Beach Photography: How To Shoot Impressive Pictures (2021)

How can you get into beach photography and snap the most breathtaking pictures of the sand and sea? We’ve got some tips.

Capturing the beauty of the beach needs the right equipment and settings. Beach photography isn’t as easy as it seems. But it is as wonderful as it looks.

This article will help you find out information about:

  • the perfect time to shoot beach photography;
  • best settings for this genre of photography;
  • equipment to capture the perfect moment;
  • a few other tips that will help you take stunning beach pictures.

beach photography

“To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.” 

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Table of contents

When is the perfect time for beach photography?

We have all heard of the famous golden hour. It is that time of the day when the sun gives that yellow-orange sparkle and a diffused light.

The golden hour happens immediately after sunrise and shortly before sunset. Shooting during this time of day will give you a magical shade to the pictures. They won’t have the harsh highlights and dark shadows you’d get if you shot your image when the sun was brighter.

beach photography during golden hour
Golden hour

Light and time are two essential pieces of beach photography. If you want to take pictures at noon, the sun will give you hard light and the beach will be crowded.

During the golden hour, you will be able to enjoy the beauty of the sun, sea, sand, and sky and there will be fewer people on the beach.

Having the beach just for you is like a dream come true. Your attention will be focused on every detail that the beach can offer you, and you will be able to take incredible pictures at your own pace. 

beach photography -including people in your images
Include people in your photographs

However, don’t be afraid to include people in your pictures. Often, including a human element in a photograph helps add interest to a scene.

Capturing people in your pictures will always help you create a great story, but don’t overdo it. Once you have too many people in your photos, the landscapes and backgrounds will stop being in the center of attention.

What are the best settings for beach photography?

As a photographer, it’s important to know every feature of your camera so that you can quickly make adjustments to achieve the perfect exposure every time. The settings you use for your beach photographs will vary depending on the look you want to achieve, but here are some ideas.

You can simply freeze the action or the waves by using fast shutter speed. Or, give a dreamy blur to the water and clouds by trying your hand at long exposure photography with a long shutter speed.

beach photography - freeze the waves
Freeze the waves

One important thing to know is that you shouldn’t use a high ISO. The beaches are already too bright and receive the necessary light from the sun, so keep the ISO low.

Higher ISO will create noise in your beach images, and you will brighten them up more than necessary.

beach photography sunset
Sunset on the beach

Being on the beach and seeing the sunrise or the sunset, will make you want to snap some good-looking landscapes. Well, a wide-angle lens will make the foreground look more prominent and you will create a large depth of field.

Or, focus on something on the beach instead, and use a very shallow depth of field to make the object the center of attention. Even if it is a person, a shell, the sun, or a turtle — focus your camera on it and let the background blur by using a wide aperture

beach photography of a turtle
Sea turtle

As easy as it may seem, even if you benefit from the perfect natural light, beach photography can be tricky sometimes. Why is that? Because you have to adjust exposure and juggle with it.

From time to time, brightness can affect your pictures. That’s why I advise you to shoot in RAW so you can recover any blown highlights or dark shadows during post-processing. 

What equipment do I need for beach photography?

Speaking of the camera, I would like to add that a weather-sealed camera would be the most suitable for beach photography. You never know when the rain will surprise you. Most high-end DSLR and mirrorless cameras are weather-sealed to protect them from the elements.

Also, I’m pretty sure that you will want to venture into the sea or to get close to it. Sometimes the waves are quite big and may surround you and your camera. It doesn’t hurt to be shrewd. 

equipment for beach photography
Beach photography equipment

Taking stunning shots needs a piece of professional equipment. Beach means sand, sun, and water. So, you have to protect your camera from getting damaged. For this reason, never remove your lenses from your camera while you’re on the beach. You don’t want sand to get into your camera!

I recommend you bring an air blower and lens cloths to save your camera from dust and sand. Moreover, some wipes will be good too. You will need to keep your lens clean, not to damage your pictures. 

Another item that you might want to have with you on the beach is the tripod. Well, this piece of gear always has its place in photography due to the stability it offers to the camera. This is a crucial piece of gear if you plan to try long exposure photos.

tripod on a beach
Tripod on a beach

If you want to improve your beach photography skills, take advantage of polarizing filters. You can fit filters in your lens, and they will intensify colors and contrast. Also, they will reduce the reflected light, and the color of the water will become more intense.

Practicing in this genre of photography needs investment, so go and choose the perfect filters for beach photography. You will need something that will emphasize the blue, the shadows, and remove the shine from reflective surfaces.

Beach picture ideas

Taking shots on the beach can seem quite complicated when it comes to perspectives and picture ideas. But don’t forget that beaches are limitless and you can find something to shoot at every step you make.

You can search for shells, stones in the sand, tourists, creatures, flowers, and so on. As a photographer, you must like to explore and find new places to photograph.

Moreover, get inspired by other photographers. Look for beach perspectives and find out new ones. You can take a look at Gray Malin. He is a skilled photographer that enjoys travel and adventure.

Get into details

sand castle on the beach
Sand castle on the beach

For many photographers, beach photography means landscapes and capturing the sea at its best moment. Well, don’t limit yourself just to landscapes and wide-angle shots.

Take close-ups of shells or sandcastles and so on. You can play with the texture of the sand, maybe with some little stones in it.


beach portrait photography

There are a lot of perspectives to take amazing portraits, so get your camera, go to the beach and take shots of people from different angles. 

Sun stars

sun stars

Now I’m going to give you a piece of advice that undoubtedly will improve your shooting techniques.

To get sun stars pictures, use a small aperture. Look at the sun and adjust your aperture until you get the sunshines split in light particles.

Sun stars can be a great addition to landscapes and beach photography.

Enjoy vegetation

beach vegetation

You won’t always see vegetation on a beach, but if you are lucky, take advantage and take as many shots as you can.

Capture it from below, from above, from one side, and play with angles. Capturing vegetation with the beach in the background will offer a different perspective to your beach images.

Also, use a wide aperture to get the background a little blurry. 


beach photography silhouettes

One technique you can practice on the beach is to take backlight photos. With this procedure, you can capture amazing silhouettes of people.

You have to place your model between your camera and the sun. Then, set the exposure according to the background and get your subject into the dark.

You will create perfect silhouettes and a bit of mystery. 

What about post-processing beach pictures?

Post-processing pictures is a part of your job as a photographer. Some of your images won’t have the result you wanted so that you can edit them according to your preferences.

Photography post-processing allows you to improve the quality of the photos and to add different filters, shades, and so on.

If you are just starting in photography, I recommend you to watch tutorials on how to edit pictures in Lightroom and start learning this process. 

post processing beach photos
Post processing beach photos

The colors in beach photography play a significant role in creating a story with your images. That’s why you should learn how to edit pictures and have skills in post-processing software.

Get creative with white balance, temperature, contrast, remove any imperfections, and change the colors of your pictures.

Sometimes you will want to express calmness and peacefulness through your photos. Other times you will need colors that make people feel happy, joyful, and cheerful.

Emphasize the emotions that people will experience when they see your masterpieces by editing the colors and making them more intense.

What’s next?

Once you have experimented with beach photography and followed these tips, you are ready to show people your vision and create an online portfolio.

You have to make yourself known, promote your work, and make money as a photographer. You can even sell your photos on stock photography websites and start making a living out of this.

build your photography website
Build your photography website

So, are you ready to take your photography skills to another level?

Key takeaways

  • Capturing the beach needs practice and research.
  • Time in beach photography is essential, so get creative during the golden hour.
  • Shoot during the off-season to avoid crowds.
  • Add people in your pictures, but not too many. 
  • Play with shutter speed and use a fast one to freeze the waves.
  • Low ISO will prevent “noise” in photos.
  • Use small aperture to create sun stars.
  • Have fun with depth of field.
  • Wide angle lens is perfect for beach photography, especially for landscapes.
  • Adjust the exposure and shot in RAW.
  • Bring a tripod with you.
  • The beach is the perfect place for backlight photography.
  • If you are lucky to find vegetation, add it in your pictures.
  • Observe the little things and get into details.
  • Go to a shop and buy polarised filers to improve beach photography.
  • Post-processing pictures is a must in photography.
  • Adjust the white balance to get dreamy pictures.
  • Promote your masterpieces and create an online portfolio.

Do anything but let it produce joy.

– Walt Whitman

Final thoughts 

The most important factor in photography is practice. Get creative with genres, styles, angles, places, objects, and never limit yourself.

Let your vision be your best friends and explore photography to the fullest. Do this and show people perspectives that they have never seen. 

Don’t forget to have fun. Shooting at the beach can be relaxing and entertaining as well.

Get into conversations with random people and take pictures of them. Have fun with landscapes, portraits, silhouettes, and shoot from different angles.

The more you practice, the better your chances of becoming a professional photographer will be. Get out there and show us what you’ve got!

Andreea Popa

Andreea is a blog manager at WPChill who spends most of her days writing and "polishing" articles. When she isn't writing, she's in the heart of the mountains, looking for peace and inspiration.

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