Manfrotto ™
A Vitec Group brand

Portraits on the Beach

Portaits on the Beach

There are so many things to consider when you leave the studio to shoot portraits outside: weather, time of day, and the background to name a few. In this lesson we will show you how you can take control of framing and lighting on location just like you do in the studio.





Topics Covered:

  • Assembling an Outdoor Shooting Tent
  • Adjusting the Tripod for Low Angle Shots
  • Programming the Camera Settings
  • Using LitePanels for Fill
  • Balancing Light Outdoors

Manfrotto Equipment Used:

  • Manfrotto 055MF3 Tripod
  • Manfrotto 322RC2 Grip Action Head

Other Equipment Used:

  • Olympus E-1
  • Olympus 11-22mm Digital Zuiko Zoom Lens
  • Lexar 4G 80x Media Card
  • Lexar Multi card reader
  • Photoflex LitePanel
  • Photoflex LitePanel Accessories
  • (4) 12 foot light stands


For this lesson we have chosen the Manfrotto 055MF3 Tripod with the 322RC2 Grip Action Ball head. The 055MF3 offers carbon fiber construction that produces a tripod that is both lighter and more rigid - ideal for traveling or hiking out to the beach. The 055MF3 provides an excellent min-max height range for low or high shots and also has a center column that can be mounted horizontally for easy camera positioning.

The type of head we chose is just as important as the tripod. We selected the Manfrotto 322RC2 Grip Action Ball Head because it offers extremely easy and ergonomic positioning and outstanding flexibility. Just to give you an idea, if you want to hook an electronic shutter release up to your camera, Manfrotto offers the optional accessory 322RS, which fits the 322RC2 head. What this means is you will never have to take your hand off the grip action ball head - you can position your camera and fire off photos at the same time. The 322RC2 is secure because as soon as you let go, it's locked in place so your camera can't fall or tip off-balance. The speed of the 322RC2 compliments the faster and more "improvisational" portraits such as these.

Our day at the beach got an early start. We wanted to get our shots while our main light, the sun, was low in the sky, so we arrived just after sunrise.

To give you a before and after reference for our final shot of this lesson we set our Manfrotto 055MF3 Tripod and 322RC2 Grip Action Ballhead and took some shots in the direct sun. We extended the legs of the tripod to get our camera to the right height. To open each leg out to full length, we un-lock the lever at each section of the tripod, extend the leg, then re-lock the lever(figure 1 ).

Figure 1


Once we had the camera and tripod set in place we asked our model to go to the surf line on the beach and strike a few poses, so we could shoot a few shots to show you what the direct light looks like (figure 2 and 3).




Figure 2

Figure 3



Figure 3 shows our model standing in direct sunlight. The shadows are too harsh for a portrait. The shooting tent will diffuse the sunlight resulting in much softer lighting and more pleasing shadows.
The LitePanel shooting tent consists of three 77X77 inch LitePanels connected together with clips. The top and sun-facing LitePanels are covered with white translucent covers. The third is covered with the reflective cover of your choice, for our set up we chose a soft gold cover (figure 4).

Figure 4



Figures 5 and 6 show our model standing inside our shooting tent.

Figure 5

Figure 6



Figure 7


The light is greatly diffused and the shadows are much softer as a result of using the shooting tent (figure 7).

Figure 8 shows a comparison of the two lighting situations.

Figure 8
Assembling the Outdoor Shooting Tent

The shooting tent is easy to construct single-handedly. The following figures show how.


Figure 9

Figure 10



Figure 11
Figures 7-9 illustrate how to assemble one of the three frames that the shooting room consists of. Repeat these steps for the second panel but cover this one with a soft gold cover, and set directly opposite the first one.
Figures 12 illustrate the final steps in the assembly of the shooting room.




Figure 12

Figure 13




Figure 14

Figure 15



Our next step for this shot was to set up the Manfrotto 055MF3 tripod with the Manfrotto 322RC2 Grip Action Ballhead. For this shot we needed the camera to be low as our subjects would be sitting on the beach. To set the tripod to the side mounted position follow the next few steps.
Adjusting the Tripod for Low Angle Shots

Be sure to remove the camera from the tripod before making the adjustments.
The tripod was already set up at eye level. To allow it to get much lower, and to position the camera off-center from the tripod so that we would be able to get a clear look through the viewfinder from a more comfortable sitting position and without having the tripod legs in our way, we made use of one of the interesting features of the Manfrotto 055MF3 - its horizontal center column position.

To reposition the center column in the horizontal position first raise the center column so that the joint is free from the shoulder of the tripod base. Then separate the center column sections by unscrewing the knob on the bottom of the column (figures 16 and 17).

Figure 16

Figure 17



Figure 18
Then remove the lower section of the center column (figure 18).
Next remove both the top and the bottom of the center column (figure 19). Figure 20 shows a close up of the center column sliding into the shoulder of the tripod in the side mounting position.




Figure 19

Figure 20



Having slid the bottom section of the center column through the side mounting slot on the top of the tripod, re-install the top section of the center column by re-screwing the knob at the base of the column (figures 21 and 22).

Figure 21

Figure 22



Now we need to lower the tripod to match the height of our models. To lower the tripod we must adjust the length of the legs. To accomplish this simply release the locking lever at each joint on the legs and slide it into position. Lock the lever to secure it (figures 23 and 24).

Figure 23

Figure 24



Following these steps we lowered the tripod to its lowest point (figures 25-28).

Figure 25

Figure 26




Figure 27

Figure 28



The Manfrotto 322RC2 Grip Action Ballhead gives us the ability to easily position the camera where we want it... and it will stay solid. To adjust the head's position simply grip the handle, squeezing the large trigger at the front, set the position you desire, then let go (figure 29).

A great feature of this head isthat you can reposition the quick release mounting plate assembly. Why would we want to do this? If we are left handed, we can position the quick release plate on the head so the grip is to the left. And if we prefer to shoot with the head in a vertical position (like Manfrotto's clasic 222 head), we can do this too! This is the only head in the world that can do this.

Figure 29



The 322RC2 has an customizable tension adjustment to help balance your camera's weight or your personal preferences. Adjustment can be made any time by turning the friction wheel located in the center of the handle. In figure 30 we see the tension setting indicator in three positions, low, medium and high.

Figure 30


Programming the Camera Settings

We need to program the camera settings before we begin shooting. The exposure mode should be set to M for Manual. Manual will allow us to choose the aperture and shutter speed of our choice. Keep in mind that we will want a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the waves in the background.

We set the White Balance to Daylight (5500K), set the Resolution to TIFF, and the Focus to Manual. And finally we set the ISO to 100.
We manually set our aperture to f/6.3. This is in the range of standard aperture settings for portraits (f/5.6 - f/8). At f/6.3, the background will record sharp enough to be recognizable, yet soft enough to provide a nice separation between the subject and the background.

We asked our couple to come out to the set so we could make a couple of test exposures and established our best shutter speed. We chose 1/320 second, this is a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the motion of the waves (figure 31).

Figure 31



This result looks great, the balance of the foreground and background looks good and we have very nice highlights on the models. One problem, their eyes look dead, to fix this we will add a 39X72 LitePanel with a soft gold cover, a light stand and a Main & T Clamp to our lighting set up (figures 32 and 33).

Figure 32

Figure 33
Figure 34 shows the position we set the LitePanel in to fill in the faces of our couple, with our fill in place and our exposure dialed in we shot the next shot (figure 35).

Figure 34

Figure 35
This result shows the effect the fill has on the subjects. The shot was much better with the extra LitePanel, our balance was right on.

Here in this comparison you can see the shot before and after the fill was added (figures 36 and 37).

Figure 36

Figure 37



With our shooting tent and fill set up we could shoot away, the following are some samples from the shoot (figure 38).

Figure 38


A setup like this can give you the controls you have in the studio without having to be in the studio. After all, wouldn't you rather be at the beach?


Manfrotto Equipment Used:

  • Manfrotto 055MF3 Tripod
  • Manfrotto 322RC2 Grip Action Head


Other Equipment Used:

  • Olympus E-1
  • Olympus 11-22mm Digital Zuiko Zoom Lens
  • Lexar 4G 80x Media Card
  • Lexar Multi card reader
  • Photoflex LitePanel
  • Photoflex LitePanel Accessories
  • (4) 12 foot light stands