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Swimsuit Photography Tips
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Swimsuit Photography Tips

If you’ve been following my blog, then you know I not only enjoy capturing a more serious documentary aspect of photography, I also enjoy capturing myself in fun ways when I travel. I personally love shooting street-style photography because fashion is a big part of my life.

So if you’re not quite as “vain” as me, then perhaps you should just stop reading at this point. But if you’re curious about how you can improve this aspect of your photography, then please proceed. As with anything else, the devil is in the details. That said, you don’t really even need a bikini to utilize these photo tips.

No matter what body type you have, everyone photographs differently. So in this photography tutorial, I’d like to share with you some tips on improving perhaps the most daunting kind of vacation photo…the swimsuit shot. Have you ever taken photos in a bikini and felt the sudden urge to sign up for a gym membership and never eat a carb again? “No more, no more!” you want to scream and then you’re in a droopy mood for the rest of the day. Or perhaps you don’t even allow yourself to be photographed at all. These tips will offer you a helpful way of obtaining some great shots on your next vacation. And for guys, perhaps it’s nice to take note.

With that said, I don’t believe in using a lot of post-processing or any Photoshop to correct perceived bodily flaws. I think it’s wrong to liquify your appearance, but I respect those who work their butts off for their enviable figures! But you don’t need to be a bikini model to take home some nice shots. So let’s get started!

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Swimsuit Photography Tips

1. Avoid Bad Lighting

This may sound like a broken record, but you’ll be surprised at how many bad shots are the result of bad lighting.  In any photographic situation, particularly when you’re photographing people, the lighting is the most important thing to keep in mind.

When someone takes a bad picture of you, I firmly believe it’s because of the photographer. A good photographer can make practically anyone look good! And a bad photographer can make even the most beautiful woman look awful. Yet, when we dress down into our swimsuits, it’s really easy to become vulnerable in the worst way.  So naturally, you want good lighting when you’re in a swimsuit for obvious reasons. So what is optimal lighting?

THE GENERAL RULE: Stay out of direct overhead sunlight. When the sun shines right over you, it casts all kinds of nasty shadows all over your body and can even highlight all the pores on your skin. Even swimsuit models who have toned bodies are photographed during optimal times of the day. Although these supermodels are indisputably beautiful, photographers still choose and create their lighting situations carefully.

SOLUTION: Find a place in the shade or photograph when the sun is at its lowest point – earlier in the morning or around sunset. But also make sure that the lighting isn’t completely flat. You may need to move around a bit to find the perfect spot.

2. Use a Flash

If you’re out in the middle of the day and the sun is shining overhead, and you still want to take nice photographs, well here’s an option.

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SOLUTION: Use a flash to lift those shadows and add a more balanced tone to the skin. Adjust your flash exposure compensation as necessary. However, you may need to stand closer to the subject if using an on-camera flash because these are generally not powerful enough to overpower the sun. Technically we’re not quite in our swimsuits here yet, but here’s an example of super harsh lighting where I used a flash to bring up the dreadful shadows.

3. Avoid Frontal Shots

Swimsuit Photography Tips
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Most of the time when we take pictures in a bikini, it’s natural to shoot the person’s full body.  From my experience, shooting a nice full body shot is difficult, especially head on. There are a few things to keep in mind here.

SOLUTION: Photograph your subject at a higher angle or straight ahead. Or if you are the subject, simply lean into the camera to add a little contour to your body, and stick one foot slightly forward. Or you can try posing with your legs together to create an hourglass figure.

4. Prop Yourself Up

Swimsuit Photography Tips
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Another way you can obtain a great looking shot is photograph your subject from inside the water.

SOLUTION: Prop yourself up on the edge of the pool. And look for dynamic curves to enhance an interesting composition. Or you can simply lay down on the sand and prop yourself up too.

5. Look for Interesting Lighting

Swimsuit Photography Tips
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Just as you want to avoid bad lighting, adding dynamic lighting can really help lift an otherwise flat or boring image.

SOLUTION: Pay attention to the direction of the lighting and notice if there are any natural or artificial filters that can play into the dispersion of lighting on your subject.

6. Posing Tricks

Swimsuit Photography Tips
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The human body is a beautiful form and you can manipulate it easily to obtain slightly better photographs.

SOLUTION: Posture is everything. Stick out your chin slightly to separate it from your neck. This is simple advice from portrait photography 101, but it’s useful in all situations. And also make sure to keep in mind Tip 3. Contour your body. You can even stick out your hip a little to accentuate your curves. I can’t find an actual shot of me doing this on the beach, but you can see how I added a nice curve to my figure and you get the idea. But it’s important to look as natural as possible. And this takes me to my next tip.

7. Creating Natural Movement

Natural movement tends to look better in photographs than posing rigidly, hands-on-the-hip, style. Although it’s somewhat of a challenge to create that perfect “effortless” image. You’ll also need a patient photographer. But I like this shot because it’s candid and fun.

SOLUTION: Have your photographer set their shutter speed to at least 1/250 to capture your movement without a ton of unnecessary blur. Also, be sure to shoot in continuous mode. Then move around, walk, jump, play with your hair, and just try to look natural, but of course, keep all the lighting tips in mind.

8. Use Props Like Hats

Note my pose here is a nice triangle. I have a jacket tied around my waist to slim my hips, and the rim hat creates a nice silhouette.
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Note my pose here is a nice triangle. I have a jacket tied around my waist to slim my hips, and the rim hat creates a nice silhouette. The background also plays a crucial role in the overall image.

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9. Mind the Angle 

Generally, most people don’t photograph as well if you shoot them from a below angle or with a wide angle lens. And depending on the symmetry of your face, a direct headshot doesn’t necessarily flatter everyone.

SOLUTION: Shooting from above is nice, but instruct your subject to pose in a way that flatters their form.

10. AND For Those Who REALLY Want That Perfect Shot

Swimsuit Photography Tips
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I’m not suggesting this tip is for everyone, but if you really want to send your pictures into overdrive and stage your own beach photo-shoot, then here are a few more suggestions to take your images to the next level. Yea, at this point, you’re practically staging your own Sports Illustrated Swimsuit shoot :).

SOLUTION: Make sure your swimsuit really flatters your body. Get a spray tan to smooth out your skin tone. The tan in my photograph above is definitely a spray tan. When I took my first trip to Singapore and booked a room at the Marina Bay Sands, I made the extra effort to look better in these photographs. I mean, look at this skyline :).

I think fake tanning is the worst thing in the world and there’s no faster way to age your skin than abusing it in a tanning bed. But a great airbrushed tan is much safer and is about $50 and can last over a week. You can also use body chains to accentuate your waist line and create more contour on your body, similar to the function of a belt. Or you can use a beach hat to create an elegant silhouette, or brush your hair over to one side to add a bit of “sexy” tousled volume to your look.

A lot of these tips are basic portrait photography 101. So hopefully you learned something useful even if you can care less about bikini shots! But creating a nice shot does take some effort as you can see. But a little goes a long way. If you enjoyed this article on swimsuit photography tips, please be so kind enough to give it a share :).

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If you enjoyed these swimsuit photography tips, give them a share! P.S. Are we friends on Instagram? Find me @thepassportlifestyle and on Pinterest! (see my sidebar)

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  1. September 9, 2016 at 10:06 am — Reply

    Great tips! I never thought to add a flash in outdoor sunlight. There are few things more confidence-boosting than a good spray tan!


    • September 12, 2016 at 8:38 pm — Reply

      I’m glad you enjoyed them! Flash helps a lot to remove those shadows that aren’t always flattering! But I agree, a spray tan goes a long way for sure!

  2. February 5, 2015 at 4:41 pm — Reply

    Gorgeous photos (especially of the one at the Marina Bay Sands). I very much enjoyed these tips since I live in Hawaii, I Love photography, and it’s bikini season all year round!

    Katherine Lou

    • February 6, 2015 at 5:08 pm — Reply

      Thank you Katherine!

  3. Nicole
    February 3, 2015 at 5:12 pm — Reply

    Beautiful photos and great tips!! Really will come in handy for our next trips! 🙂

    New post on GIRL ABOUT TOWN BLOG

  4. Anna
    February 3, 2015 at 1:26 pm — Reply

    I would add another one: take pictures before diving! Wet hair loses volume and doesn’t look that good! needless to say it’s been ages since I had a nice bikini shot taken (and I was at my thinnest back then)… *sigh*

    • February 3, 2015 at 2:07 pm — Reply

      I think it all depends on the look you’re going for. I personally think wet hair adds a sultry look in photographs too, but as with any good picture, it’s all about how you compose it. Hopefully you can use these tips to grab some great shots without needing to be a supermodel! 🙂

      • Anna
        February 4, 2015 at 1:20 pm — Reply

        well it depends on the person/hair type etc!! For me it’s better to take pictures with the hair dry!

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