How to Take Great Beach Sunset Portraits

You may have been asked to take a family portrait. Or perhaps, if you are like many professional photographers, you are being asked to take a sunset portrait. Sunsets are always magical, but for you, photographing a beach sunset can be a particular challenge. Here we share some tips and techniques for taking great beach sunset portraits.

1. Find your perfect spot.

There are many different types of beach. You need to find the one where the sun sets behind the horizon and the sky is clear of clouds and pollution. This will be your backdrop.

2. Pick your best angle.

Your background is going to be important. It should provide a setting that is suitable for you to take some stunning photos. The ideal place would be where you can see a lot of sky, either with the coastline, mountains or other objects in the foreground. To get the most impact, you want a low vantage point. A high vantage point can mean that your subject will be blocked out by the sky. However, if your subject is tall, then a high viewpoint will be flattering.

3. Focus on the subject.

In most cases, the subject will be the main focus. They will be the star of the show and the most important person in the photo. This will depend on the composition. It’s helpful to set your camera to manual mode so you can adjust exposure, focus and aperture in advance. You can also use a zoom lens and adjust your composition to fit the area you are focusing on.

4. Use filters.

You can use filters to bring colour to your images and create depth. Depending on the type of filter you use, it will alter the intensity and colour of light and the mood of your photograph. When using a polariser, keep the light source on your subject and you will see the colours change. You can also use a polarising filter to give a dreamy, ethereal feel to your image.

5. Consider the background.

For more dramatic images, you might consider framing your subject against the sunset sky. If you are photographing people, then you will probably want to include some foliage or a building in the scene.

7. Keep moving.

If you want to get the most out of a sunset, you will need to move around. If you stay still, you won’t capture the movement of the sun as it drops behind the horizon. Instead, you will be looking at a static scene.

8. Take a break.

Photographers need a break every now and then, but this doesn’t mean you stop taking photos. Just have a cup of coffee or tea. You may even feel tired or drained. If so, don’t worry. You don’t have to force yourself to keep going.

9. Enjoy the moment.

It’s easy to let your mind wander and miss the most exciting part of the sunset. That’s why it’s important to enjoy your time, to savor each second and to look to the future.

Other tips

Make sure the sun is fully in the frame and is low in the sky. This is because it is easier to control the light and the composition when there is a large area of white sky. The further away the sun is, the more yellow the sky will look in the photograph.

Avoid photographing when the sun is directly overhead or directly in front of you. Your subject will cast long shadows onto the sand and these will appear in the photo.

Set the aperture (focal length) setting on the camera. This determines the depth of field and whether you need a wide or narrow perspective.

If you want a wider perspective, set the aperture (focal length) at 50mm or less. At this setting you will capture the entire beach and surrounding landscape in the photo.

To achieve a narrower perspective, set the aperture (focal length) at 200mm or greater. At this setting the background will be very close, but the subject will still appear to be in the center of the frame.

Choose a shutter speed. This will determine how fast the subject moves during the exposure. Longer shutter speeds produce a blurred image of the moving subject. Shorter shutter speeds can freeze the motion of the subject. Experiment with different shutter speeds to find the ideal speed.

You can use the shutter speed function on most point-and-shoot digital cameras to select an appropriate shutter speed. On SLR (single lens reflex) cameras, the shutter speed can be adjusted by changing the f-stop (aperture).

Make sure your camera is on manual mode. Otherwise, the camera will select the optimal settings for you, depending on the light level.

If you are taking a group shot, use the timer setting to ensure that you get a great shot. If you have no time to wait, use the self-timer.

Have your camera ready to shoot, so that you can instantly change the settings when the light changes.

Try shooting some practice pictures to get used to the new settings.

Ideas for Beach Sunset Portraits

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