Summer is right around the corner, so now is the time to consider how to plan the perfect beach engagement photo shoot. In today’s blog post I’ll be sharing everything you need to know before you hit the beach, including where to go, when to schedule your shoot, and most importantly…what shoes to wear. (Spoiler alert: go barefoot.) So let’s dive in for all the behind the scenes details of Asia and Stanton’s Far Rockaway beach engagement shoot.
When to Schedule your Beach Engagement Photo Shoot
‘Golden hour’ is the perfect time for a summer session. Shade is usually hard to come by on a beach. As such, you are at the mercy of the sun’s rays. If you want to have the most flattering light for your photo shoot, then scheduling your session during ‘golden hour’ is the way to go. The light produced one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset is soft, warm, and has less contrast than that of the middle of the day. Your shadows will be less distinct, and you won’t have as many issues with squinting if you are asked to look directly into the light because the sun at that time is located just over the horizon.
Clouds can be your friend. For Asia and Stanton’s engagement session at Far Rockaway beach, clouds were definitely in the forecast. Our photo shoot was scheduled for two hours prior to sunset so that we could take full advantage of ‘golden hour.’ But in addition, we had lots of clouds overhead that both reduced the harsh glare of the sun and added some interesting background to my shots.
Clear skies can often be a recipe for disaster for beach shoots because you risk having your highlights blown out in every image. Because you need to stop down your aperture to cut down on the amount of light coming into the lens, you are limited with how shallow you can make your depth of field. I love to shoot at f/3.2 aperture, which is quite wide open. In contrast, a bright, sunny day might require an aperture of f/11 or higher in order to cut down on the highlights.
Where to Go and What to Do
Pick a private beach, if possible. You can never control what people are going to wear at the beach. For a family portrait I did at a beach in New York there was a man fishing while wearing nothing but a sliver of a Speedo. Needless to say, I made sure not to include this gentleman in the background of the family photos.
Unless you are looking to add a little local color in your images, you should aim for a beach where crowds are not an issue. Coney Island can be particularly tricky for just this reason, though if you are shooting in the morning or during the week you should be fine. For New Yorkers, I always recommend Far Rockaway Beach since it is (fairly) easily accessible by subway and definitely not as crowded as Coney Island. For Asia and Stanton’s photo shoot, we selected the 81st Street entrance of Far Rockaway Beach as our starting point. This area of is much more residential than the entrance of the beach near 94th Street.
Attitude is everything. For me, the ticket to a successful beach engagement photo shoot is to have the right attitude. Going to the beach invites you to kick off your shoes and take a relaxed, casual approach to your photo shoot. That means no stiff poses and no worrying about perfection. Instead, take this opportunity to embrace the fact that you are going to get wet and sandy. Enjoy yourself in front of the camera and great images will follow.
What to Wear
Beach casual is the new black. The casual attitude of a beach vacation should translate into what you wear for your photo shoot. You can dress up – as Asia and Stanton did – for your session, but note that your clothes should still be easy and breezy. The bottom line is that your outfit should be believable. Leave your tie and stiff clothing at home and instead opt for clothes you aren’t afraid to get wet in.
Go barefoot. Asia and Stanton’s choice of attire would not have worked if they had paired their outfits with high heels and loafers. Most people are barefoot on the beach, and you should be too. Sandals can work, but leave the high heels at home. And since you are going to be showing off your hooves, make sure to get a pedicure – yes, gentlemen that means you too.
Your hair and makeup should be go with the flow. You should prepare to be wind blown. Stiff hair and lots of makeup have no place at the beach. Certainly, you can turn up the volume a bit with your makeup if you wish, but lean in to the natural look from top to bottom. As Asia clearly demonstrates, you should look effortless and elegant no matter which way the wind blows.
Asia & Stanton’s Far Rockaway Beach Engagement Photo Shoot
Asia and Stanton came fully prepared to embrace the beach for their Far Rockaway engagement shoot. I started off the session with photos of the engagement ring on the boardwalk. Before the couple arrived, I had collected a few shells and set up a little display area for the ring. I wanted to make sure to take photos of the ring on dry land and not risk losing the ring in the sand. I’ve never lost an engagement ring in 10 years of doing portraits, and I’m not about to start now.
The boardwalk at Far Rockaway is not necessarily that photogenic, so we headed straight down to the beach. I made sure to include the local flora and fauna of sea oats found right at the edge of the beach and then brought the couple to the jetty. Asia and Stanton were kind enough to climb on to the rocks and position themselves directly in front of the ‘no climbing’ signs for me. The results are some fantastic images.
Asia’s maid of honor, Kaitlyn, joined us during the shoot and it was only fitting that she should get a few minutes of time in front of the camera. I think her bird tattoo really makes the photo.
Finally, check out my new prism lens filter! Asia and Stanton were super creative and inspiring, and I think it shows in their photos. Best of luck to the happy couple when they walk down the aisle.
Enjoy the images and I’ll have more photo adventures for you next week!
Interested in more tips on how to plan the perfect beach engagement photo shoot? Check out images from Angii and Paul’s engagement shoot on Long Beach.
Interested in scheduling a beach engagement photo shoot of your own? Drop me a line, and let’s chat about your photography needs.
If you would like to see more images from my engagement portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com