How to Take Great Beach Pictures

How to Take Great Beach Pictures Posted: 21/07/2010

Beach pictures could be the most common images captured by photographers. Beaches set the scene for family vacations, weddings and intimate getaways. There is a reason beaches are so photographed. They are beautiful. But there are many common mistakes made in beach photography. Follow these hints and tips to find out how to take great beach pictures that are creative and impressive.

Have you noticed all beach pictures look the same? There's the standard sunset shot, or the posed family members with shadows blacking out their faces? Avoid some of those beach photography pitfalls. Think outside the LCD box!

First of all, really gaze slowly around you. Look down, look up. Are there unique details or small items you can capture? You could spend hours simply on macro beach photography, capturing seashells, crabs or small toys on the beach. How charming would a close-up of your child's sand castle be, paired next to a photo of your child at the beach?

There is one mistake quite commonly made when photographing the beach: putting the horizon line dead center. While it might make sense, as it is symetrical, it violates the photography rule of thirds. You should always be aware of lines when shooting beach pictures.

The rule of thirds

Take a look at your previous beach photos. Is there a horizon line in the middle? How does it look to you? This actually slices the photo in half for observers, and is disconcerting. Instead, stick to the rule of thirds. This means you should place the horizon in the bottom or top third of the beach picture instead.

Frame your beach picture

No, this isn't about the frame you buy for your photo. This is about giving an anchor to your image. Look for natural frames for beach photos, such as a rocky outcropping or a leaning palm tree. You are looking for something that naturally places a frame around the target of your picture, the beach.

Get rid of bad lines

Before you shoot, really examine all areas of the image. Is there something distracting or ugly in your shot that you didn't intend to capture? Cars, electrical lines, a stray sunbather (who you don't intend to get in the picture, such as a topless sunbather in a family portrait) all can take a good picture and ruin it. Also be sure your horizon line is straight.

Sometimes, especially if an element in the foreground distracts you, you can end up with a lopsided beach. Don't just shoot the beach. I mean, how is that different than all your other beach pictures? Instead, look for interesting items to serve as a focal point with the beach as the backdrop.

Look for Unique Still-Life Images Check the area for an interesting focal point. Perhaps it is a lone and empty beach chair, or a bottle of greasy, sandy suntan lotion, or maybe even a surfboard propped against a palm tree. Place this item in the foreground, and keep the beach scene in the background.

The sun and its impact 

We've all seen beach pictures gone bad, with the subjects (usually family and friends) partially or completely obscured by shadows and bright backlighting. Sometimes you want this, say if you're shooting a couple hand-in-hand at sunset. Many times, you don't. Be sure you have the sun behind you, the photographer, not the people or things you are shooting at the beach.

A slightly overcast day can actually be better than a sunny day, and morning and afternoon have better lighting than midday with the long shadows from an overhead sun.

You don't always have to point your camera straight ahead, or directly at the beach. Look for unique and interesting angles for your beach pictures. It's all in the perspective What if you get down on eye level with your baby playing in the sand? You could stand straight above a crawling crab, or point straight up to the swaying branches of a palm tree. Look for unique and unusual angles and perspectives for your beach pictures. Splashes of colour since beaches often feature rather bland colours, like shades of sand and driftwood, also keep an eye out for interesting splashes of colour. A bright red beach umbrella, green palm leaf or hot pink sandals can add real verve to your beach pictures.

If you are planning a beach vacation with family or friends, you will surely want some great portraits at the beach. Don't just line people up with the beach behind them.

Positioning for beach portraits

Place your subject or subjects to one side, with the beach shoreline filling the rest of the frame. This will allow the person to pop out from the picture, while still providing a lovely setting for a portrait. Get up close You are shooting something big: the beach. But remember who your subject is: the person or people. They should dominate the photo, not be a blurry, tiny image lost in the frame. Get up close to the person you are shooting so that they fill about a third of the frame.

Catch the action

Not all portraits need to be posed. Look for candid picture possibilities. Instead of people squinting or scowling in the picture, catch them splashing or chatting or playing with sand and a bucket. This is a wonderful way to catch memories and moments, not just cheesy poses.

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