The Guide to Better Beach Photography
It’s no secret that you love the beach! And we might be a little biased, but it’s easy for us to see why. From the heavenly sensation of the literal sand between your toes, to the more intangible feelings of total bliss that surge with every crashing wave, there’s simply nowhere else that compares.
So it stands to reason that you would want to return again and again—even if only in memories. But capturing the magic of the beach in still photography can be a lot trickier than it seems. Here, we’ve rounded up our top tips for how to take beach photos that will truly transport you.
Consider the Lighting
There’s no denying that high noon on a beach day is prime time for sunbathing. But such direct overhead sun won’t do your photos any favors. Beyond washing out your subjects, full sunlight can create harsh shadows and even flatten the contrast between the sand and sea. Instead, opt for the “bookend” times of day: the golden hours just after sunrise and preceding sunset will cast a more delicate light and add incredible vibrancy to your images.
Embrace Bad Weather
It may seem counterintuitive, but rainy and foggy weather conditions can actually create the perfect backdrop for your beach photography. While it won’t do much for your suntan, such dreary days can assist by softening the sun’s direct rays, casting a more even light on and around your subjects. A bit of recent rain can also leave lovely reflecting pools that help to bounce light in a way that makes your subjects really pop against the backdrop. Just be wary of actual storm conditions, as thunder and lightning aren’t worth the risk.
Vary the Locations
Any beach photo shoot is sure to capture the horizon line of the ocean in several shots, from facing the tides straight on for a perfectly horizontal canvas, to angling the shot to include a diagonal swath of shoreline. These beach photos are keepers, of course, but don’t forget to snap a few pictures of other more diverse locations on your next beach trip. From the brush-covered paths that lead up to the beach, to the views looking back from the shoreline toward the town or resort—or even a closeup of that mouth-watering, melting ice cream cone at the snack bar. These shots will round out your recollections of that blissful beach day.
Play with Perspective
We’ve all heard of the “rule of thirds” in photography, which is to essentially imagine an invisible Tic-Tac-Toe board on your shot—two vertical and two horizontal lines that divide the canvas into equal thirds—and the advice to vary the places where you frame the subject. While this is a surefire way to take some excellent snaps, don’t be afraid to experiment, too: try a few macro closeups, grab a few shots from above and below the subject for a more dramatic perspective, try a fisheye lens or panorama shot, and even take a couple photos that obscure the background completely. After all, rules are meant to be broken.
Remember the Background
The beach is a natural wonder, but with so much foot traffic, it isn’t always pristine. Pay attention to the background of your shots and avoid snapping photos that include errant trash or debris. Better yet, if you see trash strewn about, pick it up! You may not notice such things while you’re shooting, but when sweeping vistas are captured in still photography, these small items will certainly stand out in the final image. The same consideration applies to other people on the beach. While it may not be entirely feasible to avoid having others in your shots, choose more secluded stretches of shoreline when possible.
Protect Your Gear
Depending on the beach, you’re likely to have company. Never leave your camera or any peripheral equipment laying around where wandering hands may be tempted. And beyond safeguarding your gear from theft, keep in mind that the natural conditions of any beach can wreak havoc on sensitive equipment. Bring a large towel to avoid setting your camera down in the sand where it can easily become damaged. If you’re shooting with a DSLR, use a strap to ensure you won’t inadvertently drop it, or if you’re using your phone, take extra caution when taking any shots from the water. And don’t forget a tote or backpack to secure your gear between shots.