Canon 24-70 f2.8L lens for my beach portraits and I have to say it’s an awesome lens. The 24mm – 70mm is the perfect focal length for beach portraits however you do have to get up close and personal to the models to get frame filling shots. This is not a problem though because the interaction leads to some engaging photos.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.