Each year many customers ask me for tips and ideas as to how to improve their photos during their summer vacation.
Step 1: Polarize It! – A circular polarizing filter will do magical things to your photos – especially at the beach or during the fall foliage season. First and foremost, it will minimize glare on reflective surfaces, such as water (which is commonly found at the beach, in case you didn’t know). That’s something that no amount of photoshop can mimic. In addition to that, it’ll help add contrast and color saturation to your images, giving them that additional “pop” that so many photographers covet. There is one downside to using a polarizing filter and that’s the fact that it’s going to cut your light down by approximately 2 stops. Make sure you have enough light for the exposure or use a tripod.
Just like any other filter there are many different categories of circular polarizers. They can range in price from $50 all the way up to $300, depending on size and brand. The better the filter, the better the photo. It’s as simple as that.
Recommended brands: Promaster HGX, Promaster Digital, or B+W if you’re feeling rather German.
Step 2: Use A Flash! – If you’re photographing people outdoors you almost always want to use a flash. Using a flash will help minimize those high contrast areas and fill in those unflattering dark shadows that appear under the eyes, nose, and chin. It will also help if your subject is in a backlit situation, which nearly always happens at the beach. Unless it’s raining – but then why are you even at the beach?!
Step 3: Overexpose! – It’s not often that somebody recommends you overexpose your photos. At the beach or in snow your camera will usually underexpose in any of the auto-modes. The light being reflected off the sand/snow is so bright that it fools the camera into thinking that that’s the light source – which will then underexpose your image. Find the exposure compensation feature on your camera and overexpose your image by .3 to 1 stop. A significant amount of point and shoot cameras even have a beach/snow scene mode, which will do this automatically for you.
Step 4: Check Your Watch! (or Cell Phone!) – The time of day can considerably impact the quality of your images. The optimal time is an hour before sunset – also known as “The Happy Hour for Photographers The Doesn’t Involve Booze”. At this time of the day the sunlight tends to be more diffuse, giving you softer and most pleasing lighting. At this point you still would want to use flash.
Step 5: Be Careful! – Sand is a cameras worst enemy. If the sand or salt in the air gets onto your camera’s sensor it may be curtains for your vacation photos. Keep your camera in a zip-lock or waterproof bag. As long as the bag is clean and clear you should be able to shoot through the bag without issue.
As always, please stop by the store or give us a call if you have any additional questions or concerns.
And don’t forget the sunblock.