We all love the beach (ok at least most of us do). I love the concept of splashing around, making sand castles with my daughter, ice-creams and burying ourselves in the sand so that only our heads stick out. I love the whole thing. In the part of the world that I am from it is peak summer, all the more reason to hit the cold waters of the beach. Each year even it is for just once we make it a point to hit the beach.
One thing that everyone likes to do on a weekend trip is to shoot images. When I look back at the pictures from the old albums, camera skills wasn’t something that the photographers could boast (whoever were the ones responsible for those images). Images of me and my sister looking straight at the sun with squinting eyes, washed out backgrounds, stark shadows, tilted horizons and bizarre compositions that a critic would find hard to explain are galore.
To be honest not many amateurs know the exact technique to make great beach photos. In this article I have tried to explain a few of the techniques that you can use.
- Never shoot with the sun behind you – never shoot with the sun behind you, unless of course it is very early in the morning. You will always get squinting eyes and deep shadows, none of them are good for your images. Find some shade which you can use to create a better, more uniformly exposed image.
- Shooting at early morning – When shooting at the crack of dawn, especially scenes where you wish to incorporate the background while your significant other poses for you, you will find that the background is bright whereas the subject is completely silhouetted. Though this is ok for silhouette photography (that is if you have done it knowingly) it isn’t for any other type of photos. Use a flash. The pop-up flash will do. Just take off the lens hood, set the flash on fill-flash mode and take the shot. In some cameras there is an ambient lighting mode. That mode takes into account the background light.
- The early bird catches the portrait – while shooting portraits with the sun bearing upon your subject isn’t advisable, there is only one time when you can do this with good results and that is at the golden hour. The golden hour of the day is when the sun light travels almost parallel to the surface of the earth and casts a warm hue upon everything that it touches. This light is very soft and is ideal for portraits.
- Try for some unusual angles – Shoot right down from the level of the sand. Take care to use a small travel tripod so that the camera does not come in contact with the sand. Shoot from high up. The lifeguard’s post is a good idea. Change the angle around so that your images don’t look clichéd.
- Catch the rim lighting effect – Rim lighting is the halo effect that you see when your subjects are backlit. If you meter for the background your subjects will be under-exposed. You will need to meter for the subject’s face. Zoom in tight so that face takes up most of the frame. Use spot metering to accurately meter for the subject.
- Master the sunny 16 rule – The sunny 16 rule was devised by film photographers before LCD screens and other tools made us a lazy bunch. The rule is very effective even today. The best thing is it is easy to use. Let’s say you are on the beach and it’s sunny. Set your ISO to 100. The aperture should be set to f/16 (thus the name sunny 16). The final cog in the wheel is the shutter speed. Set that to 1 over the ISO, i.e., 1/100.Using the sunny 16 as a starting point of reference you can use varying combinations of shutter speed and aperture value to basically keep the same exposure.