Doing photography of a beach wedding might be tricky: beach wedding usually are scheduled in such a way, that the main ceremony ends right before the sunset, so that the newly wed can make some beautiful photos of them with gorgeous marine sunset as a background. This means that the lightening conditions may change very quickly, and a photographer should be ready for it.
Two main sets of pictures that a photographer is most likely to do are 1. The ceremony itself and guests with bride and groom right after the ceremony and 2. The photos of bride and groom at sunset.
The ceremony might happen while sun is still bright, and if you don’t have any clouds to cast nice shadow over the beach and make the lightning softer, you may have to deal with harsh shadows on faces. I’ve seen photographers not ready for it. They think that if it’s outside during a day – they should not worry about the lightning. So they do not take flash and rely on automatic settings. This makes unwanted shadows, and generally very dark faces if not in direct sunlight (and you wouldn’t ask them to face the sun during the ceremony, would you?). This might make the couple very unhappy.
To fight the dark skin out of the direct sunlight and harsh shadows under the sunlight a photographer needs …what? Another source of light! A flash. The problem here is that if you use built-in flash or an external flash on the camera’s hot shoe, you might get flash light reflections off the oily skin. Usually, what I would do in portrait photography is to use one or several external flashes on stands triggered remotely. However, in this case, I wouldn’t have time to move flashes as I want and still get pictures from every angle I want. What I would recommend is to use a bracket attached to your camera. It moves you flash away and to the side, minimizing reflections, and it moves with you, as you move around the scene finding a better shot. Eventually, you may clean up some reflections, but the overall quality will be better.
Here’s an example of such a picture.
Sun is right behind the couple, setting into the sea. Automatic mode would most likely make their faces much darker (depends on the evaluation mode, though), or if using the manual mode to bring the skin to normal exposure, the background would be overexposed. Flash here lighted up the skin, and if it’s further away from the camera (but still attached to the camera with bracket) – it reduces the chances of reflections from the skin while keeping your mobility.
When coming to part two – taking photos at the sunset, a photographer should realize one simple thing: lightning conditions change very fast on sunset, especially in subtropical Tampa Bay Area. Out eyes have much wider dynamic range that our camera, and while your eyes still tell you that it’s fairly bright out there, you camera may require significant change of settings (unless, of course, you’re shooting in automatic or semi-automatic mode). That means that your flash needs to be adjusted as well. Of course, that’s out of question if you’re using expensive transmitters utilizing TTL.
So, all this means you need to move really fast and check your settings after each shot, as even 10-15 seconds may give you pretty significant difference in lightning.
Here are two examples of photos taken at the very beginning of the sunset, while sun was still up and light was bright:
…and at the end, when it was almost dark and everybody was tired already and we were just fooling around with my flash on a stand.