When you live in San Diego, beach weather can be all year. In fact, the beach is just another weekly or, for some, a daily activity. Taking great family photos at the beach, however, can be hard. After all, it's bright, sandy and people everywhere. Here are some tips to improve your beach photography with your family.
1. Protect your camera.
I start with this because sand can destroy camera gear. Sand tends to get everywhere, including finding its way into your camera body. So make sure that you have a lens attached at all times. If you must swap lenses, do so while having your camera gear elevated on a table and make sure your hands and body are free of sand. Also, sand can scratch lenses, so it's always advisable to use a UV filter to protect the outer glass of your lens.
Also, your camera might be water resistant, or even weather sealed, but salt water will cause corrosive damage, so be careful in the water. If you do get salt water on it, don't worry, just wipe it off with a cloth as soon as you can.
Also, don't leave your gear unattended. Some people can't be trusted, if you want to go for a swim, put it in the car.
2. If you're out mid-day, the sun is going to be bright. Hecka bright, so just as its best to wear sunglasses for your eyes, it's also advisable to use an ND Filter (Neutral Density Filter) to reduce the amount of light entering your camera. Consider it sunglasses for your lenses. They sell ND filters at different tints, but anything between a 2 and 6 stop ND filter should work fine.
It's also important to know that when you use an ND Filter, your camera might have a harder time focusing because the scene will be considerably darker.
The advantage of using an ND filter is that you can lower your aperture (or F-Stop) to increase the depth of field. Whereas you might have to shoot at f/12 or f/16 you know can shoot at f/4 thereby increasing background blur and isolating your subject thus creating better portraits.
3. While sometimes you want to increase the depth of field to cause background blur, other times you want everything to be in focus. Setting your camera to Aperture Priority mode and selecting F/8, you are using your lenses optimal F-Stop to produce tack sharp images. Being that it's so bright out, your camera will adjust the shutter speed accordingly. Don't worry about camera shake, because your shutter speed will be well over 1/800th of a second. (Camera shake is a problem with speeds slower than 160th).
4. The best beach images tell a story, so think about compelling angles or captivating points of view. Get close to your subjects and provide visual context to what is going on in the frame. Shoot wide to show the scene, then shoot tight to capture details. Avoid the temptation to shoot snapshots. If your 4-year-old is building a sand castle, get down on his eye level and get close. Is your daughter boogie boarding? Have her run and jump in your direction and use your cameras burst mode to capture the action. Always look for interesting ways to tell the story.
Also, it's best to remember general rules of composition like the "Rule of thirds", for more information on compositional rules, check out this video.
5. Shoot at golden hour.
Between 6-8pm is when the light magic happens. Something amazing occurs when the sun lowers in the sky, and the sun catches all the atmospheric particles. Everything turns a beautiful warm glow and makes everything gorgeous. It's these times when it's best to take photos. I love shooting silhouettes and allowing the sun to spill over the subject.
The beach can be a fantastic place to get some amazing pictures. Pay close attention to your gear as well as the composition, and you will be sure to love images that you produce.