10 Kick Butt Tips for Beach Photography

10 Kick Butt Tips for Beach Photography

Let me preface these tips by saying I absolutely ADORE shooting at the beach. I love the backdrop, the sand, the skies, the piers, the lifeguard towers, etc. But I didn’t always love it and it used to make me VERY nervous. After doing many upon many shoots there, I thought I’d share some tips that have helped me immensely in getting the results I want with beach pictures.

1. Timing is EVERYTHING.

I normally shoot at the beach in the hour or two before sunset. The lighting at this time is gorgeous and you don’t have to fight that harsh overhead lighting. I get my best portraits in front of the water about 20 minutes before sunset. I have seen gorgeous beach pictures at all different times of the day, but I prefer this time and 99% of the time schedule my sessions around it.

2. Find a beach that has more to offer than just sand and ocean!

I love to offer a variety to my clients so I love shooting at beaches that offer different “backdrops”. One of my favorite beaches has a really cool pier and some green ice plant that adds texture, color, and an interesting background to the pictures. Another one has some sand dunes and a beautiful hotel in the background that is really well-known in my area.

3. Embrace the haze!

I didn’t always love the haze the beach brings to my pictures, but I have learned to work with it and now embrace it with each session I do at the beach. I’ve found my processing is often different and may require more attention than other kinds of lighting, but it adds a whimsy, carefree feel to the photos when done right.

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4. Use a lens hood!

There can be too much of a good thing when it comes to haze. Using a lens hood can help you cut down on some of the intense haze you might experience shooting at the beach.

5. Spot metering can be your friend with back lighting.

You can expose for the face and get much better results than using evaluative/matrix metering. I would much rather blow out the background a bit than having a subject with a severely underexposed face! Can you say processing nightmare?!?!!?

6. That being said , you can also underexpose a bit to preserve the color.

If the sky is magical the evening of a session, I want to showcase that! Sometimes I will intentionally underexpose my subjects just a bit (not too much because then you introduce a lot of noise). If you blow out a sky, there is no bringing it back in your processing. I use Lightroom so I’m able to use the many tools it offers to keep my exposure right where I want it.

7. Silhouettes rock!

Meter for the sky and start shooting! I love capturing the vivid colors in the sky around sunset time and it makes your subject(s) pop! It certainly adds a fun dimension to your gallery. One of my fave pictures of my own family is a silhouette a friend and fellow photographer took for us.
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8. Use a wide angle lens for some of your shots.

MANY of my favorite portraits at the beach were taken with my fisheye lens. It adds a unique and fun approach to beach pictures.

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9. Be careful with your equipment!

I once dropped my 24-70L right into the wet sand when changing to a different lens. I think the seagulls stopped flying mid-air and waves froze mid-crash to see what would happen next. Even though I wanted too, I didn’t break down in tears and raise my hands to the sky yelling “WHY ME?!?!”. Thankfully, my lens was ok, but I sure learned my lesson!!!!

10. Last but definitely not least. . . HAVE FUN!

Let your subjects play! Kids being themselves and being happy create the best portraits of all. Have their mom or dad throw them in the air, have them race, or have them dance like crazy people. This goes for adults too, I think we grow up and assume we need to be serious for pictures but that is NOT TRUE people! I love to make my subject’s feel comfortable and at ease, so heck, I’ll dance for them if I need too! Genuine smiles and laughter caught in pictures makes me feel I’ve done my job.

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10 Comments

  1. priscilla Aug 10 2010 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    thank you for the great article. i think i am going to print it and try my hand at it before the week is up. love kristin's silhouettes btw – what gorgeous color!

  2. LauraC Aug 10 2010 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    Love love love this article. Great tips.

    I was wondering if anyone knew of any posts with tips for beach shooting on the east coast. Lots of west coast sunsets but there's no way I'm getting my kids up for sunrise to take pics while on vacation 🙂

  3. Elizabeth Hardwick Aug 10 2010 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    Love these tips! We'll be spending a week in OBX next month – can't wait to put these tips to use.

    By the way, the imagery in #9 totally made me laugh. Glad the lens was okay.

  4. Jodi Parsons Aug 10 2010 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    Beautiful as usual Kristen!!

    LAURAC…Kristen told me us East Coasters can shoot at sunset too…and I did a shoot recently with my family and they turned out gorgeous!!!

  5. Rebecca Aug 10 2010 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    What luck! I'm headed to Cape Cod tomorrow for a big family holiday and just sat down to find some tips for shooting at the beach! So glad to find advice from my fave CM photog!

  6. Angela Oxenrider Aug 11 2010 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Oh Kristin these are just breathtakingly beautiful!! I wish lived near a beach and it was WARM! I live in Oregon..not much chance of that happening. Thanks for sharing! Sorry about your lens…yikes! Glad it was okay.

    Is that why the ocean ROARS!!?? 🙂

  7. Kimberly Aug 14 2010 at 2:19 am - Reply

    Great article with very useful tips! Gorgeous silhouettes!

  8. Pauline Aug 17 2010 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Absolutely LOVE your photography! Beautiful pointers on using a wide angle lens or fisheye lens; love the silhouettes. We are going to Mexico end of October so these pointers have come just at the right time! Thank you.

  9. Garrett Bare Oct 15 2012 at 11:51 pm - Reply

    Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to generate a great article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and never manage to get anything done.

  10. Erica brown Mar 26 2014 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    Nice article, very helpful. Also remember to never take your lens off on the beach as the humidity will immediately fog up the sensor.

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