Things are heating up in Hampton Roads.
Man, someone flipped the heat and humid switch on recently after a cool and cloudy spring. Adding to the heat is Emily. It was the first time we teamed up together to do a photo session and she outshone the sun.
As we both live above the HRBT/MMBT, we decided to keep it local for our sunset session.
Now, as most photographers know, there really isn’t a place anywhere in Hampton Roads to shoot at dusk where the sun sets over the water. First Landing used to be my go-to place for such things but others had to ruin it and now they require a permit, obtained weeks in advance, to photograph there. So, I’ve been searching for a new location down there for the past three years.
As of now, I have yet to find any location on the peninsula that faces the right direction, is safe to be at, and provides some space to work in. While they face the wrong direction for sunsets, parts of the beaches at Fort Monroe do face south which would give us some color in the sky. They were well within striking distance. I have never shot there for sunset before so it was going to be a learning experience for the both of us.
Here’s a tip for photographers and models. Beaches are packed with tourists and locals on the summer weekends. However, most of the tourists leave Sunday afternoon to get home. A lot of the locals also start to leave around 6-630 as they have to get home and get ready for work the next day. So, given this, the best time to do beach sunset photos is Sunday evening. They won’t be deserted but the crowd will be considerable smaller than, say, Friday or Saturday evening. As the shoot progresses more and more people leave so that, by sunset, you have a lot more empty real estate to work with.
Emily and I met up at 630, when people were starting to leave en masse. We picked out our spot and set up our staging area. Once that was done, we went through her wardrobe options and made our plan on what to wear and when. This small detail, I believe, is vital to a successful beach session.
Tight, restrictive clothing leaves creases, marks and patterns on skin that take a good 30-45 minutes to fade away after removal of said item. Photoshopping them out is an option but it’s a lot of added work on the other end that isn’t always successful. It’s best not to have them in the first place. Everyone knows about bras, jeans, belts and such. Almost everyone forgets that socks make this awful waffle pattern on the skin that simply cannot be photoshopped out. Hairbands on wrists leave rings that are the bane of my existence.
So, how do we deal with this? Well, I say let’s deal with the problem right off the bat by not having marks in the first place. I always ask the clients, if the are comfortable with the idea, to show up for beach sessions in loose clothing so there are none to begin with. Once they get there, there are two options.
You can either start with tighter outfits, transition to a large dress or shirt with no tight clothing on underneath for a series of images, and then move into backless outfits, swimwear, and other more revealing outfits. This gives time for the marks to disappear and you’re still getting images. I like this approach for beginners who are uncertain how much they want to bare at the beach and for for sunsets as there are a lot more eyes around you.
While I’m here, let me point out that the large shirt or dress can also serve as a portable changing station. Rarely, if ever, is there a place nearby to change outfits in. We lose precious time running to a bathroom or car to change and running back. Like, easily, an hour out of a two and a half hour session. So throwing on a large shirt right there, doing the outfit change underneath, and tossing off the shirt when they’re done is a huge time saver and maintains coverage.
I actually have a surfer’s changing smock with me for that purpose. Surfers put it on to change into and out of their wetsuits while on the beach. Its so large I fit in it, it doubles as a warming outfit for those more chilly sessions, and it even has pockets.
For those that I’ve worked with before or are seasoned veterans, I offer the second option. Start with the most daring thing you have and, as the shoot progresses, put on more clothing. This works best for sunrise.
As always this is all discussed prior to the session so everyone is on the same page going into the shoot. The more that is discussed beforehand leads to a much more relaxed environment for everyone which leads into better images.
With our plan in place we went to work and utilized as much time as we could with Emily in front of the camera and not sitting around waiting for lines and marks to disappear. We started with the fitness images and then went with the shorts and tube top. When she transitioned into the red dress, we first used poses that kept the marks hidden from the camera. As we progress, and the marks faded, we got more daring with the poses, exposing more skin, leading into the images of her at sunset in the water.
Emily was radiant from start to finish, as the images show. She picked up my suggestions quickly and made it all look effortless. Needless to say, we were both a little heartbroken at the end as she was just hitting them out of the park. The good news is that, when we team up again in the future, we will have this base of trust and confidence in place that we will build off of and the images will be even stronger.