Summer is almost here – and that means spending time at the beach. Or as they say where I grew up in New Jersey, “let’s go down the shore”.
In Southern California we are so lucky because we can be at the beach any day of the year. You want to surf on Christmas Day? Why not!
For those of us who love to take photos, we know that the beach can be a challenging place to take great photographs of people. The sun, the sand, the wind… these can all get in the way of taking great portraits at the beach.
Whether you are using your smart phone, or the latest and greatest photo gear, here are some tricks that can help you get a great beach portrait.
1) Timing is important
To avoid unflattering harsh sun and shadows on the face, the best time to photograph people the beach is during “golden hour”. It’s that window of time – usually 60-90 minutes – before the sun sets. The sun is low enough on the horizon that the angle of light isn’t harsh.
If you do shoot during the middle of the day, refer to tip #2 …
2) On bright sunny days, seek open shade
If the sun is directly overhead, it might be too bright to get a great photo. So in this case, put your subject in the shade – such as under a Pier, in the shadow of a lifeguard stand, or even use a beach umbrella to create shade.
3) Shoot during low tide
I love shooting during low tide. The sand is smooth, easy to walk on, and free of a day’s worth of other people’s footprints. The wet sand creates a natural reflector that can add a kick of light into your subject’s face.
Since many of Oceanside’s beaches are narrow, low tide is especially important to ensure that there is actually a beach to stand on during your photo shoot. Nothing worse than getting to the location and seeing the water splashing up against the rocks with no sand in sight.
I always check the tide before scheduling a photoshoot at the beach. A low tide during “golden hour”? Perfect photo taking conditions!!
You can check the tide using this website.
4) Use your camera’s flash
A great way to add light to your subject’s face is to use your camera’s flash, to balance out the light from the sky.
There are a lot of technical ways to get this right, and I won’t go super camera nerdy on you, but I suggest exposing your photo so the sky looks good (that sunset sky or those clouds are perfectly exposed) and then add flash. Or you can always put your camera in automatic mode and let it do the thinking for you. If the subjects are too bright (over-exposed) simply step back and zoom in, this will reduce the amount of flash on your subject. Play around with this one, it’s fun to add flash, even on a sunny day!
4) Have Fun
If you’re photographing kids, you probably already know that their attention span and tolerance for adult’s suggestion for where to stand and how to smile is fleeting. So get the posed shots first. Because, they will want to play in the water, they will get sand all over them, and they won’t want to stand still and smile for too long. No matter how much you bribe them with candy.
Get your posed photos, then, let ‘em loose! And keep your camera handy.
I love photographing kids running on the beach. I tell them to race eachother or to skip towards me, and this always leads to fun candid shots.
5) Wear the right clothes for the beach
Choosing the right clothes for your beach photos is key.
The first thing I always tell families before I photograph them on the beach is choose an outfit that you can wear without shoes. Because, let me be brutally honest with you, you don’t want to be the one person on the beach wearing shoes. Don’t dot it. (In New Jersey, the term for that person is a “shoebie”) Embrace the barefoot!
Pick colors that pop off the sand (so, skip the “everyone in khaki pants and a white shirt” style because <a> that’s so 90s and <b> khaki pants are the exact same color as sand!) Colors that work well on the beach are white, any shade of blue, green, bright yellow and coral. I always send this Pinterest board to my family photo clients to help them figure out what to wear.
And keep in mind, if you’re shooting at “golden hour” before the sun sets, it will probably be chilly and windy so bring layers!!
and an extra tip for Oceanside visitors… schedule some post-beach fun at my favorite spots:
If you’re at the beach in Oceanside, schedule some time after your photoshoot to visit some of my personal favorite spots in town:
- If you’re with kids, walk to the end of the Oceanside pier and get a milkshake at Ruby’s Diner
- Bring the whole family (dogs are welcome too!) to Stone Brewing’s Tasting Room. There’s always a great selection of beers on tap. And they let you bring in food from a neighboring restaurant if you’re feeling hungry.
- Enjoy a coffee at the Succulent Cafe. They close at 4:30 most days, so stop by early to enjoy this hidden treasure.
- Grab a pizza at my favorite pizza place in town – Privateer Coal Fired Pizza. Gourmet pizza with local ingredients plus a fun and family friendly environment.
- Tap Something Local at the Local Tap House (LTH). Organic ingredients, full bar and hip and friendly atmosphere.
- Watch the sunset over the pier from the roof-top of Hello Betty.
Enjoy your time “down the shore” and happy photo taking!!
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