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The Golden Hour {Beach Photography by Merissa Wakefield}

Shooting on the beach can give even the most seasoned photographers a shiver of fear (this one included!). Regardless of where you are in the world, universally most beaches will present light challenges, a lack of open shade, and sand in your camera!

But Merissa Wakefield, who graduated only this year (true story!!) from our Enthusiast and Advanced Photography Courses, has an ace up her sleeve… she lives right near the beach in Mentone (a suburb of Melbourne in Australia), and she has a ready subject in her two year old daughter with the heart of an explorer. As a result, you could easily consider her to be Click Love Grow’s resident beach photography expert!

Merissa shared with our graduate group a handful of images from a sibling session she had photographed in the middle of winter, and when we spotted them we knew instantly it had to be a featured session.

Read on to discover her incredibly valuable and practical tips on how to shoot at the beach, and devour her delicious images!

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“This was a shoot I’d been wanting to do with my nieces for a while. They are at an ideal age, young enough to not have too many inhibitions and old enough to direct, which makes a welcome change from my two year old!

We live just down the road from a beautiful beach which is a marine sanctuary, and living at the beach I’ve always wanted to achieve beautiful beach photos.

It’s taken me a while and lots of trial and error, but here are my tips for anyone wanting to give beach photography a go:

    1. Shoot at golden hour, when the sun is setting over the water (or sunrise if the sun rises over the water).  I generally start a session 45 minutes before the sun sets and I try and stay around after the sun sets too; 15 minutes after the sun disappears over the horizon the sky can light up, which is perfect for a family silhouette shot.


    1. I back light most of my photos at this time, especially if its really sunny. I expose for my subjects skin in camera, and recover highlights in Lightroom.


    1. Try and find beach locations that are more than just sand and water.  Look for jetties, rocks, stone walls, or beach sheds, to add interest to the photos.


    1. I find focusing can be hard at the beach at golden hour, as the sun is so bright, so I always use my lens hood, which helps with focusing.  I tend to overshoot as no doubt there will be a couple where I miss focus entirely, which tends to happen when I’m shooting in full sun.  If you recompose until the sun is slightly out of shot you can avoid this.  I manually select my focus points, and find my centre focus point is most reliable when its really bright.


    1. For this session I used my I used my Canon 5D Mk3 with the Sigma 35mm Art lens. My settings are usually between f/1.6-f/2.2, ISO 100, and then I adjust my shutter speed depending on the light.  If I have a family of four I might go up to f/3.5, but I love a shallow depth of field, and I don’t mind if not everyone is in sharp focus, unless its a traditional portrait.


    1. During this particular shoot I told my nieces to have fun exploring the beach, pick up lots of shells, look at them, show them to me and point things out to each other.  I also asked them to stay together, touch, hold hands and hug a lot.  A few times I’d get them to dance, twirl or jump which they loved doing.


I like to capture raw and authentic emotions so I like to get in close during a hug, I also love hands and try to include a few hand photos at every shoot.

I edited all of these in Lightroom, and mostly brought down the highlights to bring out the sky, and lifted shadows on my nieces.  I’m also in love with a radial filter at the moment, especially for a moody black and white.  On these I used a clarity brush too, to bring out textures in the water, the jetty and in my nieces hair and eyelashes.

I’d encourage anyone living or vacationing at the beach to make sure you spend some time there during golden hour, it’s magical and the light adds a beautiful dimension to your photos”.

Merissa’s website is currently under construction, with a planned launch date for Merissa Wakefield Photography of Spring 2017 (Australia).

She is however currently offering limited pre-launch bookings, and you can contact her via Instagram and Facebook… which is where you’ll also find more of her gorgeous golden hour photography!

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