November, 2011, Hokitika, New Zealand
1/50th sec, f/22, ISO 100
(Post and photo by Tamara Lackey – follow Tamara on Twitter)

I have been fortunate enough to shoot a great number of portraits in a variety of beach locations, in a variety of countries, over the last decade – and, along the way, I have learned a few good things to question in advance.

After, of course, determining the very basic “right time of day to shoot” (1. early morning light! 2. just around sunset!), here are 10 smart questions to ask yourself before selecting the ideal beach location:

How crowded is it?
How wide is the actual beach area, and how much remains after the tide comes in?
Where is the sun rising and setting?
How buggy is it?
What kind of wind shelter is there?
If shade might be needed, how much is offered?
How clean is it? How much debris is washed up on shore and is it safe (jellyfish, etc.)?
What kind of natural seating elements are available?
How rough is the water and what effect might it have?
How long does it take to get to the actual shooting location, and how dark might it be when you return?

There are only another 50 questions you could use to evaluate which beach to shoot at, and I’d be interested to know the questions you ask for the type of beach shooting you prefer – but this should at least get you started when it comes to thinking about selecting a location.

From my perspective, given all those data points, the one question I consider the most, above all others, is how crowded is it? I can deal with any other problem, although lack of any sort of wind shelter is a close second – but not having enough space to move about and shoot in all sorts of directions and really feel the freedom that the beach offers to such sessions is a big miss when it comes to why beach sessions can be so compelling in the first place.

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