Equipment for a beach photoshoot?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by darkeyes41, Jun 22, 2009.

  1. darkeyes41 macrumors newbie

    Feb 10, 2009
    hey everyone. ive recently gotten into photography and i just booked a 3 day beach photo shoot with 3 different families. i have my Nikon D40, additional 55-200 mm VR lens, and a tripod. do i need any sort of lighting equipment? and what settings should i use while taking pictures? ISO? Aperture? does anyone have experience with beach portraits?? i appreciate any feedback. thanks!
  2. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    I've just bought myself a car. Which door should I use to get in? What do I do with that wheel-shaped thing and the stick that pokes up out of the floor?

    Erm... why are you booking a "3 day beach photo shoot" before you've learned how to operate your camera? :confused:
  3. kymac macrumors 6502a


    Nov 4, 2006
    well.. it sounds like its already planned so i'm pretty sure he's looking for an answer instead of an opinion on whether he should go through with it or not..

    also, as another photography beginner with the exact same camera and lens, who's never done a beach shoot before, i am interested in the answer for this question as well..
  4. cosmokanga2 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 7, 2008
    Canada, where we live in igloos.
    Never done any shoots but I would think a reflector and sun light diffuser* would sure help.

    *Can't remember the professional name for it.
  5. darkeyes41 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 10, 2009
    i definitely wasnt looking for a sarcastic comment. i needed help. not everyone has been doing this for years. you have to start somewhere. does anyone ELSE have any ideas?
  6. absolut_mac macrumors 6502a


    Oct 30, 2003
    Dallas, Texas
    If you want to do an excellent job, get a light meter for incident and reflective readings i.e. how much light is falling on the subject versus being reflected off it. Even then, trial and error plus exposure bracketing will help you get well exposed shots.

    Good ones are not too cheap, see the link below, but you can usually find a decent deal on eBay or some of the Amazon resellers.

    Barring that, if I were you, I would rely on the Nikon's beach scene mode and try a few exposure bracketed shots beforehand to see which produces the most pleasing results.
  7. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    Yes, we all start somewhere. Which means learning how to use the tools of the trade before setting up assignments. Sincerely...
  8. NintendoChick macrumors regular

    Jun 30, 2008
    I don't exactly approve of the circumstances, but I have some advise (I have the same equipment [and have since added a few primes...]):

    I wouldn't suggest the kit lens for any sort of "traditional" portrait (the distortion makes faces look funny if you get too close). Instead, use the 55-200mm and step back. (also, you might get more natural looking shots, as a camera's not in the families' faces ) Keep the camera away from the sand. Sand gets EVERYWHERE.

    As a general rule: Keep the iso as low as necessary.
    A larger aperture (smaller numbers) generally looks nice in portraits

    Along with that, I agree with everything that has been said in the thread thus far. :)

    I'm just curious, but would you indulge me by showing some of your previous work (specifically portraits)?

    ps: I live in a desert. I still have the sand problem, but no water...
  9. darkeyes41 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 10, 2009
    thanks for the useful information. and let me say this. its not like i bought this camera yesterday and booked a shoot the next day. i got my camera in early april, and since then ive been reading all kinds of books on settings,how to use everything, composition,. etc. i know what ISO is. i know what Aperture is. im not dumb. i just thought someone on here might have had experience with beach photography. and might be able to save me the time of getting there, and messing with the settings for 30 minutes to try to get the best outcome. so by me asking, i was just trying to save myself some time. i do know how to work my camera. thanks for the USEFUL comments. dont be so quick to judge. heres a couple of pics like you requested.



  10. NintendoChick macrumors regular

    Jun 30, 2008
    Thank you for the clarification. By your post, we honestly had no way of telling your experience level...

    I have actually seen posts saying (roughly quoted): "I just got a Nikon D40 and am shooting my friends wedding. Any advise?"

    I think that's why Dolyem was flipping out.

    (In his terms though, Having a camera since April will probably not cut it for "experienced". Just so you know...)

    Oh! You should try to get in one of those clichéd sunset silhouette shots. Those are my favorite. :D
    What's your flickr account?
  11. Afterthecalm macrumors member

    Feb 3, 2007
    I have experience in this.. and by experience, I mean that I have only shot 3 times at the beach and I know what not to do, not so much what you need to do.

    Don't use wide apertures, your camera doesn't have a fast enough shutter to compensate. I shot a couple pics with a f1.4 at around 2 pm at the beach in Aperture Priority, and even at 1/4000 everything was blown out.

    But I do recommend using Aperture Priority when dealing with sun & beach.

    Don't shoot at noon either.

    Shoot near the afternoon, leaning towards sunset.

    Sunrise (or morning time) does not yield the same results

    ISO 100 for everything
  12. darkeyes41 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 10, 2009

    thanks!! this is the kind of information i was looking for. :)
  13. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    ideally, shoot within 3 hours of sunrise or sunset.

    get a high-quality UV/clear/skylight filter if you don't already have one. this is one situation where they are useful, since there's salt, water, and sand flying around.

    i doubt you'll need the telephoto zoom.

    i doubt you'll have a problem with shutter speed since your lens is f/3.5 (or thereabouts) at its widest.

    if you don't have a flash, get one. it MUST have high-speed shutter sync. this will be used for fill. play with it outdoors to get used to it and how much FEC you have to apply. eventually, you'll want to be able to light the subject solely with flash and underexpose the background by about one or two stops.

    when using the flash, put the subject in the shade.
  14. OceanView macrumors 65816

    Sep 16, 2005
    Oh boy, sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen.

    The light varies greatly during the day so you have to choose the right time to get the best exposure. You can use ND filter and/or circular polarizing filter to reduce some of the light if you like.

    For a beginning shoot, I would have only scheduled 1 family and evaluated my results before shooting another family.
  15. darkeyes41 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 10, 2009
    i know the people well. the 3 families are best friends. each year they go to the beach and decided that they wanted some group pictures taken. its not like these are going on a billboard. its really laid back and relaxed. theyre not expecting some pictures that could go in a magazine.
  16. Afterthecalm macrumors member

    Feb 3, 2007
    I looked at the 3 sample pics he provided, and I am quite impressed.. I don't think it will be the train wreck you might think it to be.

    It'll be alright.. it's not like he's going to get solid white over exposed disasters.

    Since he doesn't have the equipment as say a Sports Illustrated swimsuit crew, I would suggest he only shoot in the afternoon as to avoid harsh contrasty blown out shots.

    While we all have constructive ideas to give to him, I try to base my answers with what the photographer has on hand, and not what he will need later on down..since time seems to be of the essence here
  17. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    Shoot very early in the day if it's an eastern beach, late in the day if it's western to get the sun low over the water, and use it as a backlight, with flash as the main for the "water in the background" shots, then shoot at the opposite end of the day for the "beach in the background" shots with your flash as normal fill, but the sun at enough of an angle that your subjects don't squint. As a general rule, use fill flash to light people outdoors almost every time you can, preferable with an off-camera flash on a bracket so the flash is off-axis from the lens. Personally, I'd shoot on manual with the flash power dialed down from the default matrix balanced fill- but how much depends on the angle and power of the ambient light. Use the histogram or meter spot or center-weighted to get the exposure right, as the sand will bias matrix a bit too much.

    Seriously, "I'm shooting some friends at the beach" has significantly different connotations than "I've booked three shoots." Coupled with a question on ISO, settings and *if* you need to bring your own light, it definitely sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen- and the connotation for "I've booked" *IS* that the shots be magazine-worthy.

    As far as your samples go:

    The first image could have used fill flash to avoid the dark bags under the child's eyes, and avoiding the harsh mid-day light which resulted in the blown highlights and distracting white reflection in the background would improve things immensely. Pay attention to what's in the background, as well as it's tone- the eye is drawn to bright spots, and you really want the eye drawn to your subject. Don't shoot at mid-day unless you can't possibly avoid it. Wait for your subject to look up, and make sure they're not blinking- people can only "connect" well with portraits if they can see the eyes, not having the subject's eyes open works for "moody" artistic shots trying to portray an emotion or action, but not so well for family-style portraiture. A little extra light on the hair is ok, the completely blown out forearm isn't so good.

    The second image needs to have some "space" for the girl to look into, and again avoiding the harsh mid-day sun and dynamic range that's nowhere near the camera's capability would have helped. The brighter background elements on the left draw the attention away from the child's eyes a bit too, positioning to the right a bit would have helped with that, but you'd be fighting with the increased color in the background- so overall moving the child and chair over to her left, then shooting with her on the right side of the frame would have been a much better adjustment to make, keeping the muted colors in the background to make her the center of attention. Again, the harsh sunlight hurts, but bringing enough flash power to bring the general level of light up a couple of stops would have helped that from being a blown-out patch. The negative space on the right draws the eye away from the girl's face and eyes, framing with space for her to look into would have negated that and made it a much, much better image.

    The last image isn't bad, but the stop or so of difference in the shirt isn't matched by the lighting on the face, which is a tad distracting- but you can fix that by damping down the bright side of the shirt in post-processing. More problematic is the pose- the ears aren't symmetrical enough for the straight-on look to work as well as a slightly off to the side view. I also find that de-yellowing the teeth in post for portraits helps immensely.

    As far as ISO, always shoot at base ISO if you can, as that gives you the most dynamic range possible from the sensor, the only time you should ever go above base ISO is if you need the additional speed.

    As far as aperture, you should shoot for the depth of field you require, using a depth of field calculator is good, especially if you can work out the distance and field of view necessary for group and individual shots.

    Afterthecalm: The only reason for a blown out picture is not exposing correctly- it doesn't matter if you're shooting at 1/125th or 1/4000th, you have to check your exposure, and dial in bias if your metering is presented with a challenge. Beaches with lighter colored sand are like shooting in the snow, and if you don't bias your exposure similarly then you'll get poor results. The histogram on a digital camera is one of the best ways to judge exposure, as well as chimping some test shots.
  18. mattyb240 macrumors 6502a

    May 11, 2008
    Ignore what one of the people saying to use aperture priority mode unless you want crap shots! With everyone's advice use your tripod and remote release.
  19. CATinHAWAII macrumors member


    Aug 21, 2007
    --== Hawaii ! ==--
    wow... great question and answers.. now IVE got to go try
    it out at the beach...
  20. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    What exactly is it about selecting the depth of field you wish that makes the shots bad? Exposure modes are exposure modes, unless you simply think a DSLR is a big point and shoot, which mode you use has *little* effect on the outcome if your exposure is correct for the lighting conditions and subject- which generally means biasing the exposure for the lighting conditions.

    If I'm not in manual mode, and I don't need a specific shutter speed because of subject movement, I shoot happily in aperture priority and I don't get "crap shots" because of it.

    If you're using the in-camera metering on any DSLR, the difference between shutter, aperture and program modes is in which setting is the priority- you'll still get the equivalent exposure in any of the modes- since that's based upon the metering and generally the camera's exposure database.

    To put it another way, if I'm in aperture mode and get 1/250th at f/5.6, if I go to shutter priority and choose 1/250th, I'm still going to get f/5.6, and if I'm in program mode and the camera chooses f/5.6 I'm still going to get 1/250th- if you're getting consistently bad results in any mode, it's because you don't understand your camera's metering system, don't understand exposure, or are expecting the camera to do it all for you- not because of the mode you're in. If you use your histogram and bias exposure correctly, or spot meter on a gray card you'll get the correct exposure no matter which mode you use to determine the exposure.
  21. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    I understand you're more seasoned, having your camera since April. However, the point people are trying to make is that no matter how many books you have read it is surprising to me that you cannot figure out what "settings" to use when around bright sand, reflective water, and multiple people.

    Yes, a larger aperture looks nice but if he is shooting a family he has to pay attention to the number of people, the placement, and the DOF.

    Shoot everything as though you'll see it in a magazine. If someone is paying you they say it's casual now and they're not expecting much but the second money exchanges hands THEY EXPECT A LOT.

    WHAT?! :eek:
    Tell me that you're kidding.

    OP: Follow what Compuwar said and look past whatever hurt feelings you have over Doylem's comments. The two of these people have been shooting longer than many of us combined. No matter how it is delivered they're both saying some pretty important stuff.

    Items I bring to a "beach" shoot:
    Tripod (you will soon find this will limit your creatively in angles if you're not careful which brings me to the next item ...)
    Fast lens
    Light meter.
  22. Padaung macrumors 6502


    Jan 22, 2007
    Good luck, you've set yourself a tricky assignment for a relative beginner to photography. Some good advice has been posted here, esp. Compuwar about times of day to shoot at. Knowing how to use the sun to it's maximum makes a big difference.

    I'll add to those who have said be careful about your camera - sand is a b***h. Once in the camera/lens it's a pain to resolve. Sea water on the front of a lens is also a pain.

    I think it's great you are out there trying these things and pushing yourself - best way to learn imo. True to what others have said though, be considerate for your models. You don't want to be faffing around too much for them to get annoyed (and believe me, good friends still get impatient), you may want to use them for more practice shoots in the future.

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