How To Do Beach Photos

I am still a beginner when it comes to Beach Photography, but I thought I would share with you what I have learned so far.

The Beach is a great place, but often we take photos that end up as vast open vistas dominated by water and sky that are very big and boring.

There is also lots of sunlight and glare, and so in sunny conditions an adjustable Polariser Filter is essential.

See our previous article on Polariser Filters at the following link:

How to use Polariser Filters


Camera Settings

To get as much detail as possible it is important to use a very narrow aperture of f16, f22, or higher, and a low ISO like 100, 200 or 400.

Shutter speed of 1/50 or higher should freeze any wave action, but as per some of the linked items at the end of this article, very slow shutter speeds and a tripod can be deliberately used to create blurred milky effects on the waves.

If it is very sunny and the water is sparkling, then it might be a good idea to use a high shutter speed like 1/500 or 1/1000 to freeze wave motion, and also not allow the water sparkles to over expose into complete whiteness.

If your camera has a Landscape Scene setting, (usually the Mountains Icon), then use this and it should give the right type of settings for everything to be in focus.

Panorama Photos at the beach also look great, but I have not tried this out on my camera yet, as I did not have a tripod with me on my recent beach trips.

It is definitely something I need to work on, as Panaorama can substitute for not having dedicated 12mm, 14mm, etc wide angle lenses.

At the moment I am mainly using a Sony 18 to 50mm Zoom lens, and you can see when it is wide at 18mm, that a fisheye type curvature of the horizon occurs.

No doubt proper wide angle lenses would perform a lot better, but these are not available within most people’s photography budget, including mine!


Beach Photo Composition


First of all use the “Thirds Rule”. In the photo above you can see we have placed the people and the rock pool in the middle third of the image.

It is also very effective to have some foreground detail in the photo, or frame the image using trees and bushes which are nearby.

The following shot uses the Thirds Rule, as well as including some grasses and plants in the foreground:


In Photoshop adding a bit of “Saturation” to really bring up the blue sea, as well as a small amount of “Smart Sharpen” to preserve detail seems to work well.


Shots of Plants and Wood

To create some variety in a photo album of a day at the beach, we suggest including some shots of the interesting plants, rocks, rock pools, and driftwood.

Detail shots of plants are difficult to get right, and we are still learning how to do this better.

One thing we have found, is that is often NOT a good idea to sharpen pictures of grasses in Photoshop, as they tend to come out too rough and thinned out. You can see this in the fence post and grasses photo above.


Surf Photography

In our opinion the key part of Surf Photography is to capture surfers charging down waves with pure commitment and determination, as well as capturing maneuvers.

This can be best done by shooting in continuous multishot with your camera set on Sports mode.

There will be lots of photos to sort through, but this is the best way to capture those perfect moments.

The other major challenge is that if you want to stay safely on dry land, then the Surfers out at sea will be a long way from you and so a powerful Telephoto lens is needed.

The major problem here is that a fast focusing 70-400mm or higher powered zoom lens costs anywhere from $2,500 to over $10,000 here in Australia !

So instead, get a cheap zoom that goes up to around 250mm lens like a Sony, Tamron, or Sigma one, and put it onto a good image stabilised APC cropped frame DSLR sports camera like the Sony A77ii.

Then find surf breaks that are Beach Breaks close to the shoreline, or Photograph Point Breaks from a good cliff top viewpoint.

Meanwhile see how you go, and save up for a big heavy bazooka high powered zoom lens, and a suitable fluid ball head tripod to use.

We have started a Pinterest Board of what we think makes a great Surfing Photo here:

Photos By Passy Pinterest Surfing Photos


Beach Sunsets


Photo Credit: Gary Bradshaw

Gary Bradshaw Photography Facebook Page

Beach Sunsets are classic photos, but take a lot of planning, practice, and repetition to get just right.

The above photo has all of the right elements, the tide is out making the beach sand wet to capture sky reflections, there are foreground rocks and land included, and the colours of the clouds are gorgeous.

We have not fully explored doing Sunset photos, but have them on our Definite To Do List.

Sunset Images are best processed using Adobe Lightroom.

Eg. See our “How To” article dedicated to Lightroom and sunsets at the link below:

How to use Adobe Lightroom for Sunsets


Photos By Passy Beach Photos

Check out some of our Beach Photos in the following Flickr Albums:

Sorrento Back Beach

Sunset at Gunnamatta Beach

Paradise Beach at St Andrews

Millionaires Walk Sorrento

Bridgewater Beach Walk


Further Reading

The following article is a short easy to read summary of the various aspects of seascape photography

Seascapes Photography Guide

A good article about seascape photography can be found here:

Seascape Photography Article

Another article about how to produce very artistic seascape shots is the following one:

Tips for Coastal Photography

This next article gives five good tips relating to seascape photography:

Five Seascape Photography Tips

If you are a fan of long exposures to produce milky water effects at sunrise or sunset, then the following article is a great guide:

Long Exposure Seascape Photograpy Article

Another interesting short article to read that talks about tides and the useful reflective effect of wet sand is the following:

Seascape Shooting Tutorial

The following is a good general article about Surf Photography:

Surf Photography Guide

If you want to check out some great surfing photos, then the continually update Magic Seaweed site is a great resource:

Magic Seaweed Surf Photos

So if you get down the beach this summer be sure to take plenty of photos!


Paul at Photos By Passy


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