How to Photograph Beaches
Photographing beaches typically ends up being a high-contrast situation. That being said, taking digital photographs of beaches usually creates some very dynamic and engaging images.
One of the keys to making a beach photograph work for you and your audience is to change your perspective on the beach. When you think of a beach, you usually are looking out at the ocean and as such you have very little beach to see.
Another perspective would be to wade into the shallow water and photograph down the beach. If you attempt to take a photo is way, I would strongly recommend having someone there with you watching the ocean.
The ocean can be relentless and a strong wave can come up at any time.
Below are some tips when photographing beaches:
- Be Polite: A busy beach is not the best place to take pictures. Two reasons for this is the creep factor of photographing people who are half-clothed on an open beach. The other is that to use these photos for any public viewing, you would need to get a model release from every person identifiable on the beach. That alone can be a nightmare and failure to do so can cost you millions in legal fees.
- Be Aware of Colors: When photographing on a bright beach, splashes of color will create an interesting photograph that engages your audience. Whether the photo is staged, or you are lucky enough to find what you are looking for, color turns a boring beach into a winning photograph.
- Perspective is Key: I know this is getting repetitive, but perspective is everything. Anything is better than how we usually see things. Shifting your focus, finding high ground, or laying in the sand to compose your shot, try everything to find the best photo.
- Sand gets in everything: Good advice when visiting the beach for fun, great advice when trying to take care of your camera equipment. Rain sleeves can also be used to protect your gear from sand. This allows you to get right down on the sand without risking your equipment.
- Use different Effects: If you read the article on How to Photograph Seas, you would have read about a technique that can turn waves into mist. The same technique can be used here. A beach, by definition, borders a body of water. Slowing down your shutter speed to blur the water can help enhance your beach scene.
All of the above tips will help you create better digital photographs and provides you with some ideas for experimenting with your camera the next time you are on the beach.
How To Shoot Seascapes
The seas and oceans provide a vast new world for photographers to explore. Granted many photographers have already explored parts of the sea, it does not mean you have seen it all.
Most people think of sea photographs in one of two ways; a romantic scene with a couple walking on a beach at sunset, and stormy weather heading for shore.
It is important to remember that near the seas and oceans that the air is more humid and it is important to use the right equipment.
The equipment needed for this type of photography is the same as that covered in the “How to get started with Outdoor Photography” article but your settings will vary depending on weather.
A flash is not practical in this type of photography so if your camera and lens cannot keep up, you may want to consider upgrading. A deep depth of field is not exactly necessary if the ocean or sea is empty and there are no waves.
Sharp detail on a smooth sea is not important. A deep depth of field comes into play when you have a busy scene in front of you.
As for shutter speed, I talk briefly, on when you would want to slow down your shutter speed for creative reasons, but beyond that the settings will depend on time of day, weather, ISO, and aperture settings.
- Not every camera is waterproof: many of your lower-end cameras have no water protection. As the price goes up, so does the weatherproofing. The humidity near the sea is enough to make your lenses sweat if they are not acclimated correctly. Just as going from extreme cold to extreme hot will cause your lens to fog, going from dry to humid can cause your lens to sweat. I recommend starting slow and giving your equipment a chance to adapt to the different weather.
- Do not get too close: Waves can surprise you and the last thing you want is to get your equipment, not to mention yourself, soaked. If you are in an area that is known for big waves, it is best to stay back and zoom in.
- Watch your horizon: A centered horizon line is boring unless the scene above and below the horizon are equally important. Typically, one is stronger than the other is, and should take up the majority of the picture. Remember to follow the rule of thirds.
- Keep your eyes open: Things happen fast near the oceans and seas. The best practice is to keep your eyes open so you do not miss a great shot. Do not be afraid to switch from one spot to another if you feel you are not getting what you want.
- Sunset/Sunrise: I mentioned earlier, sunsets and sunrises are what we think of when we look out at an ocean/sea. Take advantage of that and capture your own version, you may just get something we have not seen before.
- Filters, Filters, Filters: Colored filters will take any sunset/sea picture to a new level. Not only will the filters help push the saturation of certain colors; it will help in post processing if you want to convert an image to black and white. Filters range from clear, to tri-colored allowing you the opportunity to have some fun with your subject.
- Play with the waves: Slowing down the shutter speed on your camera for a longer exposure, will turn your crisp waves into an otherworldly fog. These images can be better than the sharper picture and gives your images life.
When you go out to shoot an ocean or sea, try to find something that your audience can focus on.
If there is nothing on the horizon, nothing on the water, nothing on the beach, and nothing interesting about the waves themselves, find a different location or point of view.
If you can learn to look at a scene as though you were looking through your camera, you will have a great head start on becoming a professional.