Close your eyes and imagine a beach. You’re almost undoubtedly thinking about a sunny day, soft sand, and water in some shade of blue. It’s so easy to picture the perfect beach day that it’s almost easy to forget how difficult those memories are to turn into good photos. What you see and remember as a perfect day full of sunshine shows up in your vacation album as overexposed photos with stark shadow lines across your face no matter what you tried. If you’re planning your next beach adventure, whether it’s to the white sands of the Caribbean or the shores of Lake Michigan, here are the tips you need to keep in mind to keep your photos flawless.
- Timing is (almost) everything
- Find a point of interest
- THE RULE OF THIRDS
- Learn the Equipment
- When all else fails, try Black and White
Like a homerun baseball hit or quick save before disaster, timing is crucial for photographic success. While the magic hour will vary depending on the time of year and geographic location, it is hard to get a bad photo about an hour before sunset. This witching hour casts a lovely, soft glow over your subjects and scenery and the glare of the sun has toned down enough that sunglasses can come off. If you’re not planning to stay at the beach until sunset, you can still take great beach photos, but keep in mind there’s a reason they call it a “golden glow”.
In paradise, it’s hard to find a bad photo opportunity, but it can be surprisingly easy to find boring ones. When you’re in the moment, you have the movement of the water, the smell, the sounds, and all the other stimuli to really help round out your perception, but in a photo, you only have an image. Inexperienced photographers will often forget that without the context provided by the other senses, even photos of beautiful beaches can come across as bland. This is why having a point of interest, be it a person, lighthouse, seagull or anything that catches your eye, is so important.
This one is so important, we capitalized it. Unless you’re looking for a portrait-style picture, your best bet is to almost always follow the rule of thirds. This is such a helpful trick that most digital cameras (including phone cameras!) will actually place a grid over your photo so you can correctly line up your shot. If you’re not familiar with the rule of thirds, this means that the subject of your photo should take up either ⅓ or ⅔ of the photo’s frame, either horizontally or vertically. Photos that take up the whole frame or half of the frame often look like they were accidentally captured or haphazardly cropped. The one exception to this rule is close-up pictures of details, as the whole frame is needed in this situation.
Cameras today have so many amazing features outside of just pointing and shooting. One of the biggest challenges to shooting nice beach photos is that your pictures often turn out over exposed. The best way to attempt to combat this is to take your camera out of “auto” mode and try to adjust it to meet the conditions. For a newbie, this might mean just trying the “landscape” or “beach” setting on your camera (check your settings, you may have this and never noticed!) or for more experienced/adventurous photogs this could mean changing the settings manually.
Let’s face it: not every day at the beach looks like a day at the beach. Sometimes it’s overcast, other days the water is a suspicious shade of green, and still other times your subjects are a burnt shade of red. If the colors aren’t what you’ve imagined, it’s worth it to see if you like how the photos look in black and white. This also helps with the overexposure problem since you’re not having to worry about colors, just shades. Bonus: Portraits look better in black and white which is great news if you’re feeling salty, sweaty, and wind-blown.