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10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography

Beach Photography is fun, relaxing and beautiful. But if you are unsure what to do when you get to the beach, it can also cause stress.  So prepare ahead with ideas, poses and props.

Thank you to Kristin of Kristin Rachelle Photography for these amazing beach photography tips.

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Let me preface these tips by saying I absolutely ADORE shooting at the beach.  I love the backdrop, the sand, the skies, the piers, the lifeguard towers, etc.  But I didn’t always love it and it used to make me VERY nervous.  After doing many upon many shoots there, I thought I’d share some tips that have helped me immensely in getting the results I want with beach pictures.

1. Timing is EVERYTHING.  I normally shoot at the beach in the hour or two before sunset. The lighting at this time is gorgeous and you don’t have to fight that harsh overhead lighting.  I get my best portraits in front of the water about 20 minutes before sunset.  I have seen gorgeous beach pictures at all different times of the day, but I prefer this time and 99% of the time schedule my sessions around it.

2.  Find a beach that has more to offer than just sand and ocean!  I love to offer a variety to my clients so I love shooting at beaches that offer different “backdrops”.  One of my favorite beaches has a really cool pier and some green ice plant that adds texture, color, and an interesting background to the pictures.  Another one has some sand dunes and a beautiful hotel in the background that is really well-known in my area.

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3.   Embrace the haze!  I didn’t always love the haze the beach brings to my pictures, but I have learned to work with it and now embrace it with each session I do at the beach.  I’ve found my processing is often different and may require more attention than other kinds of lighting, but it adds a whimsy, carefree feel to the photos when done right.

4.   Use a lens hood! There can be too much of a good thing when it comes to haze.  Using a lens hood can help you cut down on some of the intense haze you might experience shooting at the beach.

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5.  Spot metering can be your friend with back lighting.  You can expose for the face and get much better results than using evaluative/matrix metering.  I would much rather blow out the background a bit than having a subject with a severely underexposed face! Can you say processing nightmare?!?!!?

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6.  That being said , you can also underexpose a bit to preserve the color.  If the sky is magical the evening of a session, I want to showcase that!  Sometimes I will intentionally underexpose my subjects just a bit (not too much because then you introduce a lot of noise).   If you blow out a sky, there is no bringing it back in your processing.   I use Lightroom so I’m able to use the many tools it offers to keep my exposure right where I want it.

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7.   Silhouettes rock!  Meter for the sky and start shooting! I love capturing the vivid colors in the sky around sunset time and it makes your subject(s) pop! It certainly adds a fun dimension to your gallery.  One of my fav pictures of my own family is a silhouette a friend and fellow photographer took for us.

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8.  Use a wide angle lens for some of your shots.  MANY of my favorite portraits at the beach were taken with my fisheye lens. It adds a unique and fun approach to beach pictures.

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9.  Be careful with your equipment!! I once dropped my 24-70L right into the wet sand when changing to a different  lens.  I think the seagulls stopped flying mid-air and waves froze mid-crash to see what would happen next.  Even though I wanted too,  I didn’t break down in tears and raise my hands to the sky yelling “WHY ME?!?!”.  Thankfully, my lens was ok, but I sure learned my lesson!!!!

10.  Last but definitely not least. . . HAVE FUN! Let your subjects play! Kids being themselves and being happy create the best portraits of all.  Have their mom or dad throw them in the air, have them race, or have them dance like crazy people. This goes for adults too, I think we grow up and assume we need to be serious for pictures but that is NOT TRUE people! I love to make my subject’s feel comfortable and at ease, so heck, I’ll dance for them if I need too! icon wink 10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography Genuine smiles and laughter caught in pictures makes me feel I’ve done my job.

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Kristin Rachelle is a photographer in the San Diego, California area. And is a guide and mentor to many photographers at ClickinMoms (a photography forum). Her interest in photography was fueled by her children and it has quickly become a huge passion in her life.  Kristin enjoys photographing pregnant moms, babies, children, and families.  Her style is fresh, contemporary and she loves capturing raw emotion in her images.

Kristin is happy to answer your questions on beach photography and also to expand on any of the topics below. So make sure to let her know you appreciate her and post your questions and comments to her here on my blog. And she will be back with more tips and tutorials this summer!

 10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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45 Comments

  1. 1
    Heather says:

    Oh thank you for this post! I’m headed to Maui soon and want some good beach photos.

  2. 2
    Kim says:

    Getting ready for our first beach vacation next week … thank you so much for the tips!

  3. 3
  4. 4
    Cyndi says:

    Great post and beautiful pictures! I love the beach also.

  5. 5
    Rebecca Timberlake says:

    This post could not have come at a better time. I have a beach shoot this weekend and was really nervous about it. (I don’t live near the beach so this will be a first.) This post has really helped to ease my nerves a bit.

  6. 6
    Adam says:

    You know, after reading through the whole thing, I would just add one more suggestion. And that is to get ONE LENS to do all your work at the beach. I grabbed the Nikon 18-200 for my last beach wedding. I definitely wouldn’t call it a pro lens, but I was able to zoom in for important shots, and kick it wide when I wanted the scenery! Plus I didn’t have to worry about getting sand in my camera since I wasn’t changing lenses!

  7. 7
    Michelle says:

    I adore shooting at the beach.. but only after lots of trial and error! ;) These are fabulous tips and I’m looking forward to shooting at the beach again next month! :) Thanks!

  8. 8
    Janet says:

    Must have read my mind because I just sent you an email with questions regarding beach shooting. You rock your beach sessions. Thanks you.

  9. 9
    Flo says:

    Thank You so much for the tips as I am getting ready to shoot some of my granddaughters senior pictures at the beach in a couple of weeks.Beautiful pictures and I LOVE the silhouettes.

  10. 10
    Stacy says:

    Great job K dogg…..!

  11. 11
    Shae says:

    This is such a great post. Thanks! I too am in San Diego and was wondering how you shoot in the June Gloom and May gray.

  12. 12
    melissa says:

    these are great tips…thanks.

  13. 13
    Stacey says:

    Fantastic info……I live on the beach and do take a lot of photos there! Thanks!!

  14. 14
    Crystal says:

    What a wonderful post and GORGEOUS pictures! I’m doing a photog meet/gather with a bunch of photog girls from a message board I’m on next weekend at the beach. So these tips will be so helpful! Thank you SO much!

  15. 15

    Would you mind telling us your settings? Do you shoot manual? I am doing a wedding in Mexico and I am a little nervous about the beach setting!

  16. 16

    […] for a very popular blog run by Jodi Friedman of MCP Actions. You can check it out here. I get asked about shooting at the beach a lot so I thought I would try and share some tips […]

  17. 17

    Great photos, and a great writing style! It was a helpful and inspiring post — even for those of us whose “beach” is the bank of a creek!

  18. 18
    CancunCanuck says:

    Great post, would like to add my 2 cents if I may. Being on the east coast (I live in Cancun), I prefer early morning shots to sunset, or, around 1 or 2 in the afternoon when the sun is starting to get behind you and the sea colour just “pops”. Early morning gets some great silhouettes here! I think my biggest beef when looking at beach shots is that people forget to line up the horizon, no matter how lovely the foreground and main subject may be, a unintentionally crooked horizon line distracts from the image. Thanks for the post.

  19. 19

    Thanks for the great information on beach photography portrait sessions.

  20. 20
    Ashley Larsen says:

    settings please and also maybe some post processing techniques, like when you intentionally underexpose etc…

    Thanks, great and informative post.

  21. 21

    i was hoping for something a little more technical, but this was a nice post. I wish I could learn HOW to get better beach photos, HOW to use the many tools in lightroom to get the right exposure, etc. but overall, it was a fun post!

  22. 22

    Great tips! My question is: did you use a flash for 3, 5, 7 and 9, or did you meter for their face every time? Love the photos!

  23. 23

    Thanks so much for the tutorial. What is a fish eye lens?

  24. 24

    Hey guys! Wow! Thanks for the great response! I will be working with Jodi in the future and provide more detailed explanations on a few these so be on the lookout!

    Shae, I don’t mind shooting when it’s overcast at the beach. I don’t get many silhouette shots when that happens, but then you don’t have to combat the harsh sun either!

    Kelly, is there a particular photo you are wanting settings on?

    Sheila, I don’t use flash outdoors. With the quick shooting I do with kids and families, I don’t want to mess with it and feel it hinders me from shooting quickly.

    Alison, a fisheye lens is basically a very wide angle lens. It takes a bit to get used to and learn how to use effectively, but it creates some amazing images and unique looks!!

    If there is anything you all would like to see more indepth information on, post it here and I will expand next time on whatever it seems people want to know the most about!! Thanks again!

  25. 25
    Melanie P says:

    Fantastic interview! THANK YOU for the wonderful tips!

  26. 26
    Dan Trevino says:

    The settings for the silhouette further explained would be appreciated. For example, how do you meter for the sky? What exactly does that entail?

  27. 27
    MCP Actions says:

    Dan – do a search at the top – I actually have a few tutorials on achieving silhouettes – from last summer :)

    It should come up easy on on the search – if not – let me know and I can find the links for you.

  28. 28
    Traci Bender says:

    We drove five hours to the beach for vacation…little white flowy dresses and starched khakis ready for one of my lifetime shoots….but then my camera fogged up, I freaked out, and gave up. I have a lense hood…but what do you do about fogging up? Is it okay, does it go away? I didn’t even wait to find out…LOL! So sad about not getting the pics I waited a very long time to get! :( Awesome tips though, thank you!!!!

  29. 29
    Karen Bee says:

    Ooo! This is so helpful!! Can you explain how you sometimes “underexpose your subject” in item #6? Also, do you shoot your sunset photos with the subject’s backs to the water, and if so, do you use a reflector so their faces won’t be dark? I’ll be using your tips when we go to the beach in early October. Thanks!

  30. 30

    […] 10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography | MCP Actions Blog […]

  31. 31
    Angie W says:

    Thank you for sharing your tips! I shoot at the beach often and your advice totally makes sense.
    Beautiful photos! Thank you

  32. 32

    Great post, Kristin! You rock!

  33. 33
    Jodie says:

    LOVE these tips kristen LOve your beach processing…

  34. 34
    Sherri LeAnn says:

    Wonderful tips – love this post

  35. 35

    Hey guys, thanks again for all of the comments! Karen, I don’t use a reflector b.c it’s normally just me and I move around A LOT so it’s hard to finagle. When I say I underexpose, I just mean I set my exposure about 1/2 a stop under what I would normally set it. Traci, BUMMER about the fogging up! I have never had that problem with fog so I’m not sure how to help in that situation! Thanks again all!

  36. 36
    Lindsay Adams says:

    Thanks for the advice!! I’m new to photography and just recently did my first beach shoot. I was SOO overwhelmed, especially since I had very little experience at all photographing families. I hope to learn anlot from you guys!!!

  37. 37
    Julie says:

    What is your favorite “pier” beach? I am coming to SD next month and would love to get some of my kids! Thanks, great post!

  38. 38

    Traci – the fogging of the lens comes from taking the camera out of a cool area (air conditioned car or hotel room) into the heat. Usually, the fog on the lens will dissipate within 20 minutes or so. I usually have a lint free cloth with me to wipe the lens dry when it fogs – sometimes takes wiping many times and waiting for the lens to acclimate to the temperature change. Sorry you missed your beach portrait opportunity.

  39. 39

    […] 10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography | MCP Actions Blog […]

  40. 40

    These are absolutely beautiful photographs. Particularly the one of the pregnant woman on the beach. Amazing use of the natural lighting and timing it just right for a timeless gem shot. The dawning of life at sunset, gorgeous!

  41. 41
    Mark says:

    Shooting alot of beach portraits and struggling with haze and flash.. Shooting Nikon D300 and sb800 settings are usually TTL for the flash adjusting up and down depending on lighting. Also shooting with Nikon 18-200 250 iso. Just looking for a same setting to go with every time. I know i need to try sot metering but getting fustrated. ANy help would be great.

  42. 42

    […] 10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography | MCP Actions Blog […]

  43. 43

    […] 10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography | MCP Actions Blog […]

  44. 44

    […] 10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography | MCP Actions Blog […]

  45. 45
  46. 46

    […] 10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography | MCP Actions Blog […]

  47. 47
  48. 48
    Judy Jacques says:

    Thanks Kristen for sharing your wonderful photos and very helpful suggestions. I so appreciate learning different styles and methods others have tried….what has worked, what may not have been such a good idea.

  49. 49
    camerarumor says:

    nice tips, i’ll use it to improve my photos

  50. 50

    ***good for you defending the object of your obsession*** Thanks! Steering libs into online meltdowns is an easy? way to make a living. But Mr Cheney says I’m doing so well there’ll be an extra bonus, this year. Oh well, back to work.

  51. 51
  52. 52
    Lona says:

    Thank you so much!! Headed to destin now for Easter break! Many thanks for the great tips! I use aperture on my Mac for editing. It seems many friends that are photographers use photoshop and Lightroom. I am scared of it. Should I try it? Just wonder if you think it is better than aperture? This layering and action business seems much more difficult. I wish I could show you some of my photography. I just did my first senior session this week! It went great! Please send more tips! I will be at the beach for the next 10 days:)
    Best regards,
    Lona

  53. 53
    Dawn says:

    Thank you for the great information!!!

  54. 54
    jana buzbee says:

    Hi there, thank you sooo much for this article. I have been searching and searching for information on photographing on the beach and this really helped me. I am taking a senior picture shoot at the beach next week and truly the beach scares me. I went yesterday to practice and definitely had a hard time. If I expose for the water or sand, my person is so dark! How did you get such beautiful colors AND beautiful people? Did you use a flash at all? On camera? Any other hints you can give me I’d truly appreciate! Thanks Kristin, Jana Buzbee

  55. 55
    Betsy says:

    Great article! Love working under piers and candid pictures the more the fun the family is having the better!

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