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6 Beach Photo Shoot Tips

Father and son playing at the beach | Motif.

Reading Time: 4 minutes read

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy—and the photography can be, too, if you follow just a few tips for your next beach photo shoot. These six tips for beach photography will help you document the magic of your days at the shore and capture images worth including in your next custom photo book or card.

1. Be careful not to overexpose your shot

Outdoor photography is tricky. A sunny day makes for ideal beach weather, but when combined with bright white sand, it can be a recipe for overexposure. (The same thing happens on the ski slopes come wintertime.) The trick is to set your camera to take advantage of the sun. Set your ISO to 100 or 200 to take advantage of all of that natural light, and use a high shutter speed. Try experimenting with different shutter speeds. If you feel more comfortable, set your camera to a shutter priority mode (generally labeled “S” or “Tv” for “time value” on your camera dial). That way you can adjust the shutter speed while the camera manages the aperture or f-stop.

Tip: Use your camera’s bracketing mode while you’re shooting in manual mode. This way, your camera will shoot the same image at three exposures, giving you the option to pick the best one.

Taking a picture of the ocean as the fun sets | Motif

2. Stay out of the shadows with fill flash or a reflector

It might sound counterintuitive, but the best way to prevent harsh shadows from too much sunlight is to add more light to the foreground of your subject, either with your camera’s fill flash or a reflector. There’s no need to invest in a fancy reflector, either. You can use a white beach towel or even a sheet of aluminum foil in a pinch. The reflector will bounce light back on to your subject. Experiment with different reflector placements to determine which results in the most pleasing light.

3. Make the sun work to your advantage

You couldn’t conjure a more dramatic or romantic image than a backlit beach silhouette. Just think about the bright orange sun starting to dip below the horizon with the silhouettes of your loved ones in the foreground.

A silhouette of a family walking on the beach | Motif

To take a silhouette photo, you’ll need to conduct your photo shoot either early or late in the day (during the golden hour). Have your subject stand between you and the sun. Encourage them to be active—a silhouette in motion will be far more dynamic than a group of people standing with their arms at their sides. Experiment with different angles. You might want to lie down and shoot up to amp up the drama.

4. Take horizon shots with care

When you’re surrounded by a stunning vista, it’s easy to overlook the details that make your photos look the most professional. For instance, watch the horizon. You can straighten photos later in Photoshop, but why not compose them correctly in the first place? As you look through your lens and check for the rule of thirds, give a quick glance to the horizon line and make sure it’s straight. You might want to pack a tripod along with your sunscreen.

5. Capture the action with burst mode

Whether you’re photographing an intense beach volleyball match or your children carefully concentrating on their latest sand castle, burst mode can help you capture both action shots and moments of pure joy. Shooting in burst mode at high shutter speeds is also a good match for the bright sunshine of the beach. The time you have to spend deleting bad shots will be well worth the perfect pictures you achieve.

6. Take good care of your gear

Your DSLR camera is a good match for the lighting conditions at the beach, but it can easily be damaged by sand, salt water, and heat at your next beach photo shoot. Use rain gear or even a garbage bag to keep your camera dry and out of the sand. Avoid changing lenses as much as possible to keep sand out, and wipe off any moisture immediately. Some photographers even put ponytail holders at the base of their lens mounts to keep sand out.

Heat is also a concern. Make sure to keep your camera in its cushioned bag whenever you are not using it. You don’t want it to sit out in the sun and overheat.

As you document summer fun, don’t let a few beach photography challenges stop you from capturing bright colors and happy moments. Once you get plenty of photos, it will be easy to create a fun beach day photo book using Motif.