One of the things I find myself doing unusually often is trying to take pictures while I’m at a beach. When you consider that you usually go to the beach on a bright, warm and sunny day, and then factor in the reflected light from the water, it’s quite easy to end up with overexposed pictures.
There are a few things you can do to help get things balanced and working out for you. Granted, I’m hardly a professional, but every little helps, right? I’ll even share some of my horrendous attempts. Sound fair?
Getting your camera settings sorted.
It’s key to make sure your camera is set up properly. It depends what you’re trying to snap, but you should check that your aperture setting is at least relevant for what you’re trying to capture – that’s to say, if you’re going for a landscape, go for something like a big fat 18 or a 23 or something like that.
Then you’re going to want to make sure you’ve actually focused on whatever you’re taking a picture of, and choose a suitable shutter speed. From experience, when it’s bright you’re going to want a faster speed, but the issue with that is that you end up with harsh, jagged water. The only workaround I’ve found so far for that is to go a bit earlier or later in the day, when there isn’t a much natural light to ruin your fun.
Anyway, starting point gets you a pretty terrible picture like this one, with harsh water and terrible focus. That’s also disregarding any photo composition “rules”. Yeah, you can laugh if you want.
Become a champion of the light.
Nerd quotes intended, but the gist here is to make sure you use the light available to your advantage. Like I mentioned before, it’s probably going to be bright, with lots of reflected light and that will impact your shutter speed and exposure massively. On the plus side you can choose an ISO closer to 100 for better quality.
What you want to try to do is get your light source, aka the sun, behind you. This means that you’ll be pointing your lens away from the sun, towards a lit up object, scene, whatever. It’ll help with getting a clear and bright picture. Which is just what you want.
Looking at bright clouds with the sun almost directly overhead is not what you want. You end up with some horrifically overexposed, washed out picture like this one. Shout out to the bird for being a team player though – my most patient model yet.
Choose your ‘subject’.
When I set out to take these pictures, it was with the intention of trying a few things and improving my ability. I wanted to get a picture which was well contrasted but still a bit interesting, and although I was at a beach, it didn’t necessarily mean taking pictures of the sand. I settled for trying to get a decent photograph of this bridge.
This is where the next piece of advice comes in. Decide what you’re taking a picture of, and build your photograph around it. Whether that means using the rule of thirds, framing, or any other composition method, you want your photograph to showcase what you’re trying to snap.
The other really important thing is to test different camera settings, and take a whole bunch of pictures from different points, different angles and really just play around with it. There’s no fun taking one photo and moving on, and you never know what you can achieve when you finally process the picture. You never know, you might surprise yourself. I did.
For your entertainment though, here is what I ended up with initially when I decided that I wanted to capture the bridge, poor settings etc. on display, so really glad I took a bunch of additional photos to play with later.
and Voila! the finished article.
Here I managed to get the lighting right, and honestly, it was pure fluke. I’ve moved further along the beach to try and avoid having the waves in the background because I felt they were too harsh, and I’ve used to bridge as a leading line/point of interest which has a pretty stark contrast to the rest of the photo.
All in all, it’s one that I’m happy with, one of a handful I thought turned out okay. Keep in mind I took a hell of a lot of pictures. You never know what kind of results you’re going to get until afterwards, because unfortunately, when it’s that bright outside, you can’t see a whole lot on an LCD screen.
Hope this has been at least some help, albeit pretty basic. Share your photos in the comments!