9 Tips and Tricks For Taking The Perfect Beach Portrait

[ Updated 2017 ] Shooting a beach portrait like a pro is not difficult but it’s not as easy as you may think either. There are lots of things to consider in terms of choosing the right light, location, and photo equipment, the use of reflectors and polarizing filters, and more. Luckily, we have a few tricks up our sleeve that can help you take stunning beach portraits, and here are our best beach portrait photography tips.

1. Choose the Right Location

woman at sunset standing in the sea

Image Source: Pixabay

A beach portrait doesn’t have to show miles and miles of water and sand. Choose your scenery carefully. Will you concentrate on a family enjoying a sandcastle? Or maybe a close-up overlooking the water? There are dozens of ways of showcasing your subjects, and making them connect while at the beach. Even if you’ll be using a reservoir or lake, its all about the experience.

2. Shoot During the Golden Hour

You have the perfect location. Now choose the perfect timeframe. Early morning or late afternoon is always best for lighting. Because you will be out in direct sunlight, it’s important to have the sun down on the horizon, and use sweet light. You’ll also find the beaches nearly deserted at this time of day, which will give you more room to play. This is one of the best beach portrait photography tips you’ll ever receive, so be sure to apply it.

Every photographer knows that the most gorgeous time of the day to shoot is one hour before the sunset – the so-called Golden Hour. This is when the light is luminous, adds a magical feel to the images, and creates even skin tones. Shooting during other times of the day may not provide the same benefits, as the light can be extremely bright and harsh. Keep in mind that white sand and water constantly reflect it, and can damage the quality of your shots.

3. Capture Close up and Far Away

When people think beach images, they typically want to showcase the scenery – which means they will end up being tiny objects within the photograph. Capture a variety of angles, and give people options. We love shooting location images, and because we show them, people expect to be a part of the scenery.
Yet they still want close-ups too. You must always balance your imagery, and give people what you want, as well as what they want. Furthermore, you can create samples to show your future clients.

4. Shoot Silhouettes

silhouette of a woman during a jump

Image Source: PatrickLudolph.de

Silhouettes are easy to accomplish and models love them as well! To achieve a perfectly-looking silhouette, set the camera on Aperture Priority and turn off spot metering. Don’t worry if the first shots don’t live up to your expectations. You will probably waste a few shots before achieving the best results. Start with a few basic poses while you get used to the surroundings and and how the light hits your model, then try to move to more complicated poses.

5. Rely on Post-processing

No matter what time of day you head to the beach, you are sure to get stray people running around in your background. Photoshop can be your friend to ensure a “deserted” beach scene just made for your subjects. Whenever you shoot in popular places, the easiest way to capture the image you truly want is to enhance it after the fact. Photoshop is one of the most powerful editing software today. When it comes to working with images, there’s almost nothing it can’t do. Enhance the colors, add contrast, or take it to the next level and do a full magazine-style retouch.

6. Look for Reflections

Take advantage of the beautiful reflections produced by water. Once you notice a good reflection, try taking the photo from a lower angle. Next, you can experiment as much as you want with the poses. Ask you subject to stand still for a more dramatic portrait, or ask them to jump or run. The possibilities are endless.

7. Shoot in Back and White

B&W portraits shot on Venice Beach

Image Source: ErichChenBlog.com

The strong sun can produce a stunning high contrast B&W image. Black and white photography is great for improving your photos if the sky is overcast. The result is an almost white background that will draw the viewer’s attention to your subject. Turn the mode dial to AV, select a large aperture, and let the camera choose the ideal shutter speed. Use polarizing and red filters to bring out the contrast in your photographs and to reduce flare. An external flash is also a good idea because it helps to fill in any dark spots.

8. Use Fill Flash or a Reflector

If you are photographing people on a bright, sunny beach, you’ll probably find the harsh light playing with shadows across your subjects’ faces. When in doubt, use a fill flash to get rid of harsh shadows and lines. Also, experiment with reflectors to soften the look and feel of the portrait. Typically, you’ll want to use a circular reflector. It will bounce the light back onto the subject. If you don’t have a reflector, you can always improvise. Ask someone to hold a towel just as they would with a reflector, positioning it just out of frame – it’s quite a useful hack.

9. Add some Props

blonde young woman standing on a surf board on a calm sea

Image Source: Pinterest

Last on our beach portrait photography tips list is the use of props. Although you can keep things simple, why not help your models by having something to work with? Props can turn a boring picture into a magazine cover-worthy photograph. Some of the best accessories you can use include surfboards, seashells, sarongs and coverups, umbrellas, jewelry, and fishnets.

Summing Up

Taking your camera to the beach can result in some of the most amazing portraits you have ever taken. Just make sure to find the right location and timeframe, use the proper filters and equipment, and make the ideal camera setting for achieving the best results.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and know that you can always rely on post-processing to fix or enhance the quality of your images. Hopefully, these beach portrait photography tips will help you get the most out of your pictures!

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We're the co-founders of VirtualPhotographyStudio.com and have been writing on this blog since 2004. We started Virtual as a way to help photographers stretch beyond a part time income, and develop strategies to become a Five Figure Photographer or a Six Figure Photographer. Ultimately its all about lifestyle, and if your goal is to live as a photographer 24/7, we think you should have the knowledge and the tools to do so. Welcome!