If you’re a beach lover, you probably look for every opportunity to capture your experience in the sun and sand. A seashell collection might do the trick, but a beautiful beach photo will likely have more longevity—plus, you can hang it in your home as custom, highly personal decor. 

What’s more, whether they actually enjoy spending time on the beach or not, rookie and experienced photographers alike tend to find the setting a worthy muse. There’s something special about nature photography, and beaches are about as stunning a natural space as you can get. The beach offers practically endless ways to hone your craft as a photographer. Think of all that sand as a blank canvas! 

Keep scrolling for a helpful guide to beach photography. Beach bums, serious photographers, and everyone in between will benefit from these suggestions and nuggets of inspiration. 

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What Is Beach Photography?

National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale ventures into the ocean on a beach shoot.

As you might expect, beach photography is the broad category of photography in which the beach is the backdrop. Beach photographers can focus on any combination of seaside features. The ocean often steals the spotlight, but there’s so much other natural beauty to chase with a camera: the sand, the seashells, the wildlife, the sun, the sky… even the people enjoying their time in paradise. Especially adventurous photographers might even attempt to go deeper by trying their hand at underwater photography.

Much of the appeal of beach photography is in the variety it offers, not only in subject matter, but in technique and approach. When shooting photos on the beach, for example, you can use many perspectives, each of which will result in a unique final product. Beach photos will also vary tremendously depending on the time of day they are taken. 

Beach Photography Equipment

photography bag
A photographer should never leave home without their equipment!

You can, of course, take photos on the beach using any camera, but there are certain pieces of equipment that will make it easier for you to achieve success. 


It’s important to choose your camera according to your photography experience. Beginners should look for DSLR models with a variety of modes catered to different types of pictures and settings. The Nikon D3500 comes highly recommended for photography rookies. 

When shopping for a camera for any type of photography, you’ll need to decide what kind of lens to use. A zoom lens is the most versatile option, but it’s not quite as sharp as the alternative, which is called a prime lens. A prime lens is faster and sharper, but can’t zoom in and out. For many photographers—on the beach and otherwise—versatility is key, which makes a zoom lens the better choice.

Another thing to consider for beach photography, specifically, is waterproofing. More and more cameras are now resistant to water damage, which is an important feature if you’re planning to be anywhere near the surf! Take it one step further with an underwater camera if you really want to dive in. 


When shooting with a DSLR camera, there are two types of filters that work especially well for beach photography:

  • Polarizing filters take away some of the reflected light that naturally occurs in beach images and other landscape photos. With the help of a polarizing filter, your beach images will be clearer and brighter. 
  • Natural density filters soften colors and are especially useful on sunny days.


diagram about photography lighitng
This handy graphic demonstrates how to use a reflector.

A reflector will give you extra control over where the sun is moving so you can really take advantage of it for lighting your photos. Reflectors are available in different sizes based on your needs. Most of them fold up for easy storage and transportation.


A tripod is a great tool for landscape photography because it improves stability so you can take your time with framing shots. Photos shot using a tripod are often sharper than photos shot without.

Camera Case

If you don’t already have a sturdy case for your photography equipment, now might be a good time to invest. While the beach is a beautiful place to take photos, it also presents its fair share of environmental variables. Use a case to protect your camera and other tools from the sand, water, and changing temperatures.

Beach Photography Camera Settings

Source: unsplash
Learning to master your camera settings will make your beach photos that much more stunning.

Light is key to achieving beautiful beach photos, so your exposure settings are particularly important. If it’s an especially sunny day, use a low ISO setting between 100 and 200.

Select your shutter speed according to what exactly you’re trying to shoot. A faster shutter speed is best for catching quick moments or scenes, such as the crash of a wave or a sweet moment between family members. If you’d prefer to capture movement, a slower shutter speed is the right choice.

Take some time to play with the various settings on your camera to see what works best. With practice, you’ll gain confidence and improve your craft.

Landscape Beach Photography 

misty beach
There’s nothing like a landscape shot to capture the beach on a moody day… or any day!

A landscape photo is any image meant to celebrate the beauty of the outdoors. Landscape beach photography, then, is meant to strip away the things humans add to the sand and surf so that its natural beauty becomes the focus.

Practice Perspective

Perspective in Photography: One Beach, Four Styles

Time of Day Considerations

You can capture a gorgeous beach image no matter what time it is, but there are a few things to consider at each point in the day. 

Sunset Beach Photography

A sunset beach photo deserves a place in your home.

There’s nothing like sunset at the beach. Taking pictures at sunset can be challenging because there may be a lot of people enjoying the spectacular setting, but if you’re interested in capturing their activities, you’ll find plenty of inspiration. Natural light changes quite a bit from the beginning of sunset to the end, so stay open to tweaking your camera’s exposure and other settings to maximize the quality of your pictures.

Sunrise Beach Photography

beach at night
Ami Vitale sets out for a sunrise shoot on the beach.

The light on the ocean is also a little extra magical early in the morning. Beaches also tend to be a little less inhabited early in the day, so if you’re willing to be up with the sun, you can capture some especially authentic moments at sunrise. It will most likely be you, a few surfers, and some other serious beach lovers! Sunrise is a quiet, peaceful time to work, which will be reflected in your photos.

Night Beach Photography

ocean evening
You’ll need to make special considerations for a nighttime photo shoot.

Whether you’re shooting at the beach or elsewhere, night photography is an art all its own. If you’re interested in a nighttime photo shoot, you’ll want to come prepared with a flashlight or headlamp, set your camera to shoot in RAW, adjust your focus manually and use a higher ISO. Staying still while shooting is also particularly important when it’s dark, since it maximizes the light in the image. If you don’t have a tripod, simply stay as still as possible.

Beach Photography Ideas

Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are a few ideas to inspire your beach photography.

Shoot From Different Perspectives

In his class about perspective in photography, Christian Cannon shoots a beach from multiple vantage points.

When you capture the same subject from a range of perspectives, you’ll produce extremely different final photos. Take pictures from atop cliffs or sand dunes, near the water, down low, up high, or snap panoramas. It’s a great way to practice your craft in a beautiful place.

Find Details and Textures

surfers at night
There are so many subjects to explore at the beach.

While the beach landscape on a grand scale is certainly worthy of capturing on film, with a little exploration, you can find plenty of other, smaller things to catch on-camera. Look for plant life, ocean life, people, surfboards, and more.

Capture Your Own Silhouette

shadow in sand
This approach takes selfies to the next level.

If you’d like to be part of the images you’re taking at the beach, you don’t have to stick to a basic selfie. The light and space offered at the beach make it perfect for staging silhouette photos. Put yourself into your pictures by snapping your own shadow!

Beach Photography Tips

Like any art, beach photography takes a lot of time and practice. The more you experiment with taking pictures on the beach, the happier you’ll be with your results. Here are a few tips to help you along the way.

Keep the Horizon Straight

costal city at night
Source: unsplash
The horizon is an important part of any beach photo.

Any time you’re taking pictures of the ocean, be extra mindful of the horizon. If the horizon is crooked, it will be quite obvious to viewers and it will throw off the whole aesthetic. This is where a tripod really comes in handy! 

Test Out Different Shutter Speeds

beach photography
Photographers can really let their creativity fly at the beach.

Thanks to its constantly shifting light, the beach is a fantastic place to experiment with various camera settings, especially shutter speed. Slow down the shutter speed when you want to shoot things in motion. Speed it up for landscape shots and quick moments.

Shoot in the Off-Season

Source: unsplash
Not a soul in sight!

If it’s possible, plan your beach shoot for a time of year (or even a time of the week) when there aren’t a lot of tourists around. You’ll have the whole place to yourself, which will allow you to try lots of techniques without an audience.

Let’s Go to the Beach!

The beach is a lovely place to hang out, but it’s also a fantastic location for making some seriously beautiful art. Take these tips and capture your favorite beachy haven. 

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