Going to the beach is a great vacation for most families, or at the very least something most people want to do once. There is nothing quite like the soothing sounds of the waves, feeling the sun on your face, wind in your hair and sand in between your toes. Most that come to the ocean, come with a camera in hand, to capture it all on film…who wouldn’t want to save the grandeur of sea meeting sky? We all do! Yet, far too often the photographer forfeits actually enjoying the moment. So, it’s important to have a light framework in mind of the kind of shots you hope to get, even if it is candids you have in mind. This way, you too can live out loud on your own vacation and be a part of the sparkling moments.
In addition, there are definitely hazards to beach bumming and photography. First, sand and cameras don’t mix. Unseen sand floating on the breeze can get in the guts of camera or crevice of a lens faster than you can blink. Second, water drops can not only ruin your shot sitting silently on the lens, but they can fry the parts of your camera, too. And last, time on the beach often means excessive heat. As with any electronic, this can be a recipe for disaster. For these reasons, it is critical to take pictures with a purpose. Then, you can put the camera safely away and live a little!
Heed these top 10 ideas, and you will surely walk away with a shot worth framing…and enjoy your days at the beach!
1. The Twirl – If you have small children, grab under their arms with their back to you and twirl them in a circle. Little feet flying high above the sand with the sea in the background makes a very whimsical shot. Not to mention, the very act of spinning makes most kids smile. (And the very act of spinning makes adults smile too, but usually it is because they are suddenly aware how dizzy they get so fast in their old age!) Needless to say, it makes a happy scene – and the best pictures capture emotion.
2. Out to Sea – This picture is a simple medium shot (capturing your subject waist up) that catches a profile of a family member looking thoughtfully out to sea. Sober faces in pictures are often more revealing of character and even if it is staged, it invokes feeling. This is so much better than just taking a picture of the horizon with no person because it will lack personality and you will rarely capture on film the magic of what you see. A subject will give your picture depth and the beach provides context, a lifetime memory. In this shot, be sure to put your horizon on the ¼ or ¾ line of your frame, for a more artistic look.
3. Down Low – The down low is exactly that, the photographer getting down low, by the sand. Position your camera at a higher point on the sand, or less than a foot above. This picture is best if there are 3 fields of interest, for example, the sand or a child’s shovel closer to the lens but in the shot (foreground), a person (your focal point in the medium ground) and the ocean/blue sky in the background.
4. The Dog – Not all beaches allow pets, but if they do…your dog works best. If you do not have your dog in tow, be sure to keep an eye out for a dog. Kids and dogs together make for great beach shots. There is something lovable and very natural about a dog on the sand. The combo just screams life!
5. Sunset Silhouette – A very simple capture it to allow your subject (person) to stand between you and the setting sun. Ensure they are far enough away to capture their whole body because depending on the light, or automatic flash in some cameras, if they are too close to the lens, your camera may actually focus on them. The goal is to focus on the sunset and allow your subject to serve as a silhouette. Hold your camera still and ask your subject to be still. In low light, steady hands make for a sharper shot. Be sure to place the horizon on the bottom 1/4th of the frame for a more dynamic look.
6. Buried with Purpose – Okay, most have seen this shot of kids or adults buried in sand up to their neck. But one mistake people make when capturing this on film is shooting directly over the subject. Get low to the ground and make sure to catch the water in the background – shooting slightly from the side. Your buried buddy won’t look as fat faced and the full range of field adds a lot to the context.
7. Inside Out – If the waves aren’t too wild, the inside out shot is very cool because it really can capture a beach scene well. Wade into the water just far enough so when you look back to shore, ocean is in the foreground. Careful with that camera. This offers a unique perspective and can change a typical beach picture into a feast for the eyes…with water, depth of the beach, crowd (or isolation) and the resort/hotel surroundings.
8. Fun in the Sun – Forget the staged “say cheese” photo. Capture real smiles by instructing multiple people in your group to put their arms around one another in a line then sway left or right (back and forth). Something about the rocking motion slowly left then right can add a lot of action and is sure to catch a more natural smile in the balance. This picture is great for people who might be self conscious about the group they are with, or their bathing suit. This apprehension comes out in expression and when the mind is taken off of that for a moment, the look is fun and everyone that views the picture will say, “Wow, they had fun.” As opposed to, “Look at her butt!”
9. The Find – At the beach, there are so many things to find and show off in a picture. Maybe your child found a shell, or sharks tooth. Maybe a sand dollar or starfish washed up. Perhaps someone caught a crab or fish. Whether it is unique or something as common as a bottle of suntan lotion SFP 75, it can make a great picture. Have your subject hold the object between their own face and the camera. Zoom in for a close up and be sure the blue waves are in the background. Now you have yourself an item, a person, a place and a picture that sings.
10. Love – Oh yes, the greatest of these is definitely love and you can capture it on film. Even if you have to ask someone to take the picture for you, it will be worth it. You and your loved one (family, friend, or pet) sit facing the ocean. Ask the photographer to stand behind you while you sit. Have them photograph your backs, arms around one another. You can look at each other and grin, or both look out to sea, or just have one looking at the other while the other stares at the horizon. This is a great shot, specifically if the sun is low and the shadows are long. And ultimately, captures exactly what every photographer hopes for…a great moment!