Lighting Techniques For Family Beach Photoshoot

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Family Portraits on Pensacola Beach

Wow, what a beautiful day.  It was actually already fall, but you would not believe it with the next day yielding a modest 92º Temperature... Anyway, the wind was tearing through, some clouds had graced us with their presence, we were ready to shoot, and off we went!

A couple I had shot maternity pictures for last year, came from Nashville, Tennessee, to Pensacola, Florida for a mini vacation.  They brought their now eleven month old daughter and his parents along for a family portrait photoshoot on the beach.


I started out using my monolight with a 36" beauty dish attached.  I used high speed sync in order to try to bring the clouds out by raising the shutter speed into the mid to high thousandths, thus lowering the exposure without losing clarity from higher apertures.  IT WAS SO BRIGHT!  The gleam off of the water was literally blown out at f3.5 and 1/5000th SS.  I took a few shots, but the background was very lackluster because of the sun's position.  I  would like to have shot at a slightly different angle, but the wind was so bad that hair was inevitably creating a constant mask across faces, and hats were ready to fly off!


I moved them down closer to the water and tried a few more High speed sync shots.  I still didn't fully like the outcome, and because there was a baby involved, I really needed to move quickly to ensure that good moments were captured as opposed to spending too much time trying to capture and hope for that one special shot.  I turned off the monolight and turned to a reflector for help with lighting their faces while their backs were to the sun.

Much better!  now we are getting somewhere.  I am able to shoot them at a constant pace, rather than pop my flash, and hope I got it, then wait for the 4 second recycle time and pop it again.  We used the silver side of the reflector and positioned it lower to the ground, moving it around until we could see the glow hitting their faces.

I was using a Sony A7II mirrorless camera and the 85 GM lens for most of the stuff in the beginning.  I switched over to the 16-35/f4 Zeiss for some wider shots focusing on the background a little more.

It is incredibly fun and satisfying just snapping away while parents are playing with their sweet little daughter and clouds and water and sun all come together to help capture such great moments.  I was actually in the water, and had to bob up and down out of a squat as the waves were coming in, in order to avoid a soaked bum!  

We moved out of the water and did a few more with the whole family, bringing the monolight back out since the sun was leaving us.  They wanted some pictures up by the sea oats, so we meandered further inland and found a great little spot .  This time, the monolight and beauty dish were really able to be utilized to their potential!  We switched people in and out (except the baby of course... the baby stayed in all the shots).  

Once we had used up that spot for family portraits, I noticed the sunset had given a nice orange glow in the background, so we pulled out the trusty Rotolight Neo and did an individual shoot with the baby.  We held the monolight behind me, camera left and positioned it to give some catchlight and fill to the face.  Of course sunset led to a few pictures of mom and dad by themselves, and grandma and grandpa.  Annnd... we're done!  in just over an hour of shooting, we used three completely different types of lighting and got some really good portrait shots!

Gear used:  Sony A7II, Sony 85 G Master, Sony Zeiss 16-35/f4, Rovelight 600b, 36" Beaty dish, 36" reflector, Rotolight Neo

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