The Northeast is home to hundreds of lighthouses, each more iconic than the next. With their charming structures and idyllic surroundings, photographing these beacons is sure to produce incredible results.
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Tips for Great Lighthouse Photos
When photographing lighthouses, it is best to capture the landscape surrounding the structure as well. Lighthouses are often surrounded by the most beautiful coastline. For the best results, I recommend a wide angle zoom lens. My go-to lens is a 17-28mm. For the wide shot, I would use a small aperture like f/22 to capture all the details in the scene. A telephoto lens can also be fun if you zoom in on only the lighthouse. Choose a vertical orientated photo for optimal results. Try using a large aperture here to isolate the lighthouse from it’s background, like f/2.8.
Watch the Horizon Line
A horizon line is where the sky and land meet. For a flawless composition, make sure the horizon line in your image is straight. Many cameras can turn on a grid within the live view; place your horizon along the lines of the grid.
Instead of waiting for people to clear out of your shot, try taking a few where you include them. People standing near the lighthouse will help show the scale of the structure.
If the lighthouse is lit up, set your aperture to a small number to capture a starburst of the light rays. Start with your lens’s smallest number, typically f/22 or f/20. If you are shooting at dusk/dawn or the evening, you will want to have your ISO up high enough to capture the lighthouse. I would start at ISO 800 and increase as needed. A sturdy tripod is highly recommended for any low-light photography.
Vary Your Shutter Speeds
If you are able to photograph water with the lighthouse in the same frame, try playing with different shutter speeds. If waves are crashing up on shore and you want to freeze that motion, use a fast shutter speed like 1/500th sec. If you want the water to be soft looking use a slower shutter speed like 1/10th of a second and below.
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Beth Mancuso is a professional landscape and travel photographer.