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Night Time Photography :: Long Exposure Beach Photo :: POPography

I am always looking for ways to push myself professionally whether its marketing, lighting techniques or learning to shoot in the dark! Giving my client an experience to remember is very important to me. Highlighting their venue or favorite location is key. The beach was an important part of both the bride and groom’s childhood and I really wanted to do something special for them. There is only one way to push yourself and that is to EDUCATE yourself. You can learn just about anything your heart desires if you want it bad enough. :)

After a few days of studying and watching some online courses, I dragged the team out to the beach the night before the wedding to test some shots out. There are several things to consider when shooting on the beach at night and some must have equipment needs. So, here is the run down…


  • Wind
  • Pollution
  • Clouds vs Stars
  • Ambient Light
  • Subject Placement in frame

Gear used in this shot

  • 5d Mark iii
  • 16-35mm 2.8 Lens
  • Tripod
  • Video Light

Settings on the camera: 25 Second Exposure, f 3.5, ISO 200

MUST DO’s to make this work!

  1. Patience- It may take several times
  2. Subjects as close as possible and completely frozen for the entire 25 seconds
  3. Powerful Video Light to cast light on subjects to gain focus and also expose for the subject in the photo
  4. 1 Person with Video Light; 1 Person operating Camera
  5. Pitch Black Dark with VERY little ambient light

What makes this a tricky scene is the long exposure and the wind. All beaches tend to be a little windy and can cause your subject to move. We stick our couple’s foreheads together and have them close their eyes an balance against each other. They need to be super comfortable and not looking at the camera. No one can keep their eyes completely still and open for 25 seconds! So have them look down or close eyes completely. The wind was blowing up to 25 mph that evening and posed a problem for us. It was almost completely impossible for the couple to NOT move! But, we accepted the challenge and were happy with the result even with a little motion blur. You also want to shoot as wide as possible to really be able to see the sand and stars. We center focus our couple knowing that this is the strongest autofocus point.


  1. Set up Camera and Wide Angle Lens on Tripod 
  2. Camera Settings:  25 sec exposure, f 3.5, ISO 200
  3. Jeff holds the video light at a 45 degree angle on half power (just enough light to have them pop off the background)
  4. I click the shutter while Jeff has the light on the subject. (Jeff is standing right outside the frame of the camera to not be seen)
  5. As soon as I click and the long exposure begins- Jeff pulls the video light off the subject (aka turn off the light as soon as possible)
  6. The couple remains frozen as I count up to 25 seconds
  7. We do several rounds of the same process. If something goes wrong with the light on our couple–we change the distance or the power of the video light.


I love that you can see the waves in motion, the stars twinkling and the blur in the clouds. The ambient light in the background gives the photo interests and doesn’t distract from the subject in any way. The couple are in a stable position holding on for dear life as the 25 mph winds blew! Stunning shot of a stunning couple! 

A HUGE thank you to our couple for making their way to the beach after their reception and taking a risk on something FUN! It means the world to us that our couples trust us enough to go above and beyond to make their wedding day even more fabulous and rememberable! :)

PHOTOGS- Try it out and feel free to share on our FACEBOOK FAN PAGE! We want to see what you can do!


Leaha & Jeff

STAY TUNED— our Light Painting Photo will be explained next!


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Karen Guillot Collins -

Thank you so much for the “how-tos” of this shot!!!

Anna Marisol Padilla -

Loving all your posts!