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10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography

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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! 😉 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!

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48 Comments

  1. July 30, 2009 at 4:29 pm —

    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!

  2. Ashley Larsen
    July 30, 2009 at 3:27 pm —

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

    Thanks, great and informative post.

  3. July 30, 2009 at 2:21 pm —

    Thanks for the great information on beach photography portrait sessions.

  4. July 30, 2009 at 2:15 pm —

    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.

  5. July 30, 2009 at 1:03 pm —

    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!

  6. July 30, 2009 at 12:47 pm —

    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!

  7. Crystal
    July 30, 2009 at 12:46 pm —

    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!

  8. July 30, 2009 at 12:45 pm —

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

  9. July 30, 2009 at 11:34 am —

    these are great tips…thanks.

  10. July 30, 2009 at 11:24 am —

    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.

  11. July 30, 2009 at 11:14 am —

    Great job K dogg…..!

  12. Flo
    July 30, 2009 at 10:44 am —

    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.

  13. Janet
    July 30, 2009 at 10:33 am —

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

  14. July 30, 2009 at 10:29 am —

    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!

  15. July 30, 2009 at 10:22 am —

    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!

  16. Rebecca Timberlake
    July 30, 2009 at 9:28 am —

    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.

  17. July 30, 2009 at 9:26 am —

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

  18. July 30, 2009 at 9:25 am —

    Perfect….

  19. July 30, 2009 at 9:12 am —

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

  20. July 30, 2009 at 9:07 am —

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

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10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography