Protect your equipment
First and foremost, it is essential to keep your equipment safe. On the beach, sand is your worst enemy. Bring a bag or pouch to store your equipment carefully and avoid changing lenses as much as possible in order to limit dust and sand from getting into the body of your camera.
Other practical accessories will also allow you to protect your equipment while improving your images. A lens hood, for example, is an essential accessory for shooting in this environment. It limits glare, caused by the sunlight directly hitting your lens. Don’t forget your lens cap for added protection when you are not shooting.
Complementary lens filters such as UV, polarizing, or neutral density filters, further protect your lens, limit optical aberrations, and improve the contrast and exposure of your images. Between the sea and water, both of which reflect a lot of light, these filters are particularly important for summertime shooting.
The “golden hour” and the “blue hour”
For the best seaside pictures, we advise that you seek early morning and late afternoon hours for softer light and more dynamic images. If the sun is bright, and you want to take pictures at midday, the light is going to be too harsh and will strongly accentuate the shadows, which isn’t always aesthetically pleasing. However, you can take advantage of these conditions the way Martin Parr does in his famous beach shots. If you like harsh light, a neutral density filter will be your best ally in moderating exposure.
The hours before and after sunrise and sunset, the so-called “blue” and “golden” hours, are your best times to take pictures on the beach.
Use manual modes
Seaside photographs are often subject to strong light, which causes lots of reflections and drastic contrasts. The automatic exposure set on your camera may generate high-contrast images, often with an overexposed sky or conversely an underexposed subject.
Choose spot exposure, which measures the light over a smaller area.
We also recommend that you use manual modes to control shutter speed, aperture, and/or ISO speed to set the desired exposure. It is best to slightly underexpose, even if it means editing in post-production, rather than the other way around. The method of bracketing is useful in this type of situation. This means taking consecutive photos at different exposures in order to bracket the optimal exposure between under- and overexposed images. One may also mount the succession of images together for interesting effect.
Feel free to play with long exposures to create original seascapes. To do this, it is essential to use a tripod. The neutral density filter will also come in handy to limit overexposure.
Wide angle isn’t everything
The seaside is often synonymous with unobstructed views. Wide-angle lenses thus seem the best fit; however, you should not hesitate to vary the viewing angles. Longer focal lengths, as in portraiture, can also be used to obtain beautifully blurred backgrounds, to focus on a subject, and make a tighter shot. After all, the beach is not necessarily the main subject, but can be used as a setting to stage other elements.
Play with the backlight
Backlighting is often difficult to control, but the beach is one of the best places to make the most of it. The soft light and magnificent colors at sunset or sunrise offer the perfect opportunity to photograph silhouetted passersby or your model. During those twilight hours, backlighting will be much easier to control than in bright sunlight.
Keep an eye on the horizon
On the beach, as anywhere else, be sure to keep the horizon level, especially if you’re shooting a seascape. Regardless of your subject, when shooting against a wide-open expanse, a sloping horizon will particularly stand out and may be enough to spoil the picture.
If you are on a seaside holiday, make sure to follow these tips. Take advantage of your leisure time to take pictures and let the splendid summer light and your imagination be your guides.
Cover : Photo by Fezbot2000 on Unsplash
By Céline Nebor