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Beaches provide a vast array of photography opportunities!
Whether it’s the golden sand, breezy sea air or the sun beaming down on you late in the evening, there are a plethora of photographic opportunities for you to take advantage of. Nature’s beauty is here in abundance.
I myself personally enjoy taking photos at the beach because it’s a fun way for me to try out shooting in various scenarios. I can push myself and develop new photography skills thanks to the various subjects and objects I can shoot around me.
For example, you could shoot a portrait photo of a loved one in the evening sun!
Maybe you want an action shot where the surfer is frozen in the air.
Or, maybe you wish to snap an abstract shot of the horizon line in front of you.
Whatever you wish to shoot, the beach is a wonderful place to grab some awesome shots you’ll look fondly on, for years to come.
These tips for beach photography will help you get started with taking some stunning photographs.
This article will particularly come in handy if you are struggling to be creative with your photography. If that’s the case for you, these actionable tips for beach photography will help you to get those creative juices flowing.
- Tip #1: Avoid Harsh Shadows
- Tip #2: Keep Your Camera And Lens Clean
- Tip #3: Shoot Your Beach Photography With A Drone
- Tip #4: Shoot In Black And White
- Tip #5: Take Your Smartphone With You
- Tip #6: Shoot Your Beach Photography In RAW
- Tip #7: Avoid The Tourist Traps
- Tip #8: Create A Silhouette
- Tip #9: Underexpose Your Beach Photography, Then Edit In Post
- Tip #10: Capture Some Close-Ups
- Tip #11: Reflections, Reflections, Reflections
- Tip #12: Use Your Lens Hood
- Tip #13: Bring A Tripod
- Tip #14: Use A Wide-Angle Lens
- Which Of These Tips For Beach Photography Will You Use?
Will I Require Any Extra Camera Gear To Shoot Beach Photography?
For the most part, the answer is no.
Despite all of the ads and articles you may read online that say you must have the latest gear, all you need to get started is a basic camera body and ideally, a kit lens.
I recommend you don’t worry about your camera gear AT ALL until you have been shooting for a while.
Buying shiny new gear will not make you a better photographer. Practising and improving your photographic skills is what will make you a better photographer.
If you do want to purchase some extra products such as a tripod or a flash, I suggest you take a look at this beach photography essentials list from Adorama. This list includes tripods, flashlights, filters and more.
Now you’ve got your camera ready and you know when you’re next going to the beach, you can get started with putting these tips for beach photography to good use.
Let’s get started, then!
Tip #1: Avoid Harsh Shadows
When you’re down at the beach on a bright sunny day, harsh sunlight will be inevitable.
This means that it will be difficult to shoot a picture where the entire subject is evenly lit. Oftentimes, in these conditions, you will have one half of the subject lit while the other half is left dark.
In order to fix this issue, there are a couple of things I suggest you do.
One of these is to use a smaller fill-in flash. This will help to bounce some of that light back onto the subject.
It is particularly useful with portrait photography because it will make sure that both halves of the face are evenly lit.
If you do not have a flash to hand, no need to worry. Try to zoom in closer to your subject using a standard or telephoto lens. This will cut down on the number of shadows in your final photograph and you will (hopefully) end up with the evenly lit shot you desire.
I would suggest taking a trek to the beach in the evenings (or more particularly, golden hour) if you don’t want to deal with the frustration of harsh lighting conditions.
When you shoot in the evenings, the sun is lower on the horizon and the lighting conditions are much better. You end up with longer shadows and because the sun is not in the middle of the sky, your photos will end up evenly lit.
This will come in particularly handy when you are shooting portraits because the more even light will ensure the entire face is properly lit in your photograph.
Tip #2: Keep Your Camera And Lens Clean
To get the sharpest and highest-quality pictures possible, make sure you keep your lens clean and your camera body clean.
When capturing a photograph take care not to get sand on your equipment. If the beach is breezy and sand is being blown around try and shoot from higher-up rather than crouching down.
If in the unfortunate case you do end up with sand on your gear, you should send your camera and lens to the repair shop soon after to get it removed.
Your camera will also come with a standard operating temperature range. If the temperature around you becomes too hot or too cold, your camera will stop operating. Take this into consideration if you are shooting in the bright sun or on a hot day. This also applies in the winter when it may reach a temperature too low for the camera to operate in.
To summarise, keep common sense in mind:
- Clean Your Lens Regularly
- Avoid Getting Sand On Your Camera Where Possible
- Avoid Using Your Camera In Extreme Cold Or Warm Conditions
- Get Your Camera Repaired If You Have Damaged It With Sand Etc.
If you can try and keep these points in mind, your beach photography will be higher-quality and your images will look sharper and clearer. Plus, your camera will last for longer.
Tip #3: Shoot Your Beach Photography With A Drone
Drone photographs always make for beautiful photos. The angle at which you capture from is rarely seen as most people shoot from chest height rather than from a bird’s view.
If you can shoot from a higher elevation, this will add even more detail and depth to your images.
When shooting from above you’re capturing the deep contrast between the bright yellow sand and the aqua coastline.
What separates the two in the picture are the crashing beach waves, which help to add texture to your photo.
By using a drone, you are really pushing yourself and expanding your creativity with your beach photography.
This is one of my favourite tips for beach photography because there is an endless array of photo ideas for you to take advantage of, including:
- A photo of you lying down on the sand (try ‘sand angels’ instead of snow angels)
- A birds-eye shot of you surfing
- A timelapse of the hustle and bustle of the boardwalk, coastal path etc
- A late-night horizon picture
- A golden-hour sunset
You could also create a comparison photo, where you take a drone shot of the same location at sunrise and sunset. Then put the two pictures together and see the difference.
Using a drone adds a brand new dimension (literally!) to your photos. By shooting with a drone, you’ll have lots of photos to wow your friends and family with for years to come.
Tip #4: Shoot In Black And White
This type of picture really comes into its own with beach photography.
You see, when you’re down at the beach, it will most likely be a sunny day. Having the sun out with strong sunlight will result in a high-contrast photo, which is *EXACTLY* what you want when shooting in B&W.
One great use for monochrome photography is portrait photos or group photos. Get your family all grouped together and take a photo. The contrast will make the faces stand out while leaving you with an attractive background.
Use an external flash to fill in any dark spots if you wish and voila! You have an amazing family photo, ready to print and hang up if you wish.
To improve your B&W photography in bright sunlight, try using a polarising filter. This will reduce the flare and bring out the contrast in your image.
It is important to remember that shooting B&W photography is not like shooting normal photography. You can’t just point-and-shoot.
If you do not have enough contrast in your beach photo, you will fail. And you didn’t want that to happen.
While these tips will definitely get you started in the world of B&W photography, I highly suggest you also take a peek at these 9 B&W Photography Tips From Expert Photography to delve deeper into the topic.
Tip #5: Take Your Smartphone With You
If you’re reluctant to splash the cash on a shiny new camera and lens, use your phone instead.
Apart from a DSLR/Mirrorless Camera, I believe the smartphone is the best camera to take with use.
It is portable, it goes almost everywhere with you (so you can pull it out at a moment’s notice) and the camera quality has massively improved in recent years.
Most phones these days feature two or three cameras, allowing you to get wide-angle/telephoto shots. Depth sensors are often included, allowing you to snap stunning portrait shots with a beautifully blurred background.
The technical constraints of a phone camera will also force you to be creative. For example, your lens has a narrower angle than a DSLR camera and this will force you to use different shots to fit everything in.
Your background will have less blur due to the narrower aperture and smaller sensor, requiring you to use some creativity to add depth to your image.
Shooting at night on the beach may also be a struggle, too. Your pictures may end up noisy or blurry so try and bring an extra light with you if you can.
For the most part, shooting with your phone will result in some amazing pictures. Just try and shoot during the day and make sure to get lots of depth into your shots.
Tip #6: Shoot Your Beach Photography In RAW
Most of the time you will be used to shooting in JPEG. JPEG images are compressed, meaning they do not keep all of the light data captured by your camera.
This can make it difficult to edit your photos at a later stage in Photoshop or Lightroom.
RAW images, on the other hand, capture AND store all of the light data held by the camera sensor.
This allows you full flexibility with your photo editing, letting you edit everything from highlights and shadows, to even white balance.
As beach photographs are often overexposed, editing in RAW will let you pull back those highlights and boost those shadows to lighten up the darker fringes of your shot.
By doing this, you will be able to better resurrect an overexposed beach photo that previously would have to have been deleted if shot in JPEG.
As with most things, however, there is a trade-off. RAW photos take up a larger amount of space on your hard drive or SD card. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as you get a large SD card to handle your images.
Tip #7: Avoid The Tourist Traps
When you are shooting beach photography, the last thing you want is a large crowd getting in your way. The only exception to this would be if you’re shooting portraits or bustling street photography.
The best thing to do to avoid crowds when shooting your beach photography is to arrive early or to go to a less populated beach.
Shooting early in the morning, such as on a walk or while walking the dog, is best. You get two major benefits with this:
- There will be far fewer people at the beach if any at all
- It will be “golden hour”, meaning longer shadows and more evenly exposed images
As I mentioned earlier, if you are trying to capture portraits or street photography, I would suggest you do the opposite. In this case, definitely go at the busiest time of day to get the best shots possible.
If you’re using beach photography to focus on the nature around you, do some research and spend a few trips looking at the activity around you.
You can then use this information to know when and how to capture that perfect shot.
Tip #8: Create A Silhouette
Silhouettes are an epic photography trick to have up your sleeve.
Thankfully, this popular photography style is easy to produce. Because of the glaring sun at the beach, all you need to do is place your subject directly in front of the sun.
If you can, take a few extra minutes to get a contrasting background so that the effect is even more punchy.
Some Lightroom editing may come in handy, too. You could play around with the exposure or shadows to darken the subject even further if the silhouette effect was not right for you straight out of the camera.
You may not get the desired look straight away but keep sticking at it. Oftentimes, you’ll be able to solve any issues with some extra edits in Adobe Lightroom. Just remember to shoot in RAW!
Tip #9: Underexpose Your Beach Photography, Then Edit In Post
As I’ve mentioned throughout this article, shooting in RAW is ideal. This is because the RAW format stores all of the light data captured by your camera sensor.
This comes in handy when editing underexposed photos in Lightroom as you’ll have more data to play around with during your editing.
To take advantage of the RAW format, I suggest you underexpose your beach photography.
Even though the photo may not look “right” straight out of the camera, you’ll be able to fix this in Lightroom and then get the exact look you desire.
To do this, expose for the brightest part of your image, also known as the “highlights”.
In most beach photographs, the brightest part of your image will be the sun and the clouds. So, when shooting in-camera, lower your exposure to the point where you can see the sun and the clouds are all ‘fluffy’.
The last thing you want is a photo where the sky is a large “white blob” otherwise that indicates you have not exposed for the highlights and therefore, the image is overexposed.
Once you have taken your photograph, remember to lift the shadows and lower the highlights so that as much detail as possible is visible in the brighter and darker areas of your image.
If you keep sticking to this type of workflow, you’ll get better over time and you’ll soon be well on your way to capturing evenly exposed photographs.
Tip #10: Capture Some Close-Ups
Capturing close-ups will expand your creative skills.
Even though this is a less “technical” piece of advice, I do believe it will come in handy.
Far too often, we grab our phone and snap a shot from the same angle: Chest Height. This results in boring compositions.
What I suggest you do is be a little more “intentional” with how you compose your pictures.
Next time you grab your phone out, or any camera for that matter, try crouching down to get closer to your subject.
On the beach, you could get a macro shot of the texture in the stones. Or, another idea would be to get close to the sand and capture some snaps of the footprints or the shoreline.
The details are what makes these types of photos punchy and attractive to the eye.
Next time you go to the beach, remember to take a little extra time to crouch down and get closer to your subject.
Tip #11: Reflections, Reflections, Reflections
Regardless of what time of day you head out to the beach, take a look around you for reflections.
They will be most commonly found in wet sand or tide pools and if you angle the image well, you could have it so that there is a large object in the reflection, such as a human or architecture, for example.
Consider how the lighting is working in your surroundings and try to add different sources of lighting to the scene. This way you can emphasise the reflections and the details, if possible.
Tip #12: Use Your Lens Hood
If your camera did not come with a lens hood, don’t worry. This is not essential but it can definitely come in handy.
Light at beaches can be exceptionally harsh, depending on what time of day you visit.
To keep your camera’s metering system accurate and to prevent lens flares, get your lens hood out.
Most photographers will rarely use the lens hood but on a bright sunny day, it can certainly improve your photo quality.
Tip #13: Bring A Tripod
By using a quality tripod, you will be able to capture a long exposure.
This can come in very handy in two major situations:
- When you’re shooting in daylight but you want to capture a longer exposure so you get a blurry image or the sea, or;
- You’re shooting in low-light conditions and you want to let in more light without having to use the camera handheld
Take one with you if you’re going to watch the sunset.
It will also come in handy if you want to capture the movements of clouds or water.
Tripods can be found for cheap on Amazon and it will definitely come in handy in the longer term.
Tip #14: Use A Wide-Angle Lens
Wide-angle lenses allow you to fit more into the picture.
If you’re shooting a family portrait at the beach, want to fit in a large coastline or you’re trying to capture a large headland or marina, this lens will definitely come in handy for you.
They can often be expensive, however, and you shouldn’t need to worry about this at the moment if all you have is a kit lens.
Be aware however that some lenses can give you a distorted look, which will hinder your image quality.
However, if you’re up for a challenge and you want to push yourself, definitely look into picking up a wide-angle lens.
Which Of These Tips For Beach Photography Will You Use?
Now you’ve read through these beach photography tips and you’re all set to go, what will you do with them?
Will you capture some portraits of your family? Get close up to the waves? Take a trek to the wildlife?
There are lots of options and the beach is a great place to hone your photography skills.
Let me know in the comments below how you got on with these tips. I’d love to hear from you and see how you get on.