Four easy steps to creating the perfect beach sunset selfie

Taking a little time to set up your photo the right way (and learning the secrets of your shoe) will work wonders.

Your selfies could draw a lot of lessons from this portrait. Note how the entire subject is in the frame, and the sun and clouds work together to create interest and color without the glare. [Jasmine Baetzel Photography]
Your selfies could draw a lot of lessons from this portrait. Note how the entire subject is in the frame, and the sun and clouds work together to create interest and color without the glare. [Jasmine Baetzel Photography]

It’s no secret that Florida boasts some pretty incredible sunsets.

But taking your own photo to share with friends on social media can lead to some pretty unfortunate sunset selfie casualties. That perfect pose in front of a twilight wave ends up as a dark silhouette in front of a watercolor backdrop.

As a professional photographer, it’s my responsibility to properly photograph my clients in front of these sunsets, so I’ve had some practice. I’m going to let you in on some little secrets to turn your simple cell phone into a powerful tool to take great self-portraits.

Weather

Florida’s weather is ridiculously unpredictable, especially in the summertime, when you can actually see rain clouds form before your eyes.

I have learned patience out of the pure frustration of unpredictable weather. After all, those same clouds can become the backdrop of amazing photographs.

Depending on the thickness of the storm clouds, you are either going to get bright orange and pink hues or deep blues and purples. That’s much more dramatic than a cloudless sunset, with minimal colors.

Please keep in mind that lightning on the beach is very dangerous. But even if a storm is raging, keep an eye on the radar and run to the beach if the rain stops before sunset.

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Want to get your entire body into the frame? Try putting your phone in your shoe, and avoid that dreaded selfie arm. [Jasmine Baetzel Photography]

Lighting

The key to eliminating harsh silhouettes is to use a flash. Although it may not seem like proper selfie etiquette, your flash is the only way to ideally capture both sunset and subject.

Don’t worry, using your flash can be tastefully done. Newer iPhones and Androids have a selfie flash (which is ideal in this situation), but if your phone does not support this feature, your phone’s self-timer and regular flash can do the trick.

This brings me to the only reason to ever bring shoes to the beach: Stick that phone in your shoe and turn on that self-timer! It’s a great trick that allows you to use your timer and flash, but also portrait mode, which is better than selfie mode at maintaining quality in a low-light setting.

One other benefit of stuffing your phone in your shoe is being able to sit down while your taking portraits. You can maintain proper composition and adjust your image before putting on the timer, and also avoid the dreaded selfie arm.

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Here are a couple of examples of how timing and positioning affect lighting. Be sure to practice using your flash if you are backlit, and try to use the waning light to your advantage. [Jasmine Baetzel Photography]

Timing

This is crucial when using a cell phone, since you don’t have settings that professional cameras have.

If it’s too early in the evening, the flash (you are using a flash now, right?) will wash out the sunset and colors. If try to take an image too long after the sun goes down, the flash will be too harsh on your face.

Ten minutes before or after sunset is prime time to capture your shots. This will leave you with photos that are ready for a little editing to enhance color depth and intensity.

Editing

Instagram actually has incredible and simple editing options that are comparable to the professional editing programs I use for my client galleries.

Take some time selecting your filter, but make sure to reduce the filter’s intensity by half. Then head over to Instagram’s manual editing mode to make slight adjustments.

Reducing highlights will soften the flash and strengthen the colors of the sunset without overprocessing the image. Softer highlights will make your image a little darker, so adjusting the brightness will guarantee a crisp portrait.

At this point your photo is going to be pretty close to perfect. The next steps is playing with color saturation and using charming hashtags like #BeInFL to get those portraits noticed!

These little tips and tricks can help capture these timeless moments to share the nuances of life with friends and family. Give them a try to guarantee photos that are worth 1,000 words — and maybe even 1,000 likes!

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Originally from Vermont, Dunedin’s Jasmine Baetzel launched Jasmine Baetzel Photography in December of 2017. She credits her family's unconventional road trips to flea markets, fairs and family-oriented roadside attractions for fostering her love for an invisible beauty only found in the uncommon. She works to practice techniques that counter conventional photography methods, shaping light to showcase the elegance of emotion. Her portfolio is available at www.jasminebaetzel.com and on Instagram at jasmine_baetzel. Email inquiries to info@jasminebaetzel.com.