Beach Photography in a Snap!

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The beach is a fantastic place to get great candid and posed photos of the family. That being said there are some issues to consider when taking beach photos that can make a world of difference. Understanding a few of these beach photography tips can help you get the perfect beach family photos every time.

Silhouette of boat on the beach against a beautiful sunset - to illustrate this article on beach photography tips
Image Attribution: Beached by Damian Gadal

The first tip that anyone should follow is to find a great spot that has just the right amount of light. Most beach photography tips will tell users to find an area that has tons of light but this can be a bit deceiving. You want an area with plenty of light but you do not want too much glaring light as the sand tends to be highly reflective.

Instead opt for a position that has a medium amount of light and even perhaps something like an umbrella, tree, or stand to help create shadow and definition that will help make your families faces visible and well defined. Those areas of open sand are not the greatest for family photos as individuals can look washed out and a bit pale.

5 Top Beach Photography Tips

  • Squinting: one issue caused by the very bright conditions on a beach is squinting. Light from the sand causes us to squint and this tends to look ugly in a photograph. Sunglasses can help – although seeing eyes is an important part of any photography.
  • Hats: we often wear hats at the beach to ward off sunstroke or prevent a squinting induced headache. This throws strong shadows over our faces. Kill these by using fill-in flash for your beach photos. The flash will lift the shadows and put an attractive sparkle in the subject’s eyes. Don’t make it too strong though – you don’t want to kill the atmosphere.
  • Harsh Light: on cloudless days the direct, hard light of the sun can cause unflattering shadows or lack any ‘modeling’ so that shapes and form are hard to distinguish. Find places of shade to subtract light from your subjects and give form, texture and relief.
  • Sand, Salt and Sea: use a waterproof camera! The beach is no place for your $1,000 DSLR and lenses!
    • Remember also that anything you have on the beach can get very hot. Don’t let your camera overheat. The user manual will tell you the maximum temperature you can allow your camera to reach.
    • Check the user manual for care guidelines. If it’s waterproof you may be advised to rinse the salt off the camera in fresh water after the day is done.
  • Security: so you have your great waterproof digital camera with you. Don’t go leaving it around. Buy an appropriate case so you can keep it safe.

Family Beach Photos

Another tip for great family beach photos is to take the time to pose your family. Symmetry is important in photos that are professionally taken and it is just as important photos on the beach. Taking the time to pose your family and create a bit of symmetry is the best way to get a balanced photo.  You might think that the spontaneous nature of a trip to the beach would be killed by posing your family but you’ll take plenty of those too. Make some time for something that’s set up. Maybe you could inject some humor in there too.


Sea and sand can be bland. Use whatever is around you to your advantage. Get as much of the scenery in the photo as possible. It’s important that when staging a picture at the beach or other place of interest that you get some scenery in the picture to help differentiate it from every other run of the mill photo out there.

Taking the time to get ample scenery in your photo can work to create visual interest and make your photo at once beautiful and unique. Photos that have plenty of scenery along with your family can become pieces of interest that are talked about for years to come. Scenery can help create a visual interest in the photo and can help to make colors more vibrant and saturated.

Consider that beach photos are notoriously difficult to shoot. They are often too random and lacking in composition to be seen as interesting by anyone other than the immediate family. Without some measure of predetermined placing, staging, or other elements it can be difficult to get a good shot. In this case, for those looking for a photo that has formal elements it is best to plan ahead to determine what pose, placing, and other elements are necessary in the photo.

Useful Camera Settings

  • Some cameras that have a ‘Beach’ setting that can help amp up the blue of the ocean and the sky which can add a nice contrast to any photo. This setting is definitely worth playing with. Vivid, vibrant colors will make your day at the beach look so much more fun – and isn’t showing the fun the whole point of taking beach family pictures!
  • Wide Aperture: turn your camera to aperture priority mode and choose a wide aperture whenever you need to separate your subject from the background. You might need a neutral density filter to help you achieve this. Zooming in and standing further away may also help achieve the desired effect.
  • Fast Shutter Speed: choose shutter priority mode and take the shutter speed nice and high whenever you need to freeze the action. If you want to capture water droplets as the kids splash each other, or stop a ball from blurring during beach volleyball, a fast shutter speed is the way to go.


Although we’d prefer not to end these beach photography tips on a cautionary note, consider who else is in your photographs. It could be inappropriate to include other people’s children, topless sunbathers and others in your photographs. Laws vary across the country and world – so be sure to keep this in mind as you snap away.

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