How to shoot family portraits on the beach
A family day out at the seaside is the perfect excuse for trying out your portrait skills.
There’s often plenty of space to find a quiet area to shoot, and the relaxed atmosphere is conducive to great-looking portraits.
Most of the family will be happy to pose in bright sunshine, but it’s not ideal for shooting portraits.
Get your subjects to face into the sun and they’ll end up squinting, making it impossible to get great-looking shots, but as soon as you get them to turn away from the light you’ll get shadows across their faces.
There are a couple of simple tricks that can help you out in these situations, though. The best solution is to get your subject to face slightly away from the sun, then use a reflector or a flashgun to add some light to fill in the shadows across the face.
You need to position the flash or reflector on the side opposite to the sunlight, and add just enough light to lighten the shadows, rather than get rid of them entirely.
A more extreme solution is to position your subjects so the sun is behind them, then expose for the subject, or use flash to add all your light.
In bright conditions this requires a powerful flashgun, or ideally a portable battery-powered studio flash.
For maximum control you need to work in manual mode, and use the fastest shutter speed that will synchronise with your flash (usually between 1/125 sec and 1/250 sec on most SLRs).
Set an aperture to give you detail in the background, although you may find that the brightest areas around the sun will burn out.
Now you can add the light from your flash, again set to manual. With a normal flashgun try it on full power to begin with, and then adjust the power down until the subject is correctly exposed.
You’ll get more flattering results if the flash is positioned away from the camera, while for the full professional-looking studio lighting you’ll need at least a couple of flashguns and some umbrellas or softboxes to soften the light.
When your subjects are facing the sun you could get them to wear sunglasses to hide their eyes for a classic sunny beach image. Just watch out for reflections in the glasses spoiling your shot.
Taking pictures of your pets on the beach
The beach is also one of the best locations to get amazing shots of your pet. You should take someone else along so you can concentrate on getting shots while your helper can concentrate on getting the pet into the right place for you.
When shooting static portraits you can use similar techniques to those for people, depending on how well-behaved and obedient your pet is.
For action shots it’s best to choose a quiet area of the beach to allow your pet the space to run without other pets or people to distract it.
For this type of shot use continuous focusing mode to track the movement, and continuous shooting to allow you to take a sequence of images so you can choose the best one at your leisure.
For all these shots try getting down to the same level as the pet to avoid looking down on them.
This will give your shots more impact, but try to avoid getting too much sand on your camera; there’s always the danger of water and sand being thrown onto you and your gear by an over-enthusiastic pet, so try to shoot with a telephoto or superzoom lens – this keeps some distance between you and the debris your pet will generate!
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