Insider tricks from one of our favorite photographers will help you take perfect beach portraits every time.

By Jean Allsopp
August 08, 2008
Jean Allsopp

Shoot just before sunset.
"Take photos in the early evening when the light will be soft and golden, not harsh and glaring, so squinting won't be a problem. Make sure the sun is to your left or right (not directly in front or behind you) to create a beautiful cast on your subjects."

Don't avoid overcast days.
"Clouds can help. You'll have fewer shadows, and you can start taking pictures earlier in the day."

Zoom in―just for fun.
"Sandy toes. Hands holding a beach ball. A smiling face peeking out from behind a beach umbrella. These kinds of intimate, tight shots round out your day-at-the-beach portfolio."

Vary your angles.
"Let's say you want to take pictures of children playing in the sand. Try some shots from slightly overhead, or crouch low and shoot from their level. Aim for several points of view."

Pay attention to your background.
"Are there tree branches that appear to be protruding from someone's head? Should you move any objects such as coolers, towels, or beach chairs out of the shot? Concentrate on your composition to get it just right."

Watch the horizon.
"Always keep the horizon line level in your frame."

Focus on faces.
"It's Photography 101: For portraits, focus on people's eyes. If your background isn't as sharp, that's OK."

Be sneaky.
"Often, candid shots capture the best expressions. Direct your subjects not to look at the camera. People feel (and appear) more comfortable when they're not posing. Ask them to build a sand castle or to beachcomb, then stand back and shoot them in action."

Dress for success.
"Ask your subjects to avoid clothing with bold, distracting prints and patterns. A mix of solid colors is best."

Pack favorite props.
"Bring a beach ball, a brightly colored blanket, toys, and pets with you to the beach. Winning photos happen naturally when you're relaxing and having fun!"

Our readers put Jean's tips to the test. View some of their favorite photos.