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.

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. December 17, 2010 at 12:07 pm —

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

  2. July 8, 2010 at 10:46 pm —

    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.

  3. Mark
    August 26, 2009 at 2:28 pm —

    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.

  4. August 18, 2009 at 1:48 pm —

    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!

  5. August 8, 2009 at 4:29 pm —

    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.

  6. Julie
    August 8, 2009 at 10:39 am —

    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!

  7. Lindsay Adams
    August 8, 2009 at 7:02 am —

    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!!!

  8. August 4, 2009 at 6:11 pm —

    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!

  9. Sherri LeAnn
    August 3, 2009 at 8:55 pm —

    Wonderful tips – love this post

  10. August 3, 2009 at 8:26 pm —

    LOVE these tips kristen LOve your beach processing…

  11. August 1, 2009 at 7:11 pm —

    Great post, Kristin! You rock!

  12. July 31, 2009 at 7:58 pm —

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

  13. July 31, 2009 at 1:42 am —

    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!

  14. Traci Bender
    July 30, 2009 at 11:52 pm —

    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!!!!

  15. July 30, 2009 at 10:40 pm —

    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.

  16. Dan Trevino
    July 30, 2009 at 10:33 pm —

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

  17. July 30, 2009 at 10:13 pm —

    Fantastic interview! THANK YOU for the wonderful tips!

  18. July 30, 2009 at 10:10 pm —

    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!

  19. July 30, 2009 at 5:18 pm —

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

  20. July 30, 2009 at 4:33 pm —

    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!

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10 Rocking Tips for Beach Photography