Energetic beach portraits at Maroubra

For today’s post, I want to share a story of beach portraits. But more than that, I wanted to tell you a story of finding my voice and identifying my style after almost ten years of being a professional photographer.

Telling the right stories

A few months ago I was putting together images for the Australian Professional Photography Awards, and I started thinking really hard about what sort of photographer I am, and what I enjoy the most.

More than that, I thought deeply about what best represented the families I serve, and how to best tell their stories. I realised that my favourite thing, and what best captures the stories of my families, is to capture their energy, their connection, and their love.

Searching through my archives, I found this image from one of the families I’d shot beach portraits for a few months earlier:

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I loved the shot instantly, although I knew it needed a fair bit of work for the best elements of it to come through.

Even untreated, the portrait had energy, life, fun, and chaos. The expressions on everyone were brilliant, and I loved the movement of the water. Add to that the fact that one of Mum’s thongs had gone floating away, and one of the daughters had been hoisted – still dripping – out of the water by one arm, and it was a perfect representation of what I love and who I am as a family portrait photographer. The icing on the cake is that it was one of my beach portraits – a type of photography that I love to pieces, because my favourite place in the world is by the beach.

Making an image award-worthy

The crop of the image wasn’t strong enough as I originally shot it, so I cropped it. Square is one of my favourite formats from my old Mamiya C220 twin-lens square film camera. Note: I loved square photographs before the current Instagram trend of square pictures took hold…

I needed to remove the random swimmers in the background – especially the one behind Dad’s hand – to clean-up the background and simplify the image. I also removed a couple of darker dust-spot blobs from my camera’s sensor. (These are normally invisible – and my new camera automatically removes them from the sensor – but in this case the background is such a clear vivid blue that any mark shows up.)

Finally, I brightened the people in the shot, so their expressions were easier to see, and so they were the primary focus of the image. I enhanced the colour and saturation of the image to celebrate the energetic vibe, and the fact that it was a perfect sunny day at Maroubra Beach.

So here’s the finished image – one of my favourite family beach portraits. Sadly it didn’t score a Silver Award – coming in with a 75 out of 100. But it helped me find my true voice as a family portrait photographer – someone who captures energetic, connected, loving families in their favourite locations. Not a bad outcome, whichever way you look at it, right?

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