Summer in India is legendary for all the wrong reasons. So much so that there is actually a phrase “Indian summer.” I, like every other staunch Indian is never too perturbed about summer. Inside, though, I long for an escape to the cool breeze of the sea or the lower Himalayas for a week’s holiday. But taking a week’s break at this time of the year, is unimaginable. So, I do the next best thing- a short and sweet weekend trip. It just happens to be that I just came back from one such weekend break.

Sea beaches take up a special place in the heart of an individual who love water. I love it not for the getting wet part, but because I can relax and let my mind go quiet for a few days. I usually end up doing what I like doing the most, make images. If you love making images on your beach getaways, these pointers will surely help.

Exposure settings – use a small aperture

beach sunset photo

Beaches are part of nature’s sweeping vistas, endless expanse of blue sky, vast sand covered beaches – good enough to drive on and coconut trees swaying in the strong wind, makes for interesting panoramic compositions. But what intrigues me more and others like myself is the abundance of colors that you can play with during sunsets and sunrises. But the thing is you can only do that when everything in the frame is sharp. That, can only happen when you use a small aperture.

How do you know what aperture or f-stop to choose? Your cue would be the built-in light meter. I am not a big fan of it, but at times I use it to give myself a starting point. If the built-in meter tells me it is an f/11 at 1/160 of a second day, then I know what my options are. I can do the math from thereon and calculate the related exposure for an f/16 aperture or anything bigger or smaller than that.

Another thing is, don’t trust the meter blindly. It always gives you a reflected meter reading which wildly swings in either direction like a banana tree during tropical storm. So, depending on the colors in front of the camera the meter is likely to indicate that you have an under-exposed scene or an over-exposed scene. Always take a few exposures of the same scene just to be sure. This is good time to use the auto exposure bracketing feature on your camera.

Always shoot keeping in mind that you are going to post-process the images

beach photo

Shoot in RAW for most part when you are shooting for your personal portfolio. For everything else shoot in large fine JPEGs. RAW captures allow you the luxury to take a 12-bit file which has all the original information and edit it to enhance its aesthetics.

Post-processing does not have to be too overbearing. At most times, subtle post-processing tend to give better results than those which have had been extensively worked on. Remember, ethical post processing is all about not fundamentally altering an image. Speaking of post processing you can choose to outsource them if you don’t like sitting in front of a computer for hours. An expert photo editor at Phowd.com will have them edited and color corrected in no time. Who knows you may even get a liking for shooting in RAW with that kind of post processing convenience.

Personal images of you and your family, the ones that will not require serious editing can be shot in JPEG. The benefits of shooting in jpeg is that you can rely on the impressive processing engine of a modern digital camera, which to be fair, can be impressive at times. JPEG images, I repeat, are ideal for feeding the “instant share psychosis” – instant gratification for those who want to share anything and everything on social media as soon as it happens.

Use a neutral density filter

beach sunset photo

I love using a neutral density filter. I have written a lot about it. I will just add – that with a neutral density filter, especially a graduated or a reverse graduated one you can play around with the shutter speed, capturing motion blur and in general have a much easier time balancing an exposure.

Use the auto-gain and exposure blending option on your camera

I mentioned using neutral density filters for capturing motion blur. What if you don’t have neutral density filters? And yet you want to shoot long exposures or motion blur? One option would be to use the exposure blending option on your camera. Some cameras come with the option to auto blend up to 3 exposures. Others, like the latest professional DSLRs can shoot and blend up to 10 exposures.

Shoot against the sun for silhouettes

beach sunset silhouette

My obsession for silhouettes comes from the fact that I love shooting shapes and forms, essentially an offshoot of my obsession to shoot black and white. Anyways, silhouettes is all about shooting against a source of light. You can shoot completely dark shapes which sticks out against a bright background. A variation would be to shoot rim lighting effects.

Use the golden light

beach photo

If you are interested in making portraits in natural light then you must shoot in golden light. That’s the time just before sunrise to may be about 10-15mins after and again just about 10-15 mins before sunset depending on the latitude and longitude you are in.

Use anything to make your images more interesting

Use props that can make your images a bit more interesting. A tree branch, a fisherman’s boat, a stone or even a lighthouse. These allow you to put something at one of the four sweet spots on the frame and make the entire composition a bit more interesting.

Keep the horizon straight, but not always at the middle

The horizon line should always be straight but never bang in the middle of the frame. If the sky is more interesting, which it is most times during a sunset or a sunrise, place the sky at the top two-thirds of the frame. If it is not then keep it in the top one-third of the frame.

Rajib Mukherjee

Rajib Mukherjee

Rajib’s love for the road is second only to his love for photography. Wanderlust at heart and a shutterbug who loves to document his travels via his lenses; his two passions compliment each other perfectly. He has been writing for over 6 years now, which unsurprisingly, revolve mostly around his two favourite pursuits.
Rajib Mukherjee

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  • Emile Bellott

    Great tips. I’ll add another one : #10 If you are not limited ( by recycle time on a flash, for example ) take multiple shots in quick succession. If the time gap is very small, people haven’t changed posture, but smiles come and go. You can splice the best parts of two shots in quick succession.

    #11 Take another one about 1/4 to 1/2 sec after the “official” shot. It’s often better because people relax their stiffness and grimace. Smiles may be better. I’ll often do “3…3…1…” click … click

    Apropos of #7 above, I often ham it up with the Austin Powers line: “Work with me…Work with m..”

  • beptep

    Emile, awesome tips, thanks for sharing!