A day at the beach

Pack your bucket and spade – and a telephoto zoom lens. We’re off to the beach to shoot some great pictures of the kids.

A trip to the seaside gives you the perfect opportunity to get some memorable shots of your children. Presented with acres of sand to run around on and rock pools to explore, they’ll be far more interested in enjoying themselves than in you taking pictures. Queue candid photoshoot! As with all outdoor portraiture, overcast conditions are better than bright overhead sunshine – except at the end of the day when the golden light in the hours leading up to sunset can be superb. You’ll also notice that the sand itself can act as a reflector, bouncing light back up on to your subjects’ faces.

The lens of choice for this type of photography is a telephoto zoom lens. We’ve got lots of options in the X Series, from the entry-level XC50-230mmF4.5-6.7 OIS II to the professional XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR.

These lenses let you be an observer – standing back from the kids so you don’t influence what they are doing. This really helps get completely natural results. If you like, you can periodically call their names to try and get them to look up at you. When they do, shoot a series of pictures to capture their expressions.

Select your highest speed Continuous Shooting mode to do this as you’ll be amazed at how much an expression can change in the briefest of moments. You’ll also want to use continuous AF-C autofocus to keep your subjects sharp even when they are running around at top speed.

You can give yourself an extra advantage here by exploring your camera’s AF-C custom settings too, if it has them. We found Preset 4 (erratically moving subjects) to be particularly effective.

When it comes to shooting modes, there are a couple of options:

- You’ll want to use a fast shutter speed that will freeze the action, no matter how fast the kids are moving. Try shutter-priority (S) mode, locking in a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 sec. The camera will look after the aperture for you, though you may have to increase ISO sensitivity if you’re shooting on an overcast day.
- The other way to approach this is to control the aperture to regulate the depth-of-field you’re producing. Switch to Aperture Priority (A) mode and select a wide aperture (small number) to isolate your subject from the background. Select a central aperture (F5.6 or F8) if there’s more than one child in the group and you want to ensure both are sharp.

In reality, both of these approaches should achieve the same thing – it’s just a matter of personal preference and what you like to be in control of most.

Here are more tips to help you capture some natural pictures:

- Don’t get too fixated on having the kids look up at you for every picture. It’s a more natural look to capture them at play, and if you keep shouting their name, you’re in danger of spoiling the natural spontaneity of the shoot.
- Use a fast memory card to shoot. It’ll help you avoid that awful situation where you can’t take a photo, because your camera is still writing pictures from its buffer to the card.
- Weather-resistant lenses and cameras can be useful on the beach, to protect from sand and water. If your equipment isn’t, then be super careful! But if it is, you might even feel confident to paddle out among the (shallow) waves.
- Don’t shoot all of the time – spend a moment with the kids and play with them, too. You’ll be able to get more natural images when you are regarded as part of the scenery.
- If you’re photographing younger kids, stoop or squat down. You’ll be able to see more of their faces and capture more of the background behind them.

Finally, a word about safety and common sense. We live in an age where people are more concerned about child safety than ever before – if you are approached by someone who asks what you are doing, just show them some of your (amazing) pictures and explain you’re photographing your kids (or your friend’s kids with permission). Often, parents of other children may just want reassurance that you’re not shooting pictures of their kids, too.