4 must-have lenses to pack on your family beach trip

4 must-have lenses to pack on your family beach trip

  • portrait of brother and sister on the beach by Marcie Reif

Packing up my family and heading to the beach is at the top of my favorite things to do.

It’s the one place I can’t seem to put my camera down. I used to worry that my gear would get too sandy or even ruined, and only brought it out at the “safe” times. This left me with very few documented memories from trips that I never wanted to forget. Once I realized that sand is nothing a Lenspen and a cleaning cloth can’t fix, I never looked back.

I have four favorite lenses I like to use at the beach. Each of them have a very specific purpose and help me to tell the story of our time there. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III and never leave home without these lenses:

I have four favorite lenses I like to use at the beach. Each of them have a very specific purpose and help me to tell the story of our time there.

1. Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art

This lens is perfect for anytime of the day depending on your vision. It can handle variable light conditions well. This lens is incredibly sharp, even in low light situations. I love to use this lens during the golden hour and at sunset. Its wide angle helps capture so much of the story, as well as incorporate the beach and beautiful light that can make an image feel magical. Whether you’re close up or far away, you can capture some very real moments with an artistic feel.

photo of a brother and sister walking on the beach by Marcie Reif

picture of boy playing on the beach by Marcie Reif

2. Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro

I like to pull out the macro during the daytime hours because it helps tackle obstacles that come up shooting in full sun. Its largest aperture is f/2.8, which means you need to have a fair amount of light to get a good exposure. Although this is a macro lens, it is also a great portrait lens. I use this lens interchangeably to capture the little details of what the kids are playing with, as well as chasing behind them as they play near the water.

photo of girl wearing two braids by Marcie Reif

picture of girl picking up seashells on the beach by Marcie Reif

3. Lensbaby Composer Pro with Sweet 35 Optic

This is a fun lens to pack to give yourself a challenge. Let’s be honest, this is not the easiest lens to use, and often times you feel like you have 1 keeper for every 50 shots you take. However, at the beach, you can get very creative with this lens and bring home some fun images. Step out of your comfort zone and put on the Lensbaby. I promise you’ll create something that you’re proud of!

Lensbaby picture of girl running on a pier by Marcie Reif

Lensbaby sweet 35 photo of dad holding son in the water by Marcie Reif

4. Canon 135mm f/2L

Finally, my favorite lens of all, the Canon 135. I use this lens for the portrait and lifestyle images I want to create at the beach. This lens is perfect for when I take my kids aside, either together or separate, and want a lot of control over how I photograph them. I dress them with a purpose; I place them in a certain spot with ideal light or compositional elements, and I lightly direct them. I am still drawn to the lifestyle approach so I wouldn’t say they are always posed but I definitely set them up with a purpose in mind. Using this lens often creates bokeh that is much harder to achieve with a wide angle lens. This results in creamy backgrounds and polished images.

photo of girl in a sunhat on the beach by Marcie Reif

picture of girl in a blue dress walking along the water on the beach by Marcie Reif

With these four lenses, I am able to tell the complete story of our beach trip. I am able to cover several genres, including documentary, lifestyle, portrait, and macro photography. I am able to use light creatively and produce magical images. As we head home, both my heart and memory cards are full. I know that I can look back on these memories and remember the joy and freedom we experienced on our trip.

About the Author:

Marcie Reif, a natural light photographer, lives outside of Atlanta, GA with her husband and two children. Check out Marcie’s breakout, “Bringing Home the Story of the Beach” in the Click & Company Store. Visit Marcie Reif online.


  1. Debbie June 8, 2016 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    These images are amazing! I especially love the narrow depth of field and creamy background and colors in the top image of your two children. I love the look of full length portraits with only the subject(s) in focus and the foreground and background out of focus but can’t seem to achieve this unless I’m zoomed in close (such as for a head and shoulders shot) and standing relatively close to my subject. I was wondering what lens/focal length and aperture this was shot at AND how far you were from your subjects and whether you were crouching or laying down on the ground?

  2. Kirsten June 8, 2018 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    These are beautiful pictures and really helpful tips – thank you! I was wondering if you ever use an underwater camera while at the beach, and if you do which one you recommend?

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