In all the years I’ve been photographing Katie (over a decade!), we’ve actually never done a photo shoot at the beach. There’s a first time for everything, so in late August we headed to my favourite beach in Toronto, Hanlan’s Point Beach (the nude beach!) for some photos.
I’d previously sent Katie some inspo images of models in the water, and luckily the water in Lake Ontario was warm enough to get fully submerged. But first, we stayed on dry land for these shots, composed with my Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8 lens:
These images in Katie’s black bodysuit were my favourites from the day, shot with my Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.4 lens. The 50mm focal length is ideal for top-down photos of people sitting, squatting, or lying down, while the photographer stands above them.
There are three reasons why this setup works so well for portraits:
- Everyone looks good while they’re looking up at a camera. It stretches out the face and neck, making everything look smooth. No double chins here. It puts the face closest to the camera, with the body further away, making everyone’s body look smaller and skinnier.
- 50mm is the shortest focal length that’s flattering for portraits without distortion. A 35mm focal length would begin to show distorted facial features from such a close distance, and 85mm is too close unless you’re a super tall photographer.
- At golden hour or on an overcast day, soft, top-down lighting looks great on faces and makes eyes sparkle.
Thanks to the tilty screen on my Nikon D750, I was able to hold my camera out at arm’s length above Katie and snap these shots looking straight down at her.
Lastly, Katie hopped in the lake while the sun was setting. I like using the 50mm lens whenever I’m waist deep in water, for a couple reasons:
- The waves move and bounce and rock me around a lot, meaning it’s difficult to hold the camera steady. Without VR, I find I can’t hold an 85mm lens quite steady enough in the waves. The Nikon 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 lens, while it has excellent VR, is too big and heavy to be using around big swells of waves. Because it’s so long, I have to be extra careful not to dip the end of it into the water. So the 50mm is the winning choice. It’s easy to shoot with usable shutter speeds to counteract my own motion, and it’s small and lightweight on the end of the camera, and thus more maneuverable than a long telephoto zoom.
- The field of view on a 50mm lens isn’t as narrow as the telephotos I mentioned above, so I can be closer to my subject to give them instructions. If I’m too far away, my subjects can’t hear me over the sound of the water.