Model Experiments on the Beach

Working with models is for me a great opportunity to experiment with different lighting styles, different looks and techniques whilst on location with a person who has the patient to stand there, to co-operate and to perhaps add interest to the shot.

I have learnt since working with the odd model a few interesting things:

  • Models and photographers don’t appreciate the same thing, photographers are looking at light, at backgrounds, at stories and at what creates a great interest – models often want to look and feel good.
  • If a model’s portfolio has just one facial expression – that could be all they can do, or all that they are happy with – a great model has a portfolio that showcases a range of styles and expressions and is happy to experiment and can often add value to the images with his/her input and ideas.
  • Mature models are often more interesting to work with, they have more stories to tell, more life experience.
  • Being a female photographer is unusual – a lot of models are nervous working with a girl at first, once they relax – it is often great fun, girl friends together and they open up about other photographers they work with, and some have made the model feel uncomfortable…  my personal advice is to get to know the photographer before you shoot naked or part naked – be comfortable with them first, and to be honest if they can’t take flattering images with clothes on… I would not go any further.
  • Models see a lot of photos of themselves – their view of the end image is just their opinion… they are looking for different things, and don’t really appreciate the value of the photographer at times.

These are some experimental shots from a recent beach shoot where I am experimenting with camera style and lighting out and about, the day was overcast, I had a flash on camera with a magmod diffuser and an off camera flash with a yellow gel behind the model. I wanted to capture the warmth of summer (it was March) – add my own touch (the sunglass) and create a shot that was a little different – in processing I added the lens flare and some bokeh.

The lens flare I think is a little too much, I think it does need some more work, but I was please with how you can see her eyes through the tinted glasses – it is an example of a style that I associate with glamour, fashion shoots, and professionals, the model in question does not like it.

Bournemouth Beach 1
ISO 100, F4.5, 1/800 sec – flash rear and in front

Another experiment – it did not quite work, so it is something I want to try again – my focusing is off…  I had a ND8 filter on the camera, it on a tripod and the off camera flash I moved closer to freeze the moment – I was trying to freeze the model and yet create milky water, and movement on the waves – I love the wave… it is a tad over exposed, but it is something I want to try again…. my model had suggested bikini shots but was reluctant to even get wet toes!

I added framing – which I think ruins the image totally and draws you eyes from the subject too … if the image is not sharp enough, no amount of editing will help!

Bournemouth Beach 40
ISO100, F20, 0.4 sec – flash full power

Another experimental shot and edit – this shot is back lit with a yellow gel – it is a little bit strong, but I have included it because I am pleased I have now mastered and understood this technique … here a softer yellow could have added warmth and sunlight behind her.  This is purely an edit in lightroom – but I managed to change the glasses to match the lipstick more, and lighten them to see the eyes.

This close up image also shows the problems that you make have when a model does her on makeup and has her own look – her lipstick is very strong and misses a spot, something which I should edit back in on every image – and is slightly over powering for her skin tones.  It also highlights how a distinctive hair accessory can also restrict the versitily of the shoot – and as photographer, I need to learn to ask the model to change this about themselves if they have long hair, so I can create more variety.

Bournemouth Beach 5
ISO 100, F4.5, 1/800 sec – flash behind and in front

This shot the model loved – for me I can see over exposure, blown highlights on her face and hair, the hairband is blown out – there is a lack of definition. I was experimenting to shoot much lighter than I normally do, and I do like the lighter images – but this to me is too light.  I can see her eye lids, but not her eyes, the model pose is somewhat more intimate – something that would suit a boudoir session, but not really something I associate with a trip to the beach, there is a certain vulnerability about the end result.

Bournemouth Beach 43
Flash camera left, ISO 100, F5, 1/320 sec

Another one the model said she liked (below)  … it is a lovely low contrast image until your eyes find the hair band, the bright lipstick and the carousel – and they ruin it for me…  I also did not explain here clear enough what I wanted from the image – I suggested the model sat on the pier – all those leading lines – but she sat across them, blocking the horizon – but we had only just met and she had white jeans on!

The goal was to expose for the sky, capture an on location shot, but I think I added too much flash to her face – but her makeup was quite white … I am pleased with the fact that I created a much lighter image than normal – but this really highlights that the backgrounds matter and than I need to explain myself better.

Bournemouth Beach 10
ISO100, F2.8, 1/800 sec

Another  shot the model liked – the hairband and the lipstick over power the image in my opinion – so I need to learn to communicate better, I think this style of lighting would make some great children’s portraits and I can imagine them playing on the beach, building sand castles in the sand – so I am glad I have had a chance to practice.

From a model point of view – there is nice eye contact, her legs look really long, I feel it is a kind of romantic pose ideal for the boyfriend or partner without revealing too much, which goes to highlight how we are all looking for different things in the images we create.

Bournemouth Beach 34
ISO 100, F5, 1/320 sec – flash directed as model and yellow gel to models right.

My personal favorites from the shoot –  this one – I exposed for the sky, added a touch of flash camera left and on camera diffused… I love the space, the emptyness of the beach, the hint of cleavage, the fact she is looking down and thinking… and I feel there is a hint of a story as you think what is she looking at? It did not make it into the models top 10 choice of images, but all the ones she choose had the same facial expression, and here she was a little bit more relaxed.

Bournemouth Beach 36
ISO100, F5, 1/320 sec – 63mm zoom

Finally a commercial edit – I have tweaked the colours, added some text, created a vintage postcard feel to the image – inspired by graphic design to create something that could perhaps promote the area…  it is a bit harsh, a bit cheesy – but mass produced on a postcard it would  work!

Bournemouth Beach 46
ISO100, F5, 1/320 sec – 59mm zoom

And … after model feedback.

I always like to ask the model for feedback after the shoot…. and ask the model to select her favorites from the shoot…. and with this model the feed back was interesting – “The one’s I don’t like is because my eyes were wrong” – so nothing to do with the composition, the lighting, the editing style – more to do with how she looks… and her favorites – she first choose 15, she narrowed it down to 8 and choose one she had previously asked to remove from the collection, and  two she did not select in her original 15….  and they were selected cause “I look relaxed.”

My commercial edit – did not make the model’s initial top 15… but somehow made it in the top 8!! Which highlights my point at the beginning – we are look for different things, even at different times to look for different things… and personal feelings can not come into the creation of photographs.

Year Two (99) – Working with an assistant

Working with an assistant is great fun, not only do you have company on the shoot, some one to watch your back whilst you are creating images you also get to have your photo taken in action and you get to exchange ideas.

Our equipment:

  • Canon 5D mark iii
  • 28-300mm  canon lens
  • Canon 7D mark ii
  • Sigma 150-500mm lens

We swapped lens and cameras during the evening to get the shots and looks that we were going for… and I would have said prior to editing the Canon lens was better, but the Sigma got us closer to where we needed to be, especially on the crop camera.. It highlighted the importance significantly of having both cameras set up the same, and having them time synced.

Me – Taken on Canon 5D mark ii, 28-300mm lens taken by my assistant – ISO800, F3.5, 1/800 sec
My Assistant – Taken on Canon 7D Mark iii, 28-300mm lens taken by me – ISO 3200, 1/250sec, F5.6

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Year Two (56) – Inspired

Following on from yesterday’s post, I took a walk with my camera along the shingle bank at Keyhaven to Hurst Castle and just thought about what about what I could photograph, I thought about recording the moment, I remembered back when there was an old building on the spit which was washed away by the storms and I remembered that it is important to record what is there, as well as enhancing an image to make something more out of it.

Different views of the Lighthouse

I Continue reading

Year Two (45) – A trip to the beach

I headed to the beach… I took my camera, I was not really sure what I wanted to capture today, other than some photographs … I ended up enjoying the sunshine and the fresh air and taking a variety of images and experimenting! Continue reading

Year Two (19) Coastal Sunsets

It was great to see Gavin Hoey share a video last weekend on creating sunsets in my home town – although the day he visited the sunset was somewhat lacking … but he offered a great reminder of how you can enhance them in Lightroom.

Gavin’s video in here: Gavin Hoey Sunset Video

All these images were captured the same evening….

Sunset at Highcliffe
Sunset at Highcliffe

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Year Two (18) Fun at the Beach

I got to go to the beach to catch the end of a Coastguard incident in action .. I was late on scene, do did not get the best photos of the event but it did mean that I unexpectedly found myself at the beach – so the perfect opportunity to take some photos.

Coastguard incident
Coastguard Incident at Highcliffe – Team Debrief

I thought i would try something new – Continue reading

Year Two (05) – Seascape challenge

The challenge to step outside my comfort zone continues, in the hope that it will make me a better photographer or more aware of the shot I want to create, so when one of my photographer friends – Tim – a landscape photographer who I met through the Old Bakery group suggested joining him on a Monday morning at a location in Dorset to capture some images I said yes.

Little did I realise then that the 6.50am car park meeting point meant that I had to get out of bed at 4am! I had to get there… and everyone lived a lot closer than me! Going to bed at midnight and being woken at 2am with thunder made it a long day! Once we arrived then headed off in the dark for a couple of miles walk to his chosen location to make it in time for first lighting – which amazingly was dry … although there was no sunrise.

Dorsert Seascapes - Dancing Ledges National Trust
Today’s view – ISO100, F11, 5sec

This was our location, known as Seacombe Continue reading

Day 362 – Christmas Walk

A great way to blast the cobwebs out and to burn some calories for the Feast ahead is a walk along the coastline – this two mile stretch of Shingle bank is a place I have offered photographed this year… so I am back again to capture the grey skies and winter atmosphere.

I have not used my 28-300mm lens for while, so I decide to make that the lens of choice and take only that with me… it is was interesting to see how not using it for a few weeks impacted on the images I created.

View to the Needles - ISO400, f13, 1/400sec
View to the Needles – ISO400, f13, 1/400sec

The view to the Needles – the above image is in colour, just as I took if in camera but with grey cloudy skies, the island in mist and the grey skies being reflected in the sea it is almost a black and white.

Hurst Castle - ISO200, F13, 1/80
Hurst Castle – ISO200, F13, 1/80

The dull colours meant that there were no shadows on the castle, and as I approached along the shingle bank I was able to capture the scale of the castle alongside the lighthouse. I quickly worked out this was the lowest I could push the ISO too if I wanted to have an image with a fast enough shutter speed to reduce any camera blur.

The fishing nets - ISO2500, F6.3, 1/640sec
The fishing nets – ISO2500, F6.3, 1/640sec

Round the back on the castle there was some fishing net caught up on the groins, the waves splashing through the net I felt would make an interesting image – so I knew instantly I needed a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the water, and a shallow aperture as I did not want all the net in focus, a quick change of settings and I was really pleased with the result.

The uncpvered shore - ISO800, F11, 1/250sec
The uncovered shore – ISO800, F11, 1/250sec

Round the back of the castle a lot of the beach had been eroded away – so this is more a record shot of the new shoreline, but I did think about my positioning an end crop so got quite low to the beach so that the Island behind was on a separate layer.

The Lighthouse - ISO800, F3.4, 1/3200sec
The Lighthouse – ISO800, F3.4, 1/3200sec

The Lighthouse, but thinking differently I choose to focus on the beam and rocks in the foreground, hoping yo just give an impression of scale. I had to use a fast shutter speed here as I was precariously balanced.

The fishig buoy - ISO800, F14,1/125sec
The fishing buoy – ISO800, F14,1/125sec

My final photo before the blustery walk back – I just had to capture the fishing buoy which had been washed ashore against the castle behind. A view that not many people would think to capture, although I think I cut the top of the picture a little too tight!

I hope you get out to enjoy a walk over the Christmas period and get to take some photos too.


Day 320 – Winter Seascapes

If you were to ask me what is the best thing that a photographer could take on a beach photo shoot in stormy weather – my answer would not be:

  • the lens cloth that you need to regularly wipe the spray from the front of the lens,
  • the uv filter to protect the lens from the elements,
  • waterproof covering to protect the camera when you are not using it,
  • the right lens – as there is no way you want to change it in those conditions
  • a tripod cause you are capturing landscapes …

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