As you may know, we at TS Gallant Photography live in Florida, land of endless beaches. Just in my area, there are at least 10 great beaches within easy driving distance (for me, "easy" is within an hour from home). It's why people live in this area (I'm convinced of that, though it's only my opinion) and it's why people come here to spend their vacation and why a great many people decide on a sandy beach wedding.
So, now that you've decided that photos on the beach are what you're after, there are some things you might need to know. Whether your are planning a destination wedding at the beach, want to build up your model portfolio, get senior pictures for school, capture your "Save-the-Date" photos or for whatever reason you have, I've come up with some helpful information. This is primarily written to help our beach-loving clients get the best photos possible, with us, but it is also, in part, meant to guide the decision-making process for anyone, anywhere in the world, find a photographer that won't disappoint, by guiding you with things to look for and questions to ask during your search for the perfect photos.
First, location. Yes, I do realize this seems like a silly point to lead with but not all beaches are the same...at all. Say you're from out-of-state and looking online. You know you have Aunt Tilly in Cape Coral so you look for a nearby beach. Eureka! Cape Coral has it's own beach so problem solved! Well, what you may not realize is that this beach is surrounded by suburbia, is right next to a boat launch area so full with incoming and outgoing boats and jet skis, not to mention it's only about the size of a tennis court. It is a pretty disappointing location, for a lot of things. Now, I will add, before any locals jump me for this, you CAN get great photos there but it's a lot more work and your photographer better have a full grasp of all things photography. It is NOT for an amateur. That all being said, just make sure you do more than due diligence on researching the perfect beach for the look and feel that you want. Google Images is a great resource, as are local Chamber of Commerce sites and blogs that are local to the area.
Next is the time of day. Most people have at least heard of "the golden hour" with photography. If you don't know what it is, this refers to the times of day when the light is the most flattering and least harsh. You know when you're standing outside at noon and the sun is burning through your eyes and you have to squint to even speak to someone and photos look like you are a talking skull with eye sockets instead of eyes, caused by deep shadows? Well, it's the opposite of that. About 30 minutes after sunrise until about an hour after sunrise, then about 60-90 minutes before sunset, when the sun is low in the sky, is the most pleasing light. It achieves a lovely natural glow to skin, there aren't harsh shadows, people don't have to squint to see...it really is a great time for photos. Be sure to pick a time early in the morning or late in the afternoon, if shooting at the beach, if you want great skin tones.
To further the time of day point, I can't talk beach photography without mentioning that it's hot. Plain and simple, you are going to sweat. It's only a matter of volume, quite honestly. If you decide to shoot between 10am and 4pm, especially during the hottest seasonal periods in the year, it will be a lot of sweating. That means makeup will run, hair will get damp, shirts will show large dark circles at the armpits, backs of shirts will be dark right down the middle center and both men and women may have dark spots at the chest. If you're going for the "I just ran a marathon that ended at the beach" look, then by all means, go for it. However, that's not really the final appearance that most people hire a professional photographer for.
What to wear is also important. Men, women and children will want to wear comfortable clothing that fits well. You will want it to be able to keep you as cool as possible, also. Standing in a long-sleeved, ankle-length dress and a full 5-piece suit may not be ideal. It may look great, but you could overheat and have sweat running down your back. Not the most pleasant sensation. Kids, especially, tend to get really cranky when overheated. Ladies, a flowing dress does look amazing (probably my favorite look for the beach) but if you're doing a family session, remember that flowing skirt becomes a parachute and likes to blow right over the faces of the kiddos. Bright colors that reflect light are great. Guys, as contradictory as it sounds, wearing an undershirt might help keep the sweat from showing through to the outer shirt. Certain materials also keep a body cool more than others. Up-dos with long hair, especially for kids, works very well since there's almost always wind at the beach. Even the best photographer in the world can't stop a gust of wind from at least partially covering a face with a wispy long tendril of hair just as the picture is being taken.
A hugely important thing to remember is, starting a few days in advance, start really hydrating. Drink lots and lots of water (then drink even more). Seriously, that sweat thing is bad enough but if you compound that with being dehydrated, you can cause great bodily harm to yourself. You never want to end a session with a face plant into the sand or surf because you've passed out from lack of water. Children are also a lot less cooperative when thirsty (or hungry). So, while part of the TS Gallant Photography experience is to have water provided to our clients, we have run out before so it might be an idea to also bring your own and maybe some fruit for the kids to snack on. Grapes are perfect. So are orange slices. Things that won't really stick in or stain little teeth. I don't recommend candy. It's usually very sticky and messy. Same with fruity drinks and juices.
Lastly, when on your quest to find the perfect photographer for you, be sure to check their website for examples of their work...and be sure it's a real website. One of the most glaring signs that a photographer is only an amateur is that they don't have a real website. Instead, they may have only social media, a free website or a website through a company that is advertising heavy. These are generally photographers with web addresses like "ABCPhotography@freewebs.net" or QRSPhotography_Shutterfly/Portfolios.com", etc. A professional photographer will take themselves and their clients seriously enough to have a genuine website, free of advertisements. If they have no examples of beach photography, it might be wise to find one who does. It's not as easy as just showing up with a camera and calling it a day. Beach photography is really very tricky so you want a photographer who has experience.
You may also want to make sure that they are using a professional camera and not a consumer-level camera. You can ask what they use and then look it up to see if it's designed for the average person or for professionals. Again, a real professional will take themselves and their clients seriously enough to invest in gear that is designed for the job at hand. Professional gear is more rugged, dependable and generally produces a better quality of image. This is especially important for beach photography. A beach photographer should also have an external, off-camera light source (meaning not the sun and not something attached to the top of their camera).
With TS Gallant Photography, we hit the beach with reflectors, umbrellas, scrims and either speed lights or studio lights and stands. We often bring a beauty dish, as well. We proudly use a Canon 1Dx full-frame professional camera and high-quality lenses. You can find examples of our beach photos on our website at www.TSGallantPhotography.com, on our Facebook page, in our Instagram feed and on Pinterest.
Please drop us a line, below, to let us know if you found this helpful or if you just have other comments or questions. If you personally have alternative thoughts to any of the points and suggestions above, or any helpful tips of your own, feel free to leave those comments below, too.
FYI, some of our favorite local beaches are (in no particular order) Turner Beach, Blind Pass Beach, Lover's Key, Bowditch Point and Barefoot Beach.