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10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

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.

beach portraits ew7

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.

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.


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?!?!!?

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.

san diego children's photographer kb1

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.

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.

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! 😉 Genuine smiles and laughter caught in pictures makes me feel I’ve done my job.


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!

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  1. June 15, 2011 at 9:24 pm —

    ***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.

  2. Lona
    April 6, 2012 at 7:27 pm —

    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,

  3. August 30, 2012 at 9:03 am —

    Thank you for the great information!!!

  4. August 1, 2013 at 7:19 pm —

    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

  5. January 4, 2014 at 5:17 pm —

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

  6. December 23, 2014 at 11:17 am —

    Great Advice. It really is all about timing. I recommended the exact same thing in my blog–http://t.co/XzTmBv5uaJ

    Thanks for sharing the great pics and solid advice.


  7. December 23, 2014 at 11:22 am —

    Sorry, forgot to add link to my blog beachphotographyhq.com. I would love to hear your thoughts on my portraits.

  8. April 27, 2017 at 6:24 am —

    This is so cool! I am heading off to Koh Samui for a week next month, and I am surely going to use all these tips. I love beaches and photography. All these tips are so helpful for a beach bum like me. Thanks for sharing this good and inspiring writing.

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10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography