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Tips + Tricks

May 24, 2018

Best Northern Beaches portrait locations

Hello there! To make it easier for my clients to pick a location they love for their session, I’ve decided to start compiling this list of all my favourite Northern Beaches portrait locations. I’m constantly searching for beautiful places to take photos at. Honestly, just this morning I must have looked so strange to passersby on my morning walk when I stopped right up close to a bush so I could check out the vantage point of a particular spot. I’m not crazy, I swear!

A few things to note about photography on the Northern Beaches that will help you choose the perfect location AND just as importantly, the best time of day for the location of your preference (or vice-versa).

  • If you want to have the ocean behind you in your photos: I recommend having a morning session (starting at sunrise). This means the sun will be behind you, creating a beautiful glow from behind that catches your hair and clothing. If you have your session at the beach in the afternoon with the ocean behind you, the sunlight will be directly on you, causing harsh light, shadows and squinting. The only instance this doesn’t apply is if it’s an overcast day, then it’s perfect conditions to have the beach behind you in the afternoon.
  • Most people prefer to have an afternoon session for convenience, and the afternoon sun is delightful. Just be aware if you’re having a beach session that most of your photos may not have as much water in the background as we’ be able to achieve in a morning session.


North Curl Curl Beach

(Above) Steve at North Curly, late Summer, just before sunset. He’s facing the water rather than it being behind him as the sun was coming from the South-West – and you can see the glow of the light catching the back of his hair and shirt as a result!

(Above) Drew, Beth and Bodhi at North Curl Curl beach, on an overcast afternoon about an hour before sunset. This was an ideal scenario for an afternoon session with the beach behind as even though the sun was facing them, it was diffused by the clouds and didn’t cause harsh shadows

(Above) Mel at North Curly, late afternoon on a sunny day. Mel’s facing the water so that the sunlight catches her back and not her face.

(Above) Steve at North Curl Curl headland just above the beach. I love this spot for portraits because of the beach shrub and the soft colours it creates. The area is perfect for natural romantic couple photos and fun family portraits. This was taken in the afternoon about 1.5 hours before sunset, however if you want the dramatic ocean-backed cliff edges, I recommend a morning session in this location.

(Above) Steve at North Curly (again). I LOVE the rock faces down on the beach at North Curly for their creamy, light colour. This area is best in the late afternoon and early morning. This shot was late afternoon, and Steve was facing the water, with the sun coming in from behind him on the left, creating a beautiful glow. In the mornings this spot is better about an hour after sunrise as the headland to the north blocks the light from the sunrise.


Freshwater Beach

If you’re a big fan of beach rocks, then Freshwater is the beach for you! There’s a massive expanse of rock to play around on, and these portraits of Stroudy were taken in the area just off McKillop park at the headland there. This was a pre-sunset session in late Summer, so again, if you want the sunrise and ocean behind you, do your session here at sunrise.


Narrabeen Lakes

I’m yet to do a session at Narrabeen Lakes, however it’s on my wishlist! It’s an area of absolute natural beauty, with ample bushland, shrubs, lagoon and lake, reeds and sandy tracks. I came across a really pretty spot with lots of tall reeds on the lagoon at the end of Tourmaline Street one day while I was out location scouting and think that would be a gorgeous sunset session spot for couples and families alike!


Red Hill

I grew up living on Red Hill, and spent many weekends bushwalking and bike riding along the tracks right up the top, off of Lady Penrhyn Drive. It was only recently that it hit me how perfect of a spot this would be as a photography session location! Sand coloured dirt (ideal for skintones) – check! Pretty shrubs and bushes to catch the light – check! Beautiful, soft colours – check! It’s right up the top of the hill, so there’s no obstruction to the sunrises or sunsets and it’s ideal for the couple or family who loves a grounded, Australiana feel.


Fairy Bower / Shelly Beach / Cabbage Tree Bay

This spot near Shelly Beach in Manly is perfect for an urban coastal session. I love the grungy walls of the old Mambo building, right next to the Bower restaurant. These photos of Jess were taken in the late afternoon. In the mornings this spot gets direct sun so it’s not as ideal then. There’s also a cute spot closeby with 5 surfboards in a row that can make for a fun location with a slightly more editorial feel.

(Above and below) Jess at the old Mambo building at Fairy Bower. I love this grungy wall so much!

(Above) Steve at the Mambo building in Fairy Bower. I feel like this location could just as easily be in Santorini – don’t you?

(Above) Steve at the secret surfboard location at Fairy Bower.

(Above and Below) Ocean locations at Shelly beach. These were both sunset sessions, however sunrise would also work well in this location.


South Curl Curl Beach and Curl Curl Coastal Walk

South Curl Curl is a gorgeous spot, with a lot of really pretty beach grass which is gorgeous for seated portraits on the sand in the late afternoon. The nearby coastal walk is also stunning as a location, with romantic rock faces you can sit on with your beloved, and the weathered wood boardwalk you can walk along – perhaps with a coffee in hand? – for more of a lifestyle angle to your session! There’s also the Curl Curl dog park very close by, which has some pretty grassy spots ideal for family sessions.


Careel Bay, Avalon

I’m yet to check this out specifically as a photography location, however it’s on my list to visit very soon! I love this spot because of Pittwater and the gorgeous boats in the harbour. The bay itself has a more relaxed, holiday beach-town feel which is ideal for a laid-back luxe feeling beach session. Because it’s West-facing, this location is ideal for an afternoon session.


Dee Why

Oh Dee Why, how I love thee! Apart from being my go-to spot for a morning walk and swim, Dee Why has a lot to offer in the photography stakes! There’s the rocky area just near the beach pool which is a beautiful morning session spot, then there’s the nearby grassy area near the lagoon with lots of tall grass. Dee Why also has a strip of gorgeous cafes with beautiful decor, including Girlder’s, Stella Blu and Jah Bar. These locations could all be really cool spots for a lifestyle session – just make sure you call the cafe in advance to ask if they’d be happy for you to have portraits taken there. A weekday in their less busy times will give you a better chance of getting a yes!

(Above) These portraits of Leticia were taken at sunset, in the reserve off Dee Why Lagoon, just behind Dee Why beach car park. I love the long grass here and the way the soft light falls.

(Above) Leticia and I took a set of portraits outside Stella Blu restaurant in Dee Why. We opted for this restaurant because of the European style chairs. The waiters were very accommodating in allowing us to take photos here for about 20 minutes (we bought some drinks from them, too 😉 )

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