Sand Dune Portraits

Sunset Portraits by RLC

Sand Dune Adventures

Sunset portrait session in the sand dunes

I recently picked up a second hand 35mm prime lens online and have just been bursting to test it out, however being the middle of winter and working full time, it has been difficult to find a spare moment with enough light to shoot in. That’s why I was so excited when my two dear friends Steph & Rachel were free and we happened to be close to Stockton sand dunes! These images were all shot on my Canon 5D Mark II and my new Canon 1.4 35mm, about an hour before sunset in the beautiful golden hour.

Sunset Portraits by RLC
Sunset Portraits by RLC
Sunset Portraits by RLC

These portraits were also an experiment in backlit portraits & practice in posing people who aren’t used to being in front of the camera. I used to avoid shooting backlit portraits, I always just assumed you would end up with a dark silhouette (and that can be the case!) but with practice it’s quite possible to get gorgeous back lit shots. By positioning the sun behind your subject, you’re not getting harsh light directly onto to their face and you can achieve really nice soft skin tones.

Tips for shooting backlit portrait photos:

  • It helps to have a natural diffuser - in some of these images the light was coming through the tops of the trees on the edge of the dunes

  • Look for natural reflectors - a benefit of the dunes was that the light coloured sand helped bounce light back up onto the front of them

  • Shoot in RAW - you’ll have so much more flexibility in editing and bringing out more detail

  • Play with angles - A light directly behind your subject might not be working out, so don’t be afraid to move around and try different subtle angles

Some tips for posing people:

  • Just keep chatting - this is so difficult for me because I’m usually focusing intently on my camera settings, but it’s been something that has gotten easier with practice. It really helps your subject feel at ease if you can keep up a flow of conversation - the more you can help them forget there’s a camera around the better!

  • Keep them moving - Give your subjects simple movements to do - walk towards you, walk away, face away from you and then turn back to look at you, and so on.

  • Photo prompts - these seem to be a growing trend and work really well for couples. It basically involves giving your subjects totally random instructions that aren’t poses and asking them questions which are designed to make them laugh or react in some way.

  • Bring examples - I’ll often look up poses before a shoot so I have an idea in my head of different movements I can suggest, I’ve also had people bring photos to a shoot of poses they want to use. A little bit of time in preparation can go along way in helping the shoot go smoothly.

Sunset Portraits by RLC
Sunset Portraits by RLC
Sunset Portraits by RLC
Sunset Portraits

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” - Elliott Erwitt