14 Secrets to getting great photos at the beach

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We all have locations that make our heart sing when we shoot.

For me, that location is the beach.

It’s where I’m the happiest and feel the most creative and connected. Since I live about an hour away from the beach I don’t get to shoot there often, so I have to make good use of my time and surroundings when I’m there.

Here are a few tips to help you this summer when you hit the beach in search of the perfect shot!

1.  Different lighting conditions

When you shoot at the beach often times it seems as though the days are longer, this is because there typically is not much that is blocking the rays from the sun, so the golden hours actually seem to start earlier and end later so keep this in mind if you prefer to shoot in those magical hours where the light is soft and dreamy.

Sunrises and sunsets on the beach can provide some seriously amazing color in your images!

how to take photographs at the beach tutorial by Jennifer Dell

2. Water Reflects Light.

Since light is easily bounced with water you’ll have to keep in mind that when the light is harsher that this will also be reflected in the water and can bounce the light to create unflattering highlights both on your subject and the surroundings.

how to take photographs at the beach tutorial by Jennifer Dell

3. Creative locations

Just because you are shooting at the beach doesn’t mean that you are only limited to the beach! Look for unique settings that will help to tell the story more elaborately.

For example, there is a path that I love to shoot that leads up to the beach. I really enjoy photographing children as they run through it going to the beach, it makes for nice framing and it tells more of the story.

Some other fun ideas might include sand dunes, piers, fun colored beach houses, jetties, lifeguard stands, etc. Don’t be afraid to try out new things, but remember to be careful if you are on piers and jetties!

how to take photographs at the beach tutorial by Jennifer Dell

4. Don’t forget your lens hood

This is especially important on the beach when you are shooting into the sun for backlit images. By using a lens hood you will be able to drastically cut back on haze that could overwhelm your subject.

While I’m all for some yummy haze, I think it’s best in moderation so that it isn’t overbearing. Your lens hood will help you to retain those important details of your subject.

beach photography tutorial by Jennifer Dell

5. Experiment

Shooting at the beach can be a great time to rent a wide angle or a fish eye or even a Lensbaby. These lenses can help to give your images a unique feel and with such a vast and beautiful backdrop what better time to try something new!?

Some other fun and unique equipment you might want to try are Polarizing and UV filters, these can add blues and rich hues to your images while shooting at the beach.

how to take photographs at the beach tutorial by Jennifer Dell

6. Bracketing

When you are shooting at the beach and you are wanting to retain some of the sky along with keeping your subject well exposed and you do not want to use a flash, you can try bracketing!

You can either do this manually by exposing for the different highlights and then shadows or some camera bodies actually have a bracketing mode that will shoot several exposures of the same image. Then you can use your post processing software like Photoshop to merge the images for some very dramatic results.

how to take photographs at the beach tutorial by Jennifer Dell

7. Spot metering

I have always found that spot metering seems to work the best when metering on the beach. This way you are exposing for your subjects skin as opposed to evaluative or matrix metering which might be thrown off by the much brighter background and reflective water.

how to take photographs at the beach tutorial by Jennifer Dell

8. Don’t be afraid of less than ideal weather

One morning I had a session and when I showed up there was so much fog I could hardly see the water. After it started lifting a teeny bit, I was able to start shooting and the fog left me with some very ethereal photos.

The fog also helped to keep the sun from becoming too bright too quickly so I actually had more wiggle room with my time too! Also, stormy dramatic skies can make for some truly stunning images, so don’t fear the clouds if they start to roll in.

how to take photographs at the beach tutorial by Jennifer Dell

9. Watch that horizon

It can be so much more evident when you have a very sharp horizon, like where the ocean meets the sky running through someone’s head or neck. Horizons can also become more sloped and angled if you tend to shoot like a drunk monkey… which I do, so I am always keeping this in mind when shooting.

how to take photographs at the beach tutorial by Jennifer Dell

10. Random strangers

In most cases, you are not going to be the only one on the beach when you are shooting. First thing in the morning joggers and surfers are usually out in full force and by the evening hours families are enjoying walks along the shore.

Try to find a location that might not be as popular, something off the beaten path or just be sure that you are aware of random people that might be popping into your frame and try to shoot around them or angle so that they are not in the photo.

how to take photographs at the beach tutorial by Jennifer Dell

11. Keep an eye on your gear

It is very easy for sand to get into your camera when you are switching lenses especially if you only shoot with primes, like I do. I typically try to change lenses with the body in my bag keeping the sand from blowing in and I do this very quickly.

Also it is very easy to be caught up in the moment and drop your gear into the ocean, so try to always use a strap when shooting in the water.

how to take photographs at the beach tutorial by Jennifer Dell

12. Check your background

Often times on the beach you will find trash cans, over abundance of seaweed, cars and more. Remember to keep an eye on your background to keep distracting elements out of the frame. Having such a wide open space like the beach will just make these elements appear more obnoxious.

how to take photographs at the beach tutorial by Jennifer Dell

13. Safety first

While I am all for trying some creative and fun poses, I always keep safety a top priority when at the beach. It is very easy to slip and fall on slimy rocks that make a jetty or to have a toddler fall face first into the water.

Be mindful of your surroundings and keep safety a top priority when you are shooting at the beach.

how to take photographs at the beach tutorial by Jennifer Dell

14. Have fun

Shooting at the beach can be a ton of fun, especially with children.

Many times they are so interested in exploring their surroundings, don’t become irritated if they don’t want to sit perfectly still and smile at the camera, instead follow them around and try documenting them as they explore their surroundings and feel the salty water or gritty sand between their toes!

how to take photographs at the beach tutorial by Jennifer Dell

About the Author:

Armed with a Nikon D4 and an assortment of prime lenses, Jennifer enjoys photographing children and families in her own style, candid and full of natural expressions. Jennifer’s photography venture began in high school and was then encouraged in college as she pursued her graphic design degree. She also enjoys the show Friends, coffee, a nice bottle of wine, and spending time with her family including her husband and children.

23 Comments

  1. Mel Jun 10 2013 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    Beautiful and dreamy images! I love these and now I can’t wait for some more beachy sessions!

  2. Sophie Jun 10 2013 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    Absolutely stunning, and wonderful tips. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  3. Stacey Vukelj Jun 10 2013 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    These are gorgeous! I am inspired to head to the beach.

  4. Melissa Stottmann Jun 11 2013 at 1:33 am - Reply

    Great post! Going to the beach this weekend so the tips were quite helpful! 🙂

  5. Cary Jun 11 2013 at 8:56 am - Reply

    Beautiful, even more so bc it’s in Galveston 🙂

  6. Sarah Vaughn Jun 11 2013 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    Oh your beach photography is just soooo amazing! I love your work – great tips!!

  7. Joanne Jun 12 2013 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Thank you for all the tips – I wrote them on an index card to remind me when I’m at the beach next month!

  8. Laura Jun 13 2013 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    awesome tips! I shoot almost exclusively at the beach and haven’t ever brought a lens hood – I’ve already popped it in my bag for my next shoot!!

  9. Carrie Jun 16 2013 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    Anyone in the Ft. Myers/ Sanibel area that does family beach photography?

  10. tayongzki Jun 17 2013 at 8:04 am - Reply

    Nice picture perfect.

  11. Kim Jun 28 2013 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Great tips Jennifer! Will be reviewing these again.

  12. Shannon Jun 28 2013 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Beautiful photos! Great post.

  13. jamielynn nori Jul 02 2013 at 10:31 pm - Reply

    Wow liked to hear about backlit subjects and the lens hood. Must try.Here’s one of a little critter up close and personal like…PS i have never seen a laddy bug this little ever!!

  14. Robyn King Jul 18 2013 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    Beautiful images and very inspiring so glad I happened upon your blog today:)) Have a wonderful weekend! Robyn King

  15. Betsy Jan 04 2014 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    Love your articles! I am also a beach photographer and just love it!
    The lighting is the most difficult task I have but keep getting better very year.

  16. Tara Jan 05 2014 at 8:07 pm - Reply

    First of all, you are amazingly talented and second, thanks SO much for the tips! You are only too blessed to live by the ocean not only because it is AWESOME to live by the ocean, but also becaues it is ideal for photography.. I wish! LOVE all the photos you shared with us …

  17. Caron Apr 30 2015 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    what a gorgeous post! Hope you don’t mind, but we are featuring your work on our mom’s day post on Everything Coastal for this week. Love love love the tips –

    Caron

  18. Caron May 08 2015 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    Hi! I LOVE this post and we’re featuring a link back to you on our Everything Coastal blog for our Mother’s Day post this week. Great tips, and beautiful inspiration!

  19. Janet May 29 2015 at 5:16 am - Reply

    Wow, FANtastic article, I’m totally inspired, I live very close to the beach, so cannot wait to get down there and use some of your fabulous tips…. Thank you for sharing

  20. Priti Apr 27 2017 at 6:17 am - Reply

    Beach time photography has always been my favourite one. All tips are good and so useful. Plus the pictures that have been used up are all cute especially with small infants smiling towards the lens. This makes me go to the beach only for a special photoshoot this weekend.

  21. Katy Beacher Feb 21 2018 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the great tips. especially the one about watching the horizon.

  22. Don Fillmore May 22 2018 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    Beautiful shots, great tips. Thanks for the info and the inspiration.

  23. Meg Jun 17 2018 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    Awesome pictures and I feel so inspired to take some awesome beach pictures too!

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