Wednesday, 31 March 2010

L3 - Fashion shoot

My first fashion shoot is booked into the studio on the 17th April, so I needed to have a think about putting my ideas of the style, poses etc I want into some sort of formal document (as you would do for a client, similar to Pips Client brief paper)  First thing was to sort out a model so I contacted Kelly, Kelly had modelled for me during my level 2 NCFE course with great success, I was to have kelly modelling some jeans similar to the Calvin Klein Jeans adverts:

The studio setup I was initially want is a single light with barn doors and honeycomb to channel the light in a particular area, it will be a hard direct light creating hash shadows on the background, Kelly (Fully clothed) will be positioned right in front of the background to emphasise this effect, a reflector will be used to fill in some of the shadow areas on Kelly.
Or this:

 I decided to have a look around at other photographers etc for some work and poses similar to what I wanted:

This is one of Rankin's high key fashion shots, obviously Kelly won't be this overexposed. I like this shot very simple single light coming from the right, the model right up against the background producing a clearly defined shadow thus creating depth in the image, I will be using this technique in my fashion theme although I probably won't be converting to black and white. it looks like Rankin has used a medium telephoto possibly zoomed out to around 80 - 100mm for this image which has the effect of slimming the subject, The format the image is portrayed is not the original aspect of a standard DSLR, which could suggest that he is using a medium format camera, or he could have just cropped it to that size.

Here is a layout drawing I did to formalise my ideas (I'm a bit rusty on my drawing, more practice needed)

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

L3 Coca-Cola studio session ... 'It's the real thing'

The studio was booked, the bottles and glasses were sourced, baby oil and water spray neatly packed, I get to the college and into the studio with Pete in attendance Mr Steve (A) showing us the ropes.

Our set up was simple, light table in the middle of the room.

Starting camera set up was 1/200 sec shutter at ISO100 and f/9.0 and adjusted the f stops to adjust for exposure

The bottle placed on a clear container to raise it and a barn door at the back, power setting after a dew trial shots ending up at 5.

A snoot underneath, and a strip soft box to the left. power setting starting a 3 then working up to 5

Initially I took some pics of the bottle without any oil or water on and exposed for the liquid, then wiped some baby oil on the bottle and sprayed water onto it (not too close as it just runs) making sure we catch any residue on the paper towels I had brought in.

It was a struggle not to get the strip light softbox reflecting across the logo, so I moved the strip light back away from the front and got Pete to hold up a white reflector to bounce and soften the light , not 100%  but at least you coud see the logo.

Strip light setting was at 5

Used  two exposures of the bottle one for the glass and one for the liquid and brought them together in photoshop along with a new white layer, sampled the white background and erased back to the white background. changed the opacity on the top layer  and adjusted the levels to bring a better colour to the liquid.

As I had moved the light back away from the front of the bottle I couldn't get the logo to stand out enough so I sampled a similar brighter white and painted it in, afterwards I reduced the opacity of the layer to make it more realistic

 1/60 sec shutter at ISO 100 f/9.0 - f/11.0

With only half and hour to go before the next bod booked into the studio Steve (B), I had to rush to Asda to pich up some ice and a big bottle of Coca-Cola, I had some Pepsi at home but If I had been doing this for a client it wouldn't have looked very good coming to a Coca-Cola shoot with a bottle of Pepsi, once back at the studio I again wiped the glass with baby oil and sprayed with water. took a couple (or ten) of the empty glass, then ten more with the Coke and ice in the glass. Post production wise I did the same for the glass, three layers all merged then erased any obtrusive background, leaving a slight shadow the same as the bottle, again changed the opacity of the layers to improve the colour

This is the final glass composite shot

1/60 sec shutter at ISO 100 f/9.0 - f/11.0

Brought them both together on to another white layer again removing anything that should be there such as the clear base under the bottle, erased the bottle layer to reveal the glass underneath.

This is the two flattened together ready for some text

Took a while to sort out the text, I was trying to get it as similar to the original text for Coca-Cola, Gave it some texture and a graduation  Ithink it works

The finished article apart from some splashes, which I'm not sure if I can do, I have a go possibly over the weekend and add them in later as I have saved all the stages with the layers intact.

I'm thinking that I may have to put in some shaddows linking the two subjects as at the moment they look like they are floating and need something to anchor them.

here's one for you Pip, Is this how this works?

Monday, 29 March 2010

L3 - Boost your hit rate and Pip's golden spiral

It's spooky darlings... just opened up my new Digital Camera magazine and low and behold what do I see..... only an article about the golden spiral, Mr steve cannot say now that he's never seen it:

L3 how to use a Lightmeter

Guide to using a hand-held light meter

Guide to using a hand-held light meter - A hand held light meter will help you get better exposures, even if you are using a digital camera.

Your camera may be the latest all-singing, all-dancing model with multi-whatsit metering and flashy exposure modes, but the fact is nothing beats the use of a hand held meter if you know how to use one.

The main issue with metering, no matter how sophisticated it is, is that it's computed to ensure the subject comes out as an average of the scene it's measuring. In simplified terms, the scene's tones are scrambled up inside the camera's metering cell to calculate a single brightness value, which is then used as the basis for the shutter speed and aperture selected. The camera will ensure this single brightness level is equivalent to a mid grey, which is fine when the subject has a wide variety of tones, or is predominately of a brightness similar to mid grey. But things go wrong if the subject is all white, such as snow or a white car, or all dark, such as a black suited person or black car. In these situations the camera will adjust the exposure to compensate and ensure the snow comes out grey and the black suit comes out grey. If you use a hand held exposure meter and point its meter sensor at the subject the same thing happens. This type of meter reading is known as a reflected reading, as it measures the light reflected from the subject, but a hand held meter can be used differently and that's why they are still very popular, despite the availability of advanced camera metering systems.
By turning the meter around you can use the sensor to measure the light falling onto the subject, so it doesn't become fooled by the subject's reflective qualities. This type of metering is called an incident reading and can produce very accurate exposures.

Many meter's like this Sekonic have a dome that slides over the sensor to provide incident reading. Here the dome is out of the way in the main picture and over the sensor in the inset picture.
To use it you have to slide a dome over the metering cell, which is usually a 180 degree translucent plastic diffuser. The meter then reads the light falling on the subject from all angles. It still scrambles the reading and adjusts the exposure to produce a mid grey, but this reading hasn't been affected by reflective or absorbent subject matter and will ensure that the dark subject stays dark and a light one stays light. If you've ever seen wedding photographers walking up to the bride and holding a gadget up to her face, now you know what they were doing.

This illustrates how the two types of reading would be taken when photographing the garden pagoda. An incident measurement is being taken on the left and a reflected reading on right.
Even very basic meters have this type of measuring, but the more you pay the more other modes you get. Basic meters have a very simple full stop exposure adjustment, while more advanced ones can measure to an accuracy of 1/10th of a stop. With this type of meter you can make perfect exposures on even the most inflexible slide film.
Some meters can measure flash too, making them versatile in the home studio and some have a spot attachment that narrows the measuring angle down to between 5 and 1 degree.
Using a meter in ambient light
The first thing to do is set the film speed on the meter. On basic models this is a dial that you rotate, placing the film speed you are using against a marker. On the more expensive LED and LCD models you key in the number using up and down buttons, like you would on an electronic camera.
You then press a button on the meter to activate it. Holding the button in on some locks the exposure on others it allows a continuous reading so you can move around checking the exposure levels around the subject. More advanced models allow multiple selection, where you can take a reading from, say, the highlight and one from the shadow and the meter then computes the average.
Taking advanced reflected readings
As reflected readings are more prone to errors one way to help you meter correctly is if you start to visualise pictures in black & white. By splitting the subject into grades from 0 (black) to 10 (white), with mid grey at 5, it's easier to evaluate the exposure required to ensure the subject appears the correct tone. This method of metering was developed by legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams and is known as the Zone System where each brightness value is given a zone rating. If you struggle to see colours as greyscale, a filter called the Mono View is available to help you see in black & white.
You would then take a reading knowing that it would create a mid grey, whatever your subject matter, then you would adjust the reading to over or under expose, making the subject go whiter or blacker.
The easier approach
An incident reading saves you trying to understand how the Zone System works and is the quick and accurate approach to photograph difficult lighting situations.
When using a meter in incident mode on subjects that are front lit, just point the meter, with the diffuser cone in place over the sensor, towards the camera, making sure that the meter is positioned in the same light as that falling onto the subject. The reading will not be correct if you hold the meter in an area of shade, while the subject is basking in sunlight.

A white subject with strong directional sunlight from above causes a very contrasty result, especially as it's offset from the dark background. This is an easy job for an incident meter.
If you are photographing a distant subject using a telephoto lens and can't get the meter near, the reading will be the same, providing the same light is falling on the subject as the metering cell. For instance, you may be in an office that's illuminated with fluorescent lighting and want a long shot of an employee. A person sat at their desk nearby can be used as the metering reference point. Similarly, a clear-skied landscape will have the same reading at the taking position as the distant tree that you're framing up.
Spot metering
Several SLR cameras and a few exposure meters have a spot meter that narrows the angle of the metering cell so you can point it at specific areas of a scene. As this is a reflected reading you must, once again, use the reading only as a guide, being aware that its value will produce a mid grey. This type of meter is often used to take several readings from a scene and then using your head as a calculator work out what the best exposure should be to ensure everything comes out as expected. Spot meters should really only be used by those who have grasped exposure and are able to apply compensation to ensure the results are correct. Just pointing and relying on the indicated exposure is a recipe for disaster.

Sunsets are fairly easy to shoot, but getting the right balance is the trick. If you want a rich orange sky point at the sky and if you want detail in the landscape point downwards first and lock the exposure. If you prefer a mid point, take a reading from both places and average the two - a spot or partial meter helps here.
Using filters
Whenever you attach a filter in front of the lens the amount of light reaching the film is reduced and the exposure needs to be increased to compensate. It's easy to use filters on an SLR when you're using the camera's built-in meter because the through the lens (TTL) meter sees what's in front of the lens and adjusts accordingly. This obviously can't happen when you use a separate meter, but to help filter manufacturers print the filter's exposure details on the box, around the filter's rim or in the instructions. You simply take a reading and then knock off the number of stops suggested for the filter manufacturer. A red filter, for example, reduces the exposure by three stops. So if the hand held meter suggested 1/250sec at f/8 you could open up the aperture to f/2.8 or increase the shutter speed to 1/30sec.
The problem comes when a filter increases the exposure by a third of a stop, and that's when the more advanced meter, with it's 1/10th stop accuracy is again worth its weight in gold.
What about EV numbers?
EV is an abbreviation of exposure value and is something that's used mostly by professional photographers. It's a combination of the shutter speed and aperture and some meters give the reading as an EV number which is then set on a dial to give the shutter speed and aperture combinations. If you know the EV number you can select any aperture and the shutter speed is adjusted accordingly. It's almost like having program exposure on a meter.
Using a flash meter
A flash meter measure light in much the same way as an ambient meter so can often be used as incident or reflected with the same issues being raised. Most basic flash-only meters will only work in incident light mode because the dome is fixed in place. More expensive combination meters offer both options.
Taking a reading depends on the flash meter you use. More advanced ones allow the flash sync cable to be plugged in and you press a button on the meter to trigger the flash. This gives you the benefit of being able to move close to the subject. With a basic meter you don't have this option and would need someone at the flashgun to trigger it while you hold the meter in front of the subject. This could be the model you are photographing, but on still life sets you may have a problem.
Using a Grey Card
If you can't justify the cost of a meter and want better pictures using your camera's exposure meter, buy a grey card. This is an 18% grey card, which is the same as the tone that the camera's meter scrambles to. Taking a meter reading from a grey card placed in front of the subject will give a similar exposure to an incident meter reading.

Position the card in the same light as the subject and take a reading, set this and the exposures will 99 times out of a 100 be spot on.
Getting to know your meter is vital for better pictures the more you understand it the more success you will have.
Here are some more examples of potentially difficult metering situations and what you can do to overcome them.

The baby was standing near to a window, which would have caused a normal reflected meter to underexpose, leaving the face in shadow and a normally exposed highlight. By taking an incident reading pointing at the camera the dome pics up light from the window but more from the direct light falling on the rest of the face and results in a better balanced exposure.

Shoot anything white using reflected metering and it will come out dull with either a neutral or colour cast. This Mediterranean wall has picked up a blue cast from the strong midday sun and is underexposed an incident reading produces amore natural exposure.

This shot was taken of a broken branch in a stream, situated in deep woodland. The camera meter would have overexposed to ensure the water came out mid grey but I wanted a darker image to lift the light branch and create a strong moody result. In these situations the incident meter provides a more faithful exposure of the scene.

The flowers placed in front of the window blind are strongly backlit, and the meter would be fooled into underexposure. A reflector was placed in front of the flowers to kick back some light and an incident reading was taken with the meter pointing at the flowers to scramble the result of the light coming through the blind and that being reflected back into the flowers.

Friday, 26 March 2010

L3 Home DIY Light table practice

Decided to see if I could make a small light table using a bit of perspex on top of two stools and my soft box flash unit suspended between the stools, as a first attempt it just managed, the perspex was too small and scratched and I should have put up a black background to remove any reflections from the windows and frame work of my conservatory where I set up this contraption.

 I'm going to make a more permanent product table with a wooden frame work low voltage fluorescent bulbs and a translucent polypropylene sheet. but for now lets look at the result of this shoot.

 The Equipment I used for this was two interfit 150w flash units one slung under the stool with a soft box fitted the other to the left  fitted with a white flash through umbrella.  A Canon 5D MKII and a Canon 24-105mm f4.0 l series lens. the flash was connected to the flash by a cable  and the second flash was activated by it light sensor, all the cable including power were routed around the back of the light table which was positioned against a wall so none was going to trip over anything. I restricted the traffic around the area by putting the kids to bed and put Coronation Street on the telly for the wife.  so the only person in the area was me and the only thing realistically that I could fall over was the tripod, as I knew the hazards this was the control to reduce the risk. I visibly checked all the equipment whilst I was putting it up for faults or damage, thus again controlling any potential risk of electrocution etc.

with all the checks done and suitable controls in place I began, (I hope everyone is sitting comfortably!)

As I didn't have a light meter to check the for the correct setting I had to use my clipping highlight on my camera, the first shot was way over exposed and expected, it gave me a starting point to work from. I set my shutter speed to 1/200 to sync with the flash, my ISO to 100 for maximum quality  and adjusted my f-stops  to suit: and both flash unit on 1/2 power

f/ 6.3f/ 11.0

As I didn't really want to have too much depth of field I didn't close down the aperture any more , so the only other thing I could do was to turn down the flash power. I fired off a discharge flash as the capacitors needed to be reset to the new level of aprox 1/4 power:

f/11.0 1/200 sec ISO 100

I changed the angle of the camera to achieve a better view  added a white reflector the the right of the can to bounce some light back to the can and filling in the shadows. 

I took another shot then imported the shot into photoshop cropped and sampled the background then using the brush tool painted in the black areas at the top:

I decided that I'd had enough of the Coke can and decided to try some other product:

Pips Emirates bag
f/ 13.0 1/200 sec at ISO 100

A slight tweak of the aperture to f/ 14.0 and imported to photoshot, again I used the colour sampler on the background but instead of using the brush I used the bucket fill with some eraser work to bring back the reflection with the opacity and flow dropped to reduce the harshness of the eraser.

I changed to a black card background, turned off the bottom flash and put some perfume on the perspex looking for a good reflection.

Here's the finished result, it's been cropped, spots and marks on the perspex have been cloned out including the rear edge of the perspex, finally the levels were adjusted to get the best look
f/ 9.0 1/200 sec at ISO 100.

Tomorrow we do the first studio shoot with the Coke Bottles.

L3 10 Fashion photography tips

10 Fashion Photography Tips

by Natalie Johnson

1.   Fashion photography should convey an essence of authority, so your direction of the model(s) needs to be confident and self-assured. Showing signs of anxiety, stress or lack of direction will invariably be reflected in the performance of your model so make the subject feel comfortable and involved. Organise a shot list before the shoot and rehearse technique and composition for each shot in your mind. Prepare the location, props and clothes ahead of time and for a truly effective shoot be sure to communicate your agenda, objective and posing directions coherently and calmly.

2.   Fashion photography is all about clothes and beauty, so pull all the elements of the scene and the model together to reflect this. For example if the shoot focuses on the clothes– use make-up and hair styling to compliment the garment – and vice versa. If you desire a provocative or seductive look opt for dark, heavy make-up and over styled hair; alternatively for an innocent or natural feel choose subdued pastel tones, gentle make up and soft flowing hair styles. Unusual looking folk bring interest and personality to the piece, whereas female models with large almond eyes, big lips, small chins and symmetrical faces are deemed “more commercial”.

3.   Posing can be a tricky point to master but browse through the latest men’s and women’s magazines to target a few inspired suggestions as well as getting a grip on what is currently fashionable. Using ‘broken down’ poses or poses that require angular body shapes can add interest and edginess to the piece – as well as help to elongate body length.

4.   A studio is an ideal place to perform a fashion shoot because photographers can easily control lighting and stabilise conditions. If you are shooting in a studio environment remember to meter all areas of the scene to avoid unwanted shadows and the use of a separate light meter rather than the one in your camera, will offer a more accurate reading.

5.   If you can’t afford to hire a professional studio and all the pricey equipment there is a way you can cheat at home. Clear a space in a room that benefits from large windows and peg a white sheet, net or fabric across the window. On a bright sunny day you’ll have yourself a homemade soft box – ideal for flattering even light.

6.   When shooting in low light or into the sun, you may require an extra light source. If all you have is flash then rather than shoot straight on, set it to bounce of a nearby reflector, wall or ceiling. Experiment with angles to create an array of effects and discover what works best for you and the scene you are shooting. Be careful to pay attention to unwanted shadows that may fall across the face and body.

7.   Props are fantastic for telling a narrative with in a fashion shot, but one of the best props to use is a mirror. A mirror can be a used to tell a story and act as an effective tool that allows the photographer to display the front and back of your model. Take a spate reading for the mirror and you may need to bracket your exposures here. Be careful to position yourself, lighting equipment and anything not to do with the shoot out of the reflection.

8.   Location, location, location! Getting the right location is important if you want to convey a narrative within your shot. For example if the clothing and beauty styling are edgy, hard or provocative you may want to consider an urban setting , alternatively for spring/summer and natural fashions find a rural environment like; a field, meadow, beach, woodland or river bank.

9.   Influence the image by moving around the scene and exploring which angles work best to full expose the garment. This could mean climbing a ladder, crouching low, working a slanted angle or moving closer to the subject. Think about what the message is here and create a composition to reinforce it.

10.  Fashion photography is achievable alone, but to step it up a gear rope in a friend, family member or photography student as an assistant. Often photographers need an extra pair of hands to position reflectors, angle and reset lighting equipment, tweak the positioning of garments and clear the scene.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Wales In April

Ah the smell of the sea, the crash of the waves...... the rain drumming on our umbrellas!  can't wait for the 10th.

I've had a thought (I do have a few occasionally) as most of our scenic shots will be later on I decided to price up for a model to come to Wales and do a two hour location shoot, on the beach, rock, sea whatever..... what does everyone think? I've had a lot of interest and a couple of prices back, the cheapest so far (for a professional model) was £40 p/h and £20 travelling! I was hoping for some local models to apply, would anyone want to chip in and pay as a group?

feedback please

Cheers Jim

PS Sorry girls a bit sexist but didn't get any male replies.

Here's and update I think I'm in love, but don't tell the wife...

This is Layla.... Calm down Eric. She's happy to travel with us, Layla is from Stoke on Trent ... Calm down Eric!! her rate at the moment is £50 for two hours But would be happy to work with us all day if we gave her a little more? then we could play all day ... her words.... CALM DOWN Eric!!!

Steve B this looks like like an April Sky to me, what do you think?

Layla says she has lots of ideas and lots of outfits, and it looks like she had a bit of experience with beaches

Beach Photography

by Natalie Johnson

Whether a tranquil haven of serenity or a jam-packed platform for sun worshippers, the beach is a perfect location for all genres of photography; macro, documentary, seascape, portrait and even wildlife. Here are some pointers to get your creative juices flowing when it comes to beach photography.

Waiting for a moment - by ^riza^

Macro and Creative Abstracts

Beaches are rife with opportunity for macro shots and creative abstracts. Some typical examples are: footprints in the sand, chipped paint on beach huts or boats, shells on the shore or intersecting blades of dune grass. With the intention of creating a shallow depth of field use a telephoto lens and employ a wide aperture. Zoom in close to your subject and focus accordingly. For best results get down in the sand and stabilise the camera on a jumper or bag to ensure details remain crisp.

Purple Shell - by alex the greek


What better place to photograph your children in the throws of freedom and fun than at the beach? Set a fast shutter (1/400th) to catch the action if the little tot refuses to sit still or give them a challenge to focus their attention such as building a sandcastle or exploring a rock pool. Frame and focus on your youngster, but zoom out to show enough background for the image to offer a context.

day77 - by rlr77

For beautiful evenly lit portraits diffuse the harsh sunlight that falls on the subject’s face using a white sheet if you have one to hand or a beach towel or t shirt to provide shade if you don’t. For the best results employ a 35mm or 50mm prime lens with a wide aperture to delicately blur the bright background but keep the portrait in focus.

When the sun is at its highest it can be tricky to expose correctly for portraits so try bracketing the scene to expose for the highlights, shadows and midtones separately. Later employ a HDR program such Photomatix to give portraits an interesting texture and dramatic feel. Alternatively wait until the sun sets for an enigmatic silhouette. To incorporate an interesting reflection place your subject at the shoreline, in between yourself and the sunset. Pre focus your subject manually here, expose for the brightest part of the scene and de-active the on body flash.

Felicidad - by Landahlauts


The ebb and flow of the sea is such an enchanting motion and to capture the gentle ghostly movement photographers should employ the same techniques as those used for classic waterfall cascades. Set your camera on a tripod and dial in a slow shutter speed, how slow will depend on the brightness of the day, but you could use a polarizer or ND Grad filter to reduce the amount of light entering the lens. Check the histogram on your LCD to monitor the results.

Rippled - by Christolakis

If you want to photograph the scene at sunset or sunrise remember to set up an hour before dawn/dusk. Expose for the sky and support your camera with a tripod. To add foreground interest consider including an angular groyne, collection of stones, pier or lighthouse.

Piers are a classic focal point for seaside shots. A wonderful way of conveying the sheer size of the platform is to use a wide-angle lens and small aperture to keep everything sharp. Also try varying your vantage point to exaggerate that sense of scale. Alternatively climb the pier to get some height from the sand and capture a cross section of the populated beach. If this isn’t possible secure the camera to a fully extended tripod/monopod and lift it above head height. Use a remote shutter release or self timer to take the shot.

Sea World - by frankhg

Legal restrictions of photography in public places differs from country to country, so brush up on the rules of the country you are in before you start to point and shoot strangers at the beach. In some countries there is no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place whereas others restrict photography, to protect children for example. Avoid potential hassle by first asking permission of the person or the parents’ of a child you wish to photograph.

Small - by pierofix


The beach is home to many interesting creatures primed for photography; starfish in rock pools, coastal birds such as gulls and lapwing, or strap on a snorkel and explore the magical array of fish under the sea. To photograph birds wait until the end of the day when gulls descend on to desolate beaches to scavenge discarded food. Add movement to a picture of a bird in flight by focusing on the subject and slowly follow it with a gentle pan and slow shutter speed. To freeze birds in flight ensure you use a faster shutter speed. To do this in the evening light you’ll need to ramp up that ISO if shooting handheld.

Underneath a Star - by jaeWALK

Night scenes

Head to the bright lights of the funfair and embrace the chance to get creative with shutter speed. Neatly frame one of the more colourful or interesting fairground machines and consider lowering your vantage point to add impact or use a creative lens like a fisheye for impact. Mount your camera on something sturdy and dial in a small aperture (for example f14) to keep the background in focus, with a slow shutter speed of around 1/15th sec to create neon light trails

Pacific Park in Santa Monica - by szeke

Surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, banana boats, jet skis, kayaks or pedalos are all fantastic water sports for capturing people having fun at the beach. A fast shutter speed is essential to freeze movement but wait until the sun is at a low angle in the sky for gentler light. Alternatively you can use a polarising filter to soften harsh midday light, reduce glare and increase colour saturation.

terracina - by Macorig Paolo

10 Beach Photography Tips

by Darren Rowse

Image by TollerScream

Here in Australia we love to hit the beach.
we’re one big island and most of our population is scattered along the coast line so the beach is a natural place for us to go both on day trips and longer holidays.

Beaches present digital camera owners with a number of wonderful opportunities as they are places of natural beauty, color and interesting light. However they also present a variety of challenges including camera damage, privacy issues and making large open spaces interesting.

While it’s not really beach going weather at present here in my part of the world I know that many readers of this site are getting close to Summer and beach photography will be high on the agenda of many (I’m so jealous).

Here are 10 tips for when you head to the beach with your digital camera next:

Image by Sara Heinrichs

1. Look for focal points

A friend of mine once told me that they don’t bother taking their camera to the beach because all beach shots look the same. i thought that that was a pretty sad thing to say because when I go to the beach I see it as a place brimming with photographic opportunities if you have the ability to look beyond the cliche shots. For example while many people take shots looking out to sea I find it interesting to go to the water’s edge and then turn completely around and see what’s in your frame from that angle. One common problem with landscape beach photographs is that while they might capture a beautiful scene they actually have no point of interest and can as a result be rather empty and boring. When taking a shot look for a point of interest or focal point that will give those looking at your photo a place for their eye to rest. Perhaps it’s a pattern in the sand, a set of footprints, the crashing of waves over a rock, a life saver’s tower etc. Also look for the little things that tell the story of going to the beach like shoes at the waters edge, sand castles, sunglasses, sunscreen lotion etc. Sometimes these can make wonderful little feature shots to break up your vacation album.

2. Timing is important

The start and end of days can present the best opportunities for shooting at the beach. For starters there will be less people there at that time of day but also you’ll find that with the sun shining on an angle that you often get more interesting effects of shadows and colors – particularly in the evening when the light becomes quite warm and golden.

Image by astrocruzan

3. Watch the Horizon

One of the most common problems in beach photography where there are wide open spaces with a long and often unbroken horizon is sloping horizons. Work hard at keeping your horizon square to the framing of your shot (more on this here). Also consider placing your horizon off centre as centered horizons can leave a photo looking chopped in half (more on this in our post on the Rule of Thirds).

4. Head to the Beach When Others Avoid it

Another timing issue is that the beach can really come to life on those days that everyone avoids it because of inclement weather. Stormy seas, threatening and dramatic clouds and wind slowing lifesaver flags and trees over call all make for atmospheric shots.

5. Exposure Bracketing

One of the challenges of shooting in the middle of summer on a beach is that it can be incredibly bright and your camera could want to under expose your shots if you’re shooting in Auto mode. If your camera has a manual mode it can be well worth playing with it at the beach and experimenting with different levels of exposure. I find that I get the best results when I look at what the camera wants to expose the shot at and then over expose it by a stop or two. Of course this depends greatly from situation to situation – brightly lit landscapes are generally very tricky – especially if you have shady areas as well as bright ones. Sometimes it’s a matter of working out which area you want to be well exposed and focussing on that area as to get everything right is often impossible.

Image by phitar 

6. Spot Metering

If your camera has spot metering you can overcome some of the above exposure problems. Spot metering is a feature that some cameras have whereby you tell the camera which part of the image you want to be well exposed and it will get that bit right. This is particularly useful in bright light when you want to get a shady area exposed well. It will optimize the shady area (and the other areas will be over exposed – but at least your main subject will be ok). This can be effective especially when photographing people as it allows you to face them away from the sun and to meter on their shadowy face and therefore avoid squinting (a common problem with photographing people at the beach).

7. Fill Flash

If you’re photographing people at the beach as a portrait and it’s bright you’ll find that they will almost always have shadows on their face (often cast by hats, glasses, noses etc). Switch on your flash and force it to fire when shooting in these situations and you’ll find the shadows eliminated and your actual subject is well exposed. This is particularly important when shooting into the sun when without a flash you could end up with your subject being at some stage of becoming a silhouette). If your camera gives you some level of control over how strong a flash to fire you might want to experiment with this also as firing a full strength can leave your subjects looking washed out and artificial. If your subjects do look overexposed and you cant decrease the flash strength try moving back a little from your subject and using your zoom to get a tighter framing as this will decrease the impact of the flash. As usual – experimenting is the key.

8. UV Filters

UV filters are useful for DSLR owners a couple of reasons in beach photography. Firstly they act as a protection for your lens (see below) but also they do filter out ultraviolet light in a certain range. This can cut back on atmospheric haze (often a blueish haze/tinge). The visual impact that they have is not great but they are the first thing I buy when I get a new lens for my DSLR.

 9. Polarizing Filters

One of the most useful DSLR lens accessories that you can add to a digital camera is a polarizing filter. Without getting too technical, a polarizer filters out some light that is polarized. This means that it reduces reflections and boosts contrasts. The most noticeable places that this has impact is with blue skies (potentially it can make them incredibly rich and almost dark blue) and in water/ocean in which it can give a variety of effects. The way many people explain the results of a polarizer is the difference that polarizing sunglasses can make when you put them on (in fact I know quite a few photographers who shoot through their sunglasses if they don’t have a polarizer with them. Get a polarizing filter and experiment with it and you’ll quite literally be amazed by the results.

Image by Sara Heinrichs

10. Black and White

One technique that I’ve been using a lot lately in beach photography (and other genres also) is to do a little post photo production and see what impact stripping a photo of color has upon it. There’s something about a black and white shot at the beach that completely changes the mood and feel of a shot. It’s also a great way to bring to life beach shots taken on dull or overcast days which can often leave a beach scene looking a little colorless.