Beaches are a lovely place to photograph your family against. I always plan a little shoot with my family at the beach either at the beginning of the day when it is quieter or at the end of the day when the light is warm and golden. Avoiding the midday sun when it is at its hottest and most challenging in terms of contrasting harsh light is ideal if possible (although if you do take shots at this time, someone holding a well-placed towel against the sun over a child can help). I take down special dresses and fairy tutus for my little girl and make sure that both children have something neutral on or white so the images look fresh. I then just let them play by the water’s edge and just capture them looking at shells, playing with seaweed, jumping around, doing cartwheels – just kids being kids. It’s nice to get shots of your family down by the beach not in beach-wear and although it takes some planning (and maybe even sweets), it’s well worth it-some of my most treasured images of my family have been taken at the beach.
I like to use the surroundings at the beach to place a holiday in time too – for example spelling the name of the resort or the country plus year out in shells on the beach or writing in the sand with a stick. Sandy footprints or handprints once again place a time if your children are young. Other interesting details could include a light-house, colourful beach huts or beautiful rocks. These make lovely feature and detailed shots which can be used around family shots for an album.
One problem you may run into when photographing at the beach is that people will have shadows on their faces (cast by hats or sunglasses). To get rid of the shadows, fire the flash when taking a photograph and the shadows will disappear and your subject will be well-exposed. If the image is over-exposed, you can turn down the flash strength (if you can control this) or otherwise move back slightly as the flash range will become shorter and will lose its impact the further away you are – you may have to experiment a little to get the best image. Squinting can also be a problem too – a method I have used is to ask everyone to close their eyes and then on the count of three, open them – you have a few seconds before they squint again…
Beaches themselves with stormy weather make for very atmospheric shots particularly dramatic clouds and skies (these shots look particularly good in black and white). As always, watch that the horizon is straight and not sloping and play around with where you put the horizon – if the sky and clouds like dramatic, then fill the frame with this and the sand/beach with 1/3 of the shot instead.
Don’t forget to minimize too the amount of time you expose your camera to the elements – sand and water particles are not good for cameras so keep cameras away until you are ready to use them – keep a microfiber cloth with you so can wipe your camera body and lens down once you are done.
Most of all – have fun!