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Travel Photography Tips – Photographing the Coast


Tranquil beaches and sheer cliffs offer some of the best opportunities for stunning travel photography, and it’s no surprise that some of these types of shots are my personal best-selling photos. Photos of a picturesque beach on a sunny afternoon, intense storm clouds gathering at sea, and dramatic waves crashing into rocks are all very popular scenarios; the possibilities are endless when photographing the coast.

Here are some simple tips to help you with your coastal photos:

Choose the Right Time

Coastlines offer a wealth of photo opportunities, which can all look different during varying times of the day. Head to a beach at midday on a sunny summer day and you may find it packed with sunbathers, but go early in the morning and you might be sharing it with just a few walkers. There is no right answer, but the question is – what type of emotion do you want to create? If time permits, scout the location beforehand and consider how you can portray it best. This could be at sunset when the light shines perfectly on the face of the cliffs, or at a busier time when the beach is bustling. You can always go multiple times in a day to capture a series of different photos to widen your collection.


I photographed this beach at various times, the best photo was this one taken in the afternoon and not my sunset shots.

Find a Vantage Point

One of the best ways to photograph the coast (especially beaches) is from a high vantage point. This can give the observer a view that they might not normally see and give your photo a grand scale; so be on the lookout for high places where you can shoot. This could be an elevated point on a sand dune, a rock or even your car! But remember to stay safe, especially on rocks, which can be extremely slippery when they are wet.


To get the view of this beach I simply walked to the top of a sand dune.

Use Filters

Filters can be a landscape photographer’s best friend. The harsh lighting conditions, coupled with reflections and low sun can be challenging, but by using filters you can accomplish the sort of image that you are after.

  • Polarizing filters can help you reduce the glare on the surface of the water.
  • If you are photographing during the day but still want to create the soft movement of the water you will need to use a Neutral Density Filter to allow you to have a slow enough shutter speed to capture the movement.
  • Graduated Neutral Density Filters are a huge help when photographing any landscape where you want to balance the foreground and background when you have harsh lighting.

To capture the smooth water effect in this photo I needed my ND filters as it was too bright otherwise to have a slow enough shutter speed.

Think Beyond Sea and Sky

When photographing the coast it is tempting to just try and capture sea and sky, but unfortunately rarely do just these two elements look as impressive in images as they do in real life. Instead of photographing just sea and sky add a point of interest to the image. Things like rocks on the ground, cliffs in the distance or even people can really help enhance the photo; and try to use the rule of thirds to avoid placing your horizon right in the middle of the photo.


The foreground adds interest to the photo as both the sky and sea are flat and uninteresting.

Protect Yourself and Your Camera

It might sound obvious, but photographing the coast can be incredibly dangerous. If you are high up, especially on cliffs, be careful of slippery rocks or even loose ground near the edges. Also, be aware of high winds that can easily knock you or your camera over the edge, and be extra careful if you are using a tripod when there are high winds as it can easily blow your camera over. Weigh your tripod down with a heavy bag and you can even open the legs so that the centre column is closer to the ground. When lower down be vigilant about tides that can leave stranded, and protect your camera against salty sea water.

The coast offers a wealth of photo opportunities – and sometimes the same location can offer a completely different photo at different times of the day. So take your time, think about the scene, the light, and the composition, and you’ll end up with a mass of photos that will stand out in any portfolio.

Now it’s your turn. Share your photos, thoughts and tips below.

Marwick Bay

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Kav Dadfar
Kav Dadfar

is a professional travel photographer, writer and photo tour leader based in the UK. His images are represented by stock agencies such as 4Corners Images and Robert Harding World Imagery and they have been used by clients such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, and many others. Kav is also the co-founder of That Wild Idea, a company specializing in photography workshops and tours both in the UK and around the world. Find out more at That Wild Idea.

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