When photographing at the beach you will need protective gear, such as a UV filter, camera bag, and a plastic housing if possible to keep sand and water out. Cleaning cloths are handy for any emergencies. A polarizing filter is very useful as it helps cut down on flare and improves the color of water and the sky. A separate, powerful flash device, or a circular reflector are very useful. Circular reflectors can be easily folded away for storage. If you plan on shooting in black & white, then you might want to invest in a red 25 filter to increase the drama of the sky by increasing the contrast of the clouds. Obviously, this filter isn’t as effective when the sky is cloudless.
UV filters are useful for DSLR owners a couple of reasons in beach photography. Firstly they act as a protection for your lens (see below) but also they do filter out ultraviolet light in a certain range. This can cut back on atmospheric haze (often a blueish haze/tinge). The visual impact that they have is not great but they are the first thing I buy when I get a new lens for my DSLR.
Neutral density filters give you control over shutter speed, which you can then use creatively to create more interesting black and white landscapes.
Another timing issue is that the beach can really come to life on those days that everyone avoids it because of inclement weather. Stormy seas, threatening and dramatic clouds and wind slowing lifesaver flags and trees over call all make for atmospheric shots.
Let me give you an example. Earlier this year I visited the Playa de las Catedrales (Cathedral Beach) in northern Spain. Search for it on 500px and most photos will look something like this, showing the cathedral-like arches for which the beach is named.
Once the sun has started to set, return to the beach with a tripod to take images of the sky and sea. The water will look calm and often the sunset will have many captivating and vibrant colors. Place the camera on a sturdy tripod because of the lower light levels, and set the mode dial to TV or S (Shutter-Priority) mode. Select a shutter speed of 2 seconds to begin with. You may need to use an ND (Neutral Density) filter to reduce the amount of light hitting the camera, and this way the camera will allow you to have a longer shutter time. Use your camera’s self-timer or a cable release to take the photo with absolutely no blurring. Notice how the clouds and water create a soft blur, but stationary items like rocks will be sharp.
Taking your camera to the beach can be a delight but be sure to take the right protective measures. You can capture some amazing photos on a bright sunny day, an overcast day or even when it’s raining (especially when it’s raining). The strong sun lets you use fast shutter speeds and small apertures for sharp photos that stop all motion (like waves, splashing or jumping). The vivid and varied colors at the beach add excitement to all your photographs. Don’t forget the appropriate filters and equipment to enhance your artistic palette. Since you’re nowhere near a power source be sure to bring enough batteries and memory cards. Experiment with black & white photography while you’re there (the water will show up as a deep shade of grey in most cases, which can make a great background). Remember to return to the beach just before sunset (aka Golden Hour), because the lighting makes for incredible photos. Try to continue with the photos until after the sun has set to obtain evocative and potent silhouettes.
With those variables set, the shutter speed depends on the ambient light level. In bright sunlight, it might be around 1/125 second. In low light, it could be as low as 1/2 a second. But what if you’d like to use a slower shutter speed for creative effect? If ISO and aperture are fixed, the only way you get longer shutter speeds is by using neutral density filters.
One of the benefits of working with digital cameras is that they can help you learn to see in black and white. All you have to do is set your camera to its black and white (monochrome) mode. It then shows you the scene in black and white in Live View, and if your camera has one, in the electronic viewfinder as well.
Anybody who visits this beach will naturally want to take photos of those arches. They are why the spot is famous. But this can be a hindrance when it closes your eyes to other possibilities. After getting my rock arch photos, I really started looking. I saw some rocks in the sea that made an interesting minimalist composition. So I made the following photo.
One technique that I’ve been using a lot lately in beach photography (and other genres also) is to do a little post photo production and see what impact stripping a photo of color has upon it. There’s something about a black and white shot at the beach that completely changes the mood and feel of a shot. It’s also a great way to bring to life beach shots taken on dull or overcast days which can often leave a beach scene looking a little colorless.
Beaches are great places to photograph animals too. Birds such as seagulls and sandpipers frequent beaches. Make sure you use a good quality zoom or telephoto lens (at least 200 mm) to get close to the bird. Use a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second or faster and a shallow depth of field (f/2.8-f/5.6) to freeze the action and keep everything but the bird in focus. Set the exposure metering mode to spot metering, so you can get a reading of just the bird while ignoring the background. You may need to underexpose the photo (by 2/3 to a full stop) if the bird is white and it’s a bright day. By underexposing you’ll see more detail in the bird’s feathers.
Get more tips for free by subscribing to our newsletter or RSS feed
With bright sunlight, the camera will allow you to select very fast shutter speeds along with small apertures (for example f/32) and get a well focused beach photograph. If the sun is too bright, you can underexpose the camera usually up to three stops to reduce the amount of light entering the camera. This will also help retain detail in the sand and on anything light colored.
This helps you see in black and white, without being distracted by color. It’s useful because it makes it easier to see tonal contrast, texture, lines, shapes, patterns, and light.
Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook Subscribe Guaranteed for 2 full months Pay by PayPal or Credit Card Instant Digital Download GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook Subscribe Guaranteed for 2 full months Pay by PayPal or Credit Card Instant Digital Download GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook Subscribe Guaranteed for 2 full months Pay by PayPal or Credit Card Instant Digital Download GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE Subscribe Guaranteed for 2 full months Pay by PayPal or Credit Card Instant Digital Download GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE Subscribe Guaranteed for 2 full months Pay by PayPal or Credit Card Instant Digital Download GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE Subscribe Guaranteed for 2 full months Pay by PayPal or Credit Card Instant Digital Download GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed
All the photos that I have shown you so far were taken in northern Spain. Unless you are lucky enough to live in an area like this, it is likely that, like me, you need to travel to find similar inspiring landscapes to photograph.
The start and end of days can present the best opportunities for shooting at the beach. For starters there will be less people there at that time of day but also you’ll find that with the sun shining on an angle that you often get more interesting effects of shadows and colors – particularly in the evening when the light becomes quite warm and golden.
Sign up to the weekly DPS NEWSLETTER Subscribe All our best articles for the week Fun photographic challenges Special offers and discounts
Don’t forget to set your camera to shoot in Raw format. Raw files contain all the information captured by your camera’s sensor, and give you the freedom to process the images in color if you want, even if you initially shoot in black and white mode.
While it’s not really beach going weather at present here in my part of the world I know that many readers of this site are getting close to Summer and beach photography will be high on the agenda of many (I’m so jealous).
Black and white is different. Without color, you have to work harder to create strong compositions. You need to learn to look for the building blocks of photographic composition, such as leading lines, shapes, patterns, tonal contrast and texture. Really, what you are learning to do is see in black and white.
If you think about the sort of things that appear in landscape photos – cliffs, rocks, grass, trees, mountains, sea and man-made objects like piers and jetties – they all have distinct textures.
Without travel, I would never have experienced and photographed places like this (photo taken in Bolivia).
Sign up to the weekly DPS NEWSLETTER Subscribe All our best articles for the week Fun photographic challenges Special offers and discounts Your email is safe with us. We won’t share it with anyone
DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 1. new photography tutorials and tips 2. latest photography assignments 3. photo competitions and prizes Enter your email below to subscribe.
10 Things You Can Learn About Photography from Elliott Erwitt
Photographer Cole Thompson has an interesting idea. He practices what he calls photographic abstinence, and doesn’t look at the work of other photographers. The theory is that it enables him to see the landscape through his own eyes, without being influenced by other people’s photos.
Here’s an example. This photo was taken at dusk with an aperture of f/11 at ISO 200, and a shutter speed of 1/5th of a second. This was slow enough to introduce some blur into the water, which you can see in the foreground.
For example, this photo works well in black and white because of the contrast between the twin waterfalls and the dark rocks.
Landscape Photography Tips Portrait Photography Tips Photo Composition Tips Beginner Photography Tips Photo Post Processing Tips Get Started with Cameras and Gear
With color landscape photos, you can rely on the strength of the color to create drama and interest. The key to good color landscape photography is to find a dramatic scene and photograph it in the most beautiful light possible. That’s why so many color landscape photos are taken during the golden hour or just after sunset.
If your camera has spot metering you can overcome some of the above exposure problems. Spot metering is a feature that some cameras have whereby you tell the camera which part of the image you want to be well exposed and it will get that bit right. This is particularly useful in bright light when you want to get a shady area exposed well. It will optimize the shady area (and the other areas will be over exposed – but at least your main subject will be ok). This can be effective especially when photographing people as it allows you to face them away from the sun and to meter on their shadowy face and therefore avoid squinting (a common problem with photographing people at the beach).
Being on the beach is all about fun, so make sure you capture the enjoyment. Get your friends or family to run on the sand; set the mode dial to M (Manual mode) and use a shutter speed of at least 1/500th of a second to freeze the movement. Use a relatively small or medium aperture (f/8-f/16) for a deeper DOF (depth of field). Set the lens focus mode to AF (Autofocus) and select continuous focusing (AI Servo AF Canon/AF-C Nikon) mode so that the lens can constantly maintain its focus on the moving subjects. Remember to protect your camera and lens from possible sand being kicked in your direction; always use a clear UV filter to protect the lens and electrical tape around the area where the lens fits onto the camera body.
6 Tips to Help You Make Better Black and White Landscape Photos
Neutral density filters are the secret weapon of the landscape photographer. They are made of glass that blocks light so that less reaches the camera’s sensor.
Beaches present digital camera owners with a number of wonderful opportunities as they are places of natural beauty, color and interesting light. However they also present a variety of challenges including camera damage, privacy issues and making large open spaces interesting.
We’re one big island and most of our population is scattered along the coast line so the beach is a natural place for us to go both on day trips and longer holidays.
Black and white photography is as popular as ever, and landscape is a genre in which many photographers have chosen to work in monochrome. But working in black and white is different to working in color. It takes time, and practice, to develop your eye for black and white. These tips will help you make better black and white landscape photos.
If you’re photographing people at the beach as a portrait and it’s bright you’ll find that they will almost always have shadows on their face (often cast by hats, glasses, noses etc). Switch on your flash and force it to fire when shooting in these situations and you’ll find the shadows eliminated and your actual subject is well exposed. This is particularly important when shooting into the sun when without a flash you could end up with your subject being at some stage of becoming a silhouette). If your camera gives you some level of control over how strong a flash to fire you might want to experiment with this also as firing a full strength can leave your subjects looking washed out and artificial. If your subjects do look overexposed and you cant decrease the flash strength try moving back a little from your subject and using your zoom to get a tighter framing as this will decrease the impact of the flash. As usual – experimenting is the key.
Tonal contrast is the term used to describe variations in brightness between different parts of the image. Take the photo below as an example. The jetties, silhouetted against the evening sky, are dark. The sky is much lighter. This is tonal contrast. The sea is mid-grey – darker than the sky, brighter than the jetties.
One of the most useful DSLR lens accessories that you can add to a digital camera is a polarizing filter. Without getting too technical, a polarizer filters out some light that is polarized. This means that it reduces reflections and boosts contrasts. The most noticeable places that this has impact is with blue skies (potentially it can make them incredibly rich and almost dark blue) and in water/ocean in which it can give a variety of effects. The way many people explain the results of a polarizer is the difference that polarizing sunglasses can make when you put them on (in fact I know quite a few photographers who shoot through their sunglasses if they don’t have a polarizer with them. Get a polarizing filter and experiment with it and you’ll quite literally be amazed by the results.
Sign up to the weekly DPS NEWSLETTER Subscribe Guaranteed for 2 full months Pay by PayPal or Credit Card Instant Digital Download
Here are 10 tips for when you head to the beach with your digital camera next:
Hopefully, this article has given you an insight into why I love black and white landscape photography so much and that it inspires you to give it a go yourself. Do you have any tips for black and white landscape photography? Please share in the comments below.
© 2006 – 2018 Digital Photography School, All Rights Reserved / Disclaimer
In the photo below, the arch, the cliffs in the distance, and the rocks in the foreground are all heavily textured. The sea and the sky are much smoother. There is a strong contrast between the roughness and tactility of the rocks, and the smoothness of the sea and the sky.
I’ve never taken this idea to its extreme because I believe it’s important to research an area before you go to find its most photogenic parts. But the problem with this is that the most powerful images you see during your research tend to stick in your mind. The natural tendency is to want to create similar images. The problem is that you then end up with photos that look like everybody else’s.
You can educate yourself about black and white landscape photography by looking at the work of masters like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston who worked predominantly in black and white. Also look at what modern day photographers are doing by browsing 500px. Some names to search for include Cole Thompson, Rob Dweck, Arnaud Bertrande, Thibault Roland, Joel Tjintjelaar and Nathan Wirth.
A strong sun will produce a high contrast B & W image, due to the strong shadows and light areas. A polarizing filter and a red filter will bring out the contrast in the image as well as reducing flare. Turn the mode dial to AV (Aperture Priority) mode and select a large aperture (f/2.8-f/4) for a soft and blurred background. Let the camera choose the correct shutter speed. Select the spot metering mode and meter on the person’s face. Use an external flash to fill in any dark spots. B & W photography is great for making a photo better if the sky is overcast and dull. The result is an almost white background making it perfect for beach portraits. B & W beach images help to create the mood of a timeless (and perhaps more artistic) shot.
Further Essential Reading On Beach/Coastline Photography Seascape Photography Tips 5 Quick Tips for Coastal Photography How to Photograph Coastlines [10 Tips] 7 Easy Tactics for Better Coastal Landscape Photography A Day At The Beach: Photographing Seaside Landscapes More Beach Photography Tips Beach Photography and Digital Camera Maintenance Read more from our category
To understand why they are so useful let’s think about the typical settings used for a landscape photo. First of all, you set your ISO as low as possible for the best image quality (ISO 100 or 200 on most cameras). Next, you set an aperture that ensures everything in the scene is in sharp focus while avoiding the smallest apertures on your camera because of diffraction related softening. Most landscape photos are taken at f/11 or f/16.
One of the challenges of shooting in the middle of summer on a beach is that it can be incredibly bright and your camera could want to under expose your shots if you’re shooting in Auto mode. If your camera has a manual mode it can be well worth playing with it at the beach and experimenting with different levels of exposure. I find that I get the best results when I look at what the camera wants to expose the shot at and then over expose it by a stop or two. Of course this depends greatly from situation to situation – brightly lit landscapes are generally very tricky – especially if you have shady areas as well as bright ones. Sometimes it’s a matter of working out which area you want to be well exposed and focussing on that area as to get everything right is often impossible.
I touched on this in the previous tip, but I want to emphasize them here because they are so important.
For multiple shots use continuous (burst) shooting mode and hold down the shutter button as long as desired. This gives you a better chance to capture a great beach action photograph than if you just wait for the moment that you think everyone is in the air. Shutter lag creates a delay in the image capturing process, and if you use burst mode, you increase the chance of getting the beach shot you want. Zoom in as closely as you can and use continuous focusing; you will have to preset it by depressing the button halfway, then taking the shot at the best possible moment. Also remember that if the ocean horizon is in the background it needs to be straight.
A friend of mine once told me that they don’t bother taking their camera to the beach because all beach shots look the same. i thought that that was a pretty sad thing to say because when I go to the beach I see it as a place brimming with photographic opportunities if you have the ability to look beyond the cliche shots. For example while many people take shots looking out to sea I find it interesting to go to the water’s edge and then turn completely around and see what’s in your frame from that angle. One common problem with landscape beach photographs is that while they might capture a beautiful scene they actually have no point of interest and can as a result be rather empty and boring. When taking a shot look for a point of interest or focal point that will give those looking at your photo a place for their eye to rest. Perhaps it’s a pattern in the sand, a set of footprints, the crashing of waves over a rock, a life saver’s tower etc. Also look for the little things that tell the story of going to the beach like shoes at the waters edge, sand castles, sunglasses, sunscreen lotion etc. Sometimes these can make wonderful little feature shots to break up your vacation album.
Then I added a neutral density filter and made this photo (below) with a shutter speed of 180 seconds (3 minutes). The water is completely blurred, and the clouds have moved across the sky, creating a streaked effect.
When there is a bright sun, it means that harsh shadows are inevitable. There are a few things you can do; use fill-in flash which will bounce some light into the subject’s faces, especially the eyes to counteract the shadows. You can also zoom in closer using a standard or telephoto lens, cutting down on the amount of shadows. Typically you’ll want to use a circular reflector to bounce the light back onto the subject, but since most people don’t have reflectors as part of their beach equipment, use a white towel… so bring one of those as it will help out tremendously. You will probably need someone to hold the towel to make it work as a reflector. Hold it flat and position just out of frame or hold it straight and position it so the bounced light is most pronounced (just keep it out of the frame).
Beaches provides excellent opportunities for digital photography because of their vast natural beauty, impressive hues, and fascinating patterns of light. Moreover, some consider a beach vacation to be a dream destination for a family vacation, honeymoon or an intimate get-away. Here are some tips to follow to help you capture more exciting and creative beach photographs.
When you look at their work, ask yourself why their black and white landscape photos are so dramatic and powerful? What light are they shooting in? What photographic techniques are they using? How do they approach composition? The answers will teach you a lot about black and white photography.
It doesn’t feature the arches the beach is famous for, but it’s more personal to me and was more satisfying to make.
One of the most common problems in beach photography where there are wide open spaces with a long and often unbroken horizon is sloping horizons. Work hard at keeping your horizon square to the framing of your shot (more on this here). Also consider placing your horizon off centre as centered horizons can leave a photo looking chopped in half (more on this in our post on the Rule of Thirds).
Even if you do live somewhere with spectacular landscapes, you will need to travel to expand your experience and add depth to your portfolio. All my favorite landscape photos were taken while traveling. The two activities go together very well. Travel is more interesting and exciting when there’s a purpose behind it. Landscape photography is one of the things that can give you that sense of purpose.