I'm going to photograph an event which will happen in a outdoor spa: pools with brilliant architecture and people having a good time. I think that most of the pictures will be taken at night.

I hope my description is not too vague. So if you have any suggestions, they would be very welcome.

  • 6
    I suggest finding the best looking women, and shooting in that direction. – dpollitt Oct 20 '11 at 23:07

Sounds like a fantastic shooting opportunity! A couple of suggestions that spring to mind:

  • Use the surface reflection of the water. If there are lights nearby you'll get some great effects with them reflected across the water. Likewise that "brilliant architecture" you mention should look even better with a rippled reflection beneath it.

  • If your camera will let you, push the ISO high and the aperture wide to get a fast shutter speed. Try to capture those people "having a good time" in the water with splashes frozen in mid air.

  • If there's underwater lighting, try some very low angles - basically with the camera as close to the water level as you dare. You should get some great portraits with very unusual, exotic looking lighting.

Good luck and have fun!

  • 1
    +1 The low angles suggestion is good, regardless of the lighting. – whuber Oct 20 '11 at 21:47

You may find that shooting poolside is pretty similar to shooting anywhere else. This image was made with a softbox and a gold reflector. It could have been done with just the reflector but the extra light allowed me to let the water tones go a bit deeper.

Poolside Photography

More than anything else, keep your gear dry, and that includes cords. Beyond that, it sounds like you will want to limit how your light spills so as not to obscure the architectural nature of your location, so use lights judiciously and if it works for you, use some snoots (I like to make them out of Cinefoil on the spot for just the right shape).


I took several hundred photos in daylight as an experiment. Some conclusions that likely translate even to night photography are:

  • Avoid direct front or overhead lighting. It's too harsh. Prefer sidelit or backlit images, but with the primary lights sufficiently high that there aren't distracting reflections.


(Canon EOS 550: f5, 1/500 sec, ISO 200, 200 mm, detail)

  • Spot-meter the exposure on faces and bodies. Most of the surrounding water will likely be exposed just fine.


(f/6.3, 1/320 second, 127 mm, ISO 200, minimal cropping)

  • You don't need super fast shutter speeds. When you think about it, you realize a spash doesn't usually move very fast: a few meters per second and often much slower (for waves and currents). The splashes are sharp and clear on the original of the previous image; here's a detail:


A little motion--about 1mm in this scene--is good; the water looks more natural than when it's completely frozen.

  • A moderate telephoto (135-300 mm full-frame equivalent) is a good idea for keeping you away from the water. It will provide nice framing for close shots but can zoom out enough to include groups of people in the middle or across the pool.

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