If you don’t have access to natural light, you can definitely use artificial light for your scenes. A lot of editorial food photography is done in simple lightboxes because they provide even lighting for the whole scene. And using artificial light also means that you don’t have to rely on the time of day for your shoots.
Keep on the lookout for leading lines that will help you to compose your image. This could include a fence, a jagged coastline, or winding roads or trails. Leading lines don’t always have to be obvious. Even objects that aren’t linear, such as stepping stones, can be used to lead the eye on through the image, and on toward the main point of interest.
When composing your images, you’ll want to include a main focal point. This could be a mountain, a barn or house in the distance, or even a lone tree in the middle of a field. Having a focal point will help to anchor your image, and make for a more powerful composition.
While your camera is good at guessing the white balance, it doesn’t get it right all the time. Sometimes you’ll need to adjust the white balance yourself. If you’re shooting in RAW, this won’t be quite as serious of an issue as you can always adjust the white balance in post processing later on.
With the challenging lighting found in beach photography, it will help to master the exposure compensation of your camera. Depending on the style of camera you’re using, there’ll be an exposure compensation setting in the menu or on a dedicated dial. Cameras are intelligent devices, and when shooting in Auto, they make all the decisions for you. In some situations, they don’t always make the best decisions. With so much light hitting the image sensor, the camera will reduce exposure to compensate. If you want greater control and improved exposure, switch your camera to manual mode and manage the exposure compensation yourself. If you’re shooting a portrait, you can also try switching your metering mode to spot metering as this will help with correctly exposing the person’s face.
Many photographers I know entirely ignore the fact that their camera and editing software can make changes to white balance. White balance allows you to change the colour hue of an image as a whole. This way you can cast a warmer glow over an image by shifting the white balance towards the reds and yellows. Alternatively, you could cast a colder feel to an image by shifting it towards the greens and blues. Try playing with the white balance while editing your beach pictures to see what different effects you can achieve. My biggest piece of advice with white balance control is to keep it subtle and not overdo it. Refer to our white balance chart for a closer look.
Beaches provide a gorgeous pallet of colours including blues, greens, yellows and whites – these colours tend to provide a natural level of contrast. Another alternative is to edit your beach photographs with a black and white or monochrome filter or preset in your post-processing software. You’ll notice your pictures display contrast and look interesting thanks to the different tones of the sky, clouds, water and beach.
With your shutter speed, you can control the overall visual pace of an image. Using a faster shutter speed will freeze your subjects. This is handy for photographing kids playing on the beach, in the water, or for capturing bird-life on the wing. Slowing your shutter speed allows more light in as the sensor is exposed for longer. You can also use slower shutter speeds to capture motion in your subjects – imagine the same children playing but with a slight blur to indicate movement. Be mindful of slow shutter speeds causing highlight blow-outs and potential camera shakes – that’s why we recommend bringing a tripod.
RAW image files hold all data captured by the camera’s image sensor. While the files are larger than JPEGs, you have more control when editing the images later on in post-processing. With files in the RAW format, you can scale back any blown-out highlights and pull the details out of darker shadows. As beach scenes are often over-bright, you have a better chance of resurrecting an overexposed photo with RAW.
If you don’t want to splash out on a new camera, consider using your smartphone for beach photography. Most current-generation smartphones feature a camera – or multiple – that produce stunning shots. What’s more, the camera app allows for more than just automatic photography. With many, you can alter ISO and your shutter speed for creative effects – experiment to get the best results. Be sure to select your focus area with a tap of the screen, especially if you’re capturing subjects in the foreground. See more iPhone photography tips here.