6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos

6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos

1 - 6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos

Myrtos beach, Kefalonia. © Jeremy Flint

Coastal photography is a popular genre and provides a plethora of photographic opportunities. At the same time, it is an enjoyable experience being by the sea. Whether you are visiting the seaside on a day trip or as part of a holiday, or are lucky enough to live near the coast, the fresh sea air is a refreshing draw while the coastline can be incredibly scenic.

Here are 6 tips to help you capture coastal scenes with impact and take your photos to the next level:

1. Colors of the Seashore

You don’t need to be taking a vacation on a paradise island to capture a beautiful beach shot. Light and water always make an inspiring subject. Captured in the right light, which may only last minutes, a pebbly or sandy beach can become transformed into a strikingly colorful image. With careful framing and the right conditions, a color in the sea in good light and with waves can add impact to your images.

Look at the beach in different ways. Close-ups of vibrant textures in the sand or sea make for great abstract pictures. Alternatively, add contrast to a scene. You can achieve contrast by adding another element such as the sky or white foam in the water.

2 - 6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos

© Jeremy Flint

2. Crashing Waves

Have you ever been on the coast and enjoyed seeing the dramatic effects of a rough sea and crashing waves? Capture one of the cycles of waves when the next big swell hits. It may take a few attempts to get a picture that is pleasing.

3 - 6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos

Dunseverick Falls, County Antrim, Northern Ireland © Jeremy Flint.

Be careful to position yourself in an area that is out of danger, so you don’t end up wet. Some coastlines can produce unusually large waves so stay at a safe distance. Use a zoom lens to capture the action and avoid being too close to the sea if the conditions are hazardous.

3. Fast-Flowing Water – Sea Shot

Fast-flowing water can be a challenge to photograph well. There is often a sharp contrast between the dark shadows and the brightness of the water. In bright sunlight, there is the added disparity of light and shade. Take some test shots and adjust the shutter times for creative effects. If you want to record sharper images of the moving sea water, use shorter shutter speeds, or use a longer exposure to give a milky effect. Try different settings and see which effect you prefer.

4 - 6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos

La Digue, the Seychelles © Jeremy Flint.

4. A Tranquil Scene

Idyllic, peaceful seascapes are great subjects to photograph by the coast.

So how do you capture a tranquil scene well? Some things you should consider are location, tone, and color. Select a suitable location, use gradients of tone to draw the eye into the picture and use color to suggest movement. Capturing a serene and calming scene can be very inspiring and great for the soul.

5 - 6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos

The Giants Causeway, Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland © Jeremy Flint.

5. The Colors of Sunset

Who doesn’t love witnessing a spectacular sunset by the sea? Photographs of this spectacle can often be underwhelming but vastly improve when vivid skies shine brightly overhead. Aim to arrive early to capture the sunset and be in a position to capture the last rays of light on the ocean.

6 - 6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos

© Jeremy Flint

Don’t forget to turn around and capture the sky and landscape opposite the sunset which gets bathed in beautiful light.

Take in and photograph the warm yellows and deep blues as the sun reaches the horizon before dipping below.

For subtle or dramatic tones, shoot the palette of colors left in the sky after the sun sets.

7 - 6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos

© Jeremy Flint

6. Cloud Formations

Magnificent cloud formations are always worth photographing and help take your coastal images to the next level. If you look up from the shoreline, you can see clouds change constantly. They often take on wonderful shapes and patterns that encompass great colors interacting with the seascape.

You can create a fabulous picture of cloudy seascapes just by capturing these changes and shifts of light.

Watch for low clouds in the sky too, which can produce a magical spectacle.

8 - 6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos

Durdledoor, Jurassic coast, Dorset © Jeremy Flint.


In summary, photographing the coast can be a great experience and a brilliant opportunity to capture coastal scenes beautifully. Crashing waves, fast-flowing water, tranquil scenes, clouds, and colors can all be utilized to create images with impact. Once you capture coastal scenes near you, please share your images with us below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Jeremy Flint is a UK based award winning travel and landscape photographer, known for documenting images of beautiful destinations, cultures and communities from around the world. He recently won the Association of Photographers Discovery Award 2017 and the Grand Prize in the 2016 National Geographic Traveller and F11 Your Vision competitions. His pictures are represented by 4Corners images and have been featured in National Geographic Traveller, Outdoor Photography, Digital SLR Photography and national newspapers.

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  • Some really good tips here with some beautiful photos!
    Not mentioned or perhaps omitted, is that for moving water and tranquil scenes such as in Image 3 and 4, you can extend your shutter times (shutter speed) by using a Neutral Density filter, commonly referred to as an ND, which is basically darkened glass, something like sunglasses for your camera. These filters are available in 2, 3 and 10 stops, and even variable ND filters, allowing you to dial in the amount of light you want to reduce. Stick to brand names like B&W, Tiffen, Hoya and Singh-Ray. Many others on the market use inferior glass, or have a colour tint bias in long exposures.

    You can also combine or stack filters. I typically use a 3 stop ND plus a variable polarizer, which reduces the light reaching my sensor by 5 stops. This means a daytime shot of tumbling waterfalls can be as slow as 1 second!

    For evening photos like numbers 3 and 4 above, your shutter speed could be 30 seconds or longer, with your Aperture set to f/16 or smaller. Because the amount of light reaching the sensor is considerably reduced, the auto-focus system may not work, and your light meter might not render the correct exposure. Focus before attaching the filters, and shoot in manual mode, changing your shutter speeds manually to achieve the correct exposure.

    Have fun!
    Frederic in Montréal

  • Jeremy Peter Flint

    Thanks Frederic, glad you found the tips useful!
    Yes filters are an additional way to add impact to your coastal photos not mentioned above.

  • Rafael Velez

    Very nice article, one of the nicest chalenges for me is to take coastal potos every time I go to the beach. Ecuador has some very beautiful beaches. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/43657cba6dd96b9d4f9921a145e2dd01b20e1cedf60e32b512d2c5b86c997574.jpg

  • Jeremy Peter Flint

    Thank you Rafael and thanks for sharing your image, you live in a great part of the world, enjoy your trips to the coast and photography.

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