Beach Photography

Beach Photography

Whether a tranquil haven of serenity or a jam-packed platform for sun worshippers, the beach is a perfect location for all genres of photography; macro, documentary, seascape, portrait and even wildlife. Here are some pointers to get your creative juices flowing when it comes to beach photography.

Waiting for a moment - by ^riza^

Waiting for a moment – by ^riza^

Macro and Creative Abstracts

Beaches are rife with opportunity for macro shots and creative abstracts. Some typical examples are: footprints in the sand, chipped paint on beach huts or boats, shells on the shore or intersecting blades of dune grass. With the intention of creating a shallow depth of field use a telephoto lens and employ a wide aperture. Zoom in close to your subject and focus accordingly. For best results get down in the sand and stabilise the camera on a jumper or bag to ensure details remain crisp.

Purple Shell - by alex the greek

Purple Shell – by alex the greek


What better place to photograph your children in the throws of freedom and fun than at the beach? Set a fast shutter (1/400th) to catch the action if the little tot refuses to sit still or give them a challenge to focus their attention such as building a sandcastle or exploring a rock pool. Frame and focus on your youngster, but zoom out to show enough background for the image to offer a context.

day77 - by rlr77

day77 – by rlr77

For beautiful evenly lit portraits diffuse the harsh sunlight that falls on the subject’s face using a white sheet if you have one to hand or a beach towel or t shirt to provide shade if you don’t. For the best results employ a 35mm or 50mm prime lens with a wide aperture to delicately blur the bright background but keep the portrait in focus.

When the sun is at its highest it can be tricky to expose correctly for portraits so try bracketing the scene to expose for the highlights, shadows and midtones separately. Later employ a HDR program such Photomatix to give portraits an interesting texture and dramatic feel. Alternatively wait until the sun sets for an enigmatic silhouette. To incorporate an interesting reflection place your subject at the shoreline, in between yourself and the sunset. Pre focus your subject manually here, expose for the brightest part of the scene and de-active the on body flash.

Felicidad - by Landahlauts

Felicidad – by Landahlauts


The ebb and flow of the sea is such an enchanting motion and to capture the gentle ghostly movement photographers should employ the same techniques as those used for classic waterfall cascades. Set your camera on a tripod and dial in a slow shutter speed, how slow will depend on the brightness of the day, but you could use a polarizer or ND Grad filter to reduce the amount of light entering the lens. Check the histogram on your LCD to monitor the results.

Rippled - by Christolakis

Rippled – by Christolakis

If you want to photograph the scene at sunset or sunrise remember to set up an hour before dawn/dusk. Expose for the sky and support your camera with a tripod. To add foreground interest consider including an angular groyne, collection of stones, pier or lighthouse.

Piers are a classic focal point for seaside shots. A wonderful way of conveying the sheer size of the platform is to use a wide-angle lens and small aperture to keep everything sharp. Also try varying your vantage point to exaggerate that sense of scale. Alternatively climb the pier to get some height from the sand and capture a cross section of the populated beach. If this isn’t possible secure the camera to a fully extended tripod/monopod and lift it above head height. Use a remote shutter release or self timer to take the shot.

Sea World - by frankhg

Sea World – by frankhg


Legal restrictions of photography in public places differs from country to country, so brush up on the rules of the country you are in before you start to point and shoot strangers at the beach. In some countries there is no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place whereas others restrict photography, to protect children for example. Avoid potential hassle by first asking permission of the person or the parents’ of a child you wish to photograph.


Small - by pierofix

Small – by pierofix


The beach is home to many interesting creatures primed for photography; starfish in rock pools, coastal birds such as gulls and lapwing, or strap on a snorkel and explore the magical array of fish under the sea. To photograph birds wait until the end of the day when gulls descend on to desolate beaches to scavenge discarded food. Add movement to a picture of a bird in flight by focusing on the subject and slowly follow it with a gentle pan and slow shutter speed. To freeze birds in flight ensure you use a faster shutter speed. To do this in the evening light you’ll need to ramp up that ISO if shooting handheld.

Underneath a Star - by jaeWALK

Underneath a Star – by jaeWALK

Night scenes

Head to the bright lights of the funfair and embrace the chance to get creative with shutter speed. Neatly frame one of the more colourful or interesting fairground machines and consider lowering your vantage point to add impact or use a creative lens like a fisheye for impact. Mount your camera on something sturdy and dial in a small aperture (for example f14) to keep the background in focus, with a slow shutter speed of around 1/15th sec to create neon light trails

Pacific Park in Santa Monica - by szeke

Pacific Park in Santa Monica – by szeke


Surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, banana boats, jet skis, kayaks or pedalos are all fantastic water sports for capturing people having fun at the beach. A fast shutter speed is essential to freeze movement but wait until the sun is at a low angle in the sky for gentler light. Alternatively you can use a polarising filter to soften harsh midday light, reduce glare and increase colour saturation.

terracina - by Macorig Paolo

terracina – by Macorig Paolo

PS: Also check out our previous Beach Photography Tips.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.

Some Older Comments

  • Julian Hart August 2, 2013 05:22 am

    Great article, really helpful.

    Please can you check out my page and leave a like and constructive criticism on my photos.


  • Emma August 10, 2012 04:42 am

    Here are a couple of my beach shots. I think the ocean is beautiful. Any chance I get I will capture it, as I think it's one of the most breath taking subjects to capture.

    [eimg link='' title='Crepuscular Light' url='']

  • Kishan April 30, 2012 01:12 pm

    Nice Article... I liked the part on taking Macros on beach, which till now I had not realized could produce nice pictures.. Loved the Purple Shell Picture ..

    Some of my beach shots ...

  • OnyxE April 30, 2012 07:35 am

    I rarely take photos at the beach....which is probably obvious...but here is one of mine.

  • Richard April 29, 2012 07:56 am

    Not sure what all you pros think about this, but my wife liked it enough to put on our living room wall. Taken on Naples Beach, Florida when on holiday last year.

    [eimg link='' title='photo.JPG' url='']

  • Colm April 28, 2012 11:13 pm

    Here's my contribution:
    "Gone Swimming"

  • Kathy Wesserling April 28, 2012 10:14 pm

    Great Lakes' sunrises are my favorite time of day and places to shoot, so it was nice to see these wonderful beach images.


    In my opinion, the one thing that would improve all the articles which include pictures is to publish the setting information also. Granted, the settings aren't written in stone (because conditions/cameras change,) but having a starting point is a learning tool. And, I am always trying to learn and increase my photo-skills.

  • Stephan April 28, 2012 10:45 am

    Great tips, could try that some other time when im going to beach,
    here is one of my photos.

  • DG April 28, 2012 08:24 am

    The beach offers so many great subjects! You can check out some of my beach photography at I hope you enjoy! : )

  • Mikhail Anand April 28, 2012 01:33 am

    Orange Glaze on the beach

  • Kim Franks April 27, 2012 10:01 pm

    Great subject matter as I am heading to Folly Beach later this year and plan on taking many shots of historic Charleston and the beach. This article has given me some ideas of what to look for. Thanks.

  • Scottc April 26, 2012 11:27 am

    Great tips and cool photos. Now that we're back in NC, I hope to get some better beach photos than in the Netherlands.

  • Kris April 26, 2012 12:33 am

    "Throes". Not "throws".


  • Ishaq April 25, 2012 11:04 pm

    Here's one post with few of the clicks taken at the beach.

  • Ishaq April 25, 2012 11:02 pm

    here's my click from the beach... hope u would appreciate it.

  • steve slater April 25, 2012 03:37 pm

    The beach in winter can be a good time to take shots. Not the crowds, often better light (not so bright) and easier to get a composition;

  • Jeff E Jensen April 25, 2012 12:58 pm

    Ah, I wish I had more opportunities to shoot at the beach. Some day.

    Here's some shots form a visit to Dana Point, CA:

    And, check out some recent work bya good friend of mine:

  • raghavendra April 25, 2012 12:28 pm

    all pictures for beach photography are splendid

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer April 25, 2012 12:24 pm

    Living on the gulf coast of Florida, the beach is by far the best place for location shoots here. I often use a beach called "Pass-A-Grille" where I have done shoots from a guitarist, to a kiteboarder to a panorama of the beach itself:

    I like the colors and lighting of the starfish photo in the post the best.

  • Alexx April 25, 2012 10:53 am

    You may think: it's just some sand and some water, but it's much much more then that.

  • Max Almonte April 25, 2012 05:40 am

    Hey thats the same zoom lens (Sigma 70-300 macro dg)
    on picture #7. Nice to see such a horrible lens in a photo like this. Great pictures everyone.

  • Tova Lawalin January 29, 2011 01:21 am

    It really is the very best time for you to have the plans for the future and it's time to be happy. I've ought to see this post in case I could truthfully I want to suggest you some interesting things or advice. Perhaps you can write next articles talking about this article. I need to read much more reasons for it!

  • jim patton November 16, 2010 05:40 pm

    these are fabulous shots.

    i love beach shots. particularly looking for a colorful sunrise with a stretch of beach and some life
    on the beach... like a volleyball net with maybe a mom & baby daughter, both in hats, standing near
    the vollyball net

  • DP Shots October 20, 2010 05:21 pm

    Some amazing shot you have there.
    I would like to add this

  • Stephen September 13, 2010 01:05 pm

    I believe that there is some real potential of starting a photography business that focuses exclusively on beach photography. As this post shows there are alot of things to take into consideration when shooting at the beach. If one lives in a beach city with a decent population size and a significant tourist population a photographer could develop niche of exclusively doing beach photography. I live in Orange County in Southen California and I believe the popluation here is large enough to support such a niche.

  • Liz Duren June 28, 2010 06:40 am

    Great article and great inspiration from all the commentators! Ready to grab my gear and see the beach with new eyes!

  • Vidhya March 30, 2010 03:51 am


  • Vidhya March 30, 2010 03:50 am

  • ponderossa March 27, 2010 07:08 am

    This is my beach..peaceful and romantic

  • John March 27, 2010 05:42 am

    The endless Summer

  • Chris March 27, 2010 03:19 am

    Any recommendations for tripods for shooting the sunrise or sunset at the beach? I use a pretty cheap tripod for my long exposures, and I'm thinking my beach photos could benefit a lot from something sturdier. I like to hike, though, too, so I'm not sure if a quality light-weight tripod is sufficient or if I really just need a big & heavy rock-solid pair of legs.

    Thanks for the article!

  • HarryHazari March 27, 2010 02:33 am

    [eimg link='' title='din2' url='']


  • HarryHazari March 27, 2010 02:30 am

    [eimg link='' title='din2' url='']

  • bing a. ramones March 26, 2010 11:03 pm

    here's mine... taken from Boracay Island, Philippines.

  • Precy March 26, 2010 10:16 pm

    Here's my one I took few days ago at the seaside (Knokke, Belgium). My first beach foto after such a very long winter. Looking forward for a lovely summer.

  • Michelle Armour March 26, 2010 01:12 pm

    I am always photographing on the beach, we have heaps of beach weddings around here and I LOVE the beach. I don't have someone else to assist at all shoots, I do keep all my gear in a lowepro bag and clean it and all my gear thoroughly after each beach shoot but I think it is safe enough to take your camera to the beach so long as you are not silly with it.

    Avoid changing lenses at the beach when a stray grain of sand may blow in.

    Don't let it get wet

    Take a bag to put it in while walking, changing, shaking towels, etc (the things that get sand moving, don't just leave it around your neck if you are having a day with the family put it safely away unless you are actually taking pictures.

    Clean it afterwards

    Take a towel or wipes to make sure your hands are not sandy, dust off well before opening the bag.

    Don't put your camera on the sand or let it get wet.

  • Vaani March 26, 2010 12:42 pm

    Hi there, thanks for sharing! love all the pics!

    These are the pics that i snapped at a beach at Malaysia! Do view it n drop some comments! thanks ya ;).




  • Karen March 26, 2010 06:16 am

    Talking about wildlife, here is my favority picture. See it at

  • Kerry Smith March 26, 2010 02:56 am

  • Kerry Smith March 26, 2010 02:55 am

    The ocean is my passion[eimg link='' title='Through My Eyes' url='']

  • Bahram March 26, 2010 02:29 am


    thank you for photo's , really beautiful shots & good look .

    best regard : Bahram

  • David Harper March 26, 2010 02:20 am

    Great job Natalie, beaches do tend to bring on the feeling of summer, and are rich for the photographer, I am a keen amateur, so any help like this is very welcome, many thanks :-)
    Here are a few of mine over the years, taken on various beaches around the world;[eimg url='' title='PICT0210.jpg'][eimg url='' title='jssm_pict0012.jpg']
    [eimg url='' title='jsms_PICT0141.jpg']

  • anya brewley March 26, 2010 02:03 am

    [eimg link='' title='Footprints' url='']
    [eimg link='' title='Walk on the beach' url='']

  • anya brewley March 26, 2010 02:00 am

    [eimg link='' title='God is Great and I am blessed' url='']

  • anya brewley March 26, 2010 01:59 am

  • Stompn_Tom March 26, 2010 01:21 am

    [eimg link='' title='Willy's Rock - Boracay Philippines' url='']

    Prayer at Willy's Rock - Boracay

  • Vincent March 22, 2010 08:23 pm

    For your enjoyment, a beach shot from Jaffa (Tel-Aviv, Israel).

    [eimg url='' title='20090929124445_d3v_4582cl.jpg']

    Greetings from Belgium,


  • rod rodriguez March 22, 2010 07:13 pm

    great stuff, the beach is a great place to get excellent shots of nature, people, sunset, sky... thanks for sharing

  • Joe D'Silva March 22, 2010 05:13 am

    Don't forget those massive ocean liners ...

    [eimg url='' title='P5130074.JPG']

    Or catch some fish :)

    [eimg url='' title='P5130071.JPG']

  • Rammohan March 22, 2010 03:04 am

    Just came back from one of the far remote island called Nicobar. Awesome beaches and landscapes especially after 2004 tsunami, it has changed and made those islands a unique in the world.

  • jmleclercq March 21, 2010 05:16 pm

    The beach and the sea are most important sources of inspiration for me..

  • ianne March 21, 2010 10:40 am

    [eimg link='' title='crop' url='']

  • ianne March 21, 2010 10:39 am

    Liked all those photos!I love taking photographs at the beach.

  • Hendro Yuwono March 21, 2010 08:20 am

    Thaks for sharing it's improving my skill.

    Here some of mine too :
    [eimg link='' title='From a distance' url='']
    [eimg link='' title='the sunset' url='']

  • Sriraam Kalingarayar March 21, 2010 02:35 am

    there r lots of beach shots in my site too

  • Mei Teng March 20, 2010 02:05 pm

    Beautiful beach photos! Underneath A Star is my fav.

  • LeZandra March 20, 2010 02:02 pm

    Here is a photo from North Shore[eimg link='' title='Looking for the perfect one.' url='']

  • LeZandra March 20, 2010 01:59 pm

    I am lucky to live on the beautiful island of Oahu!

  • Flores March 20, 2010 01:04 pm

    My favorite is always the beach with its palm trees and of course sail boats.

    [eimg url='' title='2800509670068190109S500x500Q85.jpg']

    [eimg url='' title='2798646410068190109S500x500Q85.jpg']

    [eimg url='' title='2617189030068190109S500x500Q85.jpg']

    Those pictures are in these two albums:

  • Sime March 20, 2010 09:57 am

    Haha!... Look Behind You! @ Ed Lian

  • Martin March 20, 2010 06:46 am

    I loved seeing this here, feels good to see someone thinking of the summer ahead. I'll be sure to put it all to use on my trip to Greece.

    @Killian- thanks for the tip about the bag

  • Killian March 20, 2010 05:17 am

    @Scott -- Have fun in Clearwater! Don't miss the sunset at Pier 60, as well as the merchants and performers there. It's a blast! I was there last year and got some really fun shots:

    @Jeremy -- One cardinal rul is to choose a lens and stay with it. Do NOT change your lens unless you absolutely cannot avoid it; that will keep flecks of mica or stray droplets of water from sneaking in. You can make a cheap "rain hood" using a Ziploc type bag with a hole cut for the lens. Fit the hole over the end of the lens and secure with a light rubber band or elastic hair band. (I prefer the hair bands, as they tend to be more gentle, but that's just my own preference.) Another thing is to never -ever- set your camera down. If you have to do something that requires taking it off your body, put i back in your camera bag and secure the fasteners completely before doing so. Really, you'll be ok with a little bit of common sense. Have fun with it!

  • Jason Collin Photography March 20, 2010 04:50 am

    Very thorough and creative beach photograph ideas. I was most impressed by the seascape and starfish shot.

    I often shoot candid portraits on the beach. This is a family with grown children still having fun like kids on the beach:

    Read more:

  • Jeremy Davis March 20, 2010 04:45 am

    My college photography teacher always said "The best camera to take to the beach is someone else's" due to how sea water and sand can be so damaging to gear.

    Any suggestions on how to keep your gear safe(r) when doing beach shooting?

  • Ed Lian March 20, 2010 03:55 am

    I feel you guys are following me on Facebook... a week after I go to Spring Bloom festival, there's the tips on flowers, there are some others, but I went to the beach last week and here's the tip on taking photos at the beach! Not complaining, just thought it a funny coincidence. Anyway, I thought I'd share a couple of beach shots here!

    All from the same day!

  • Fotograf Trine Bjervig March 20, 2010 03:45 am

    Thank you for many inspiring photos :)

  • Patt Walsh March 20, 2010 02:42 am

    Check out my most recent picture on my photostream. It's a beautiful beach shot.

  • Rodrigo March 20, 2010 02:30 am

    Hi !

    Other things you can do at the beach (at night and with some light painting !)

    Great article !! thanks !!

  • Kenneth Rivera March 20, 2010 02:03 am

    I live in Costa Rica - I'm visiting the beach on a constant basis so great advises for me... I have lot of beach shots and my site :)

  • Scott Himelhoch March 20, 2010 01:53 am

    Great information and suggestions for shots. I'll be sure to employ some of these techniques when visiting Clearwater, Florida, USA in early April. Thank you for the article!

  • ~simon March 20, 2010 01:21 am

    for me it would be the worry of camera & lens meet sand... sand kills camera... :-( !

    is this an over cautious approach ?!

  • Nathan March 20, 2010 01:16 am

    Great article!


  • Greg Taylor March 20, 2010 01:00 am

    Beach photography is a lot of fun but it presents challenges for your gear. I like to bring someone else with me to make sure no sand or water is getting in the equipment.

    I typically use a polarized filter whenever I shoot at the beach to enhance the colors and minimize glare. Great subject for a post here. Thanks.

  • Greg Taylor March 20, 2010 12:55 am

    I love the ocean and the beach. Taking photos in the sand around water etc. requires special care of your equipment. A little sand in the wrong place and you can kiss that new lens goodbye. When I shoot photos on the beach I typically bring someone with me to assist with the care of the equipment.

    I like the use of polarized filters for this subject matter to enhance the colours and minimize the reflection of the water. You never know what you're going to come across...

    [eimg link='' title='Another Day at Ocean Beach' url='']