Coming from a town on the shoreline of the Mediterranean sea, the beach has a special place in my heart, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I would write an article about beach photography.
I decided to share with you a few beach photography ideas for fun and creative images. Some of them could even be developed into a family project or be used as activities for the whole family.
1. Try Miniature Photography
When we were kids we used to play a lot at the beach. Why not do it now as adults too?
I took a few Playmobil people and tried my hand at photography miniature lifestyle situations. Place the toy on the beach and frame the image as if it were a portrait. You can apply composition rules to make the image more interesting.
Something I like to do when I am taking photos of toys in open spaces is to get really low. This way, because of the perspective, the toy will take more space in the frame. It will make it look bigger than it is in real life.
This is a great chance to get the kids involved (whether it’s your own child or nephews, nieces, etc.) and get them interested in photography. Or just to spend some quality time together and have fun playing and taking photos with them.
2. Tell a Story
Another fun thing is to create a story through photos. You can do that by taking three or four photos that follow a certain motif, plot or development. The story doesn’t have to be complicated or elaborate.
In fact, the simpler the story, the better. It will be easier to understand by viewers.
You can take photos of the kids building a sand castle: digging in the sand, piling it up, the castle standing finished and when they are destroying it.
You can also take photos of the day at the beach: placing the towels, enjoying the sun, taking a dip, playing something and looking at the sunset, etc.
If you have no available models don’t worry! As I told you in the previous tip, you can have a lot of fun creating your story with toys.
Once you get used to building little stories you can go a step further and try to keep certain uniformity along the photos. This will make them have a sense of togetherness and reveal that they to the same series of photos.
It is good to use the same camera, lens, and try to keep the same settings. And if you edit your photos, give them the same look in post processing.
3. Creative Pictures With LED Lights (Fairy Lights)
These days it is easy and affordable to get LED lights that work on batteries. Thanks to that and to their portability, you can easily take them to the beach to play around with.
The perfect time is during sunrise or sunset, when there’s still natural light but it is not too strong to overshadow the LEDs. The beach is perfect for these photos because you don’t have too many artificial light sources there.
If you can, you should bring a jar or any other transparent object and put the lights inside. You can create fantasy or dreamy photos as if you are collecting or releasing stars/fairies.
If you use a shallow depth of field (an aperture of f4 or below), the out of focus LED lights will create a nice bokeh effect.
Other beach photography ideas you can try are holding the lights in your hands, placing them around your body, holding one side of the LED lights and another person the other or arranging them on the ground.
4. Draw or Write in the Sand
If you want to be creative and you don’t have the equipment from the previous photography tips, don’t worry. All you really need for this one is a stick (or even just your finger) and a clear area of sand.
Draw simple shapes such as hearts or arrows or write a date, the name of the place you are in or your favourite quote! You can even combine the drawing with your model and you will get a unique portrait.
5. Try Long Exposure Photography
Long exposure photography requires more equipment than the other ideas, but it is totally worth it!
Long exposure photography is done by opening the shutter speed for a long period of time. By doing this, you make the moving subjects in the frame look silky.
The effect looks especially beautiful with water and clouds. The beach is a perfect place for this type of photography.
You will need a tripod and filters. The tripod will help you to keep the camera steady. As for the filters, the shutter speed is so low that even if you’d set the ISO as low as you can and close the aperture, you will still get overexposed photos.
The filters will allow you to block the excess light. For this you need neutral density filters and they can be attached to your lens (just like the UV filter) or come with a filter holder.
They block different light intensities and there are some that block light in a gradient. I recommend you to go to your local supplier’s store and ask them for a basic set of filters to play around with and see if you like long exposure before investing in an expensive set of filters.
Long exposure will require you to slow down, set the tripod and practice. Besides your equipment, bring your beach towel, something to drink and enjoy the moment!
6. Fun Family Beach Pictures
Family beach pictures always hold beautiful memories. During my photo sessions I always take more classic looking portraits because they are timeless and clients like them a lot.
However, I combine them with not so typical family portraits to make their session special. Different doesn’t mean complicated. Tell the family to sit looking towards the sea while you take their photos from the back.
Another idea is to take photos of baby’s things. You can tell the parents to hold the little shoes and some object with the baby’s name.
With the sea in the background it will be a beautiful family memory!
7. Look for Summer Symbols
There are certain objects you can find around the beach that might have a meaning for you. For me, parasols, bicycles and Frisbees mean ‘summer’.
Try to take original photos of these meaningful common objects. Take the photos from different and unusual perspectives, play with colour combinations or reflections, fill the frame, leave negative space, etc.
Have fun experimenting and you will be surprised with your results.
For example, with no more than your sunglasses, you can have a lot of fun. Put them in the sun and take photos of the reflections on them.
This is a great way to take a self-portrait, or if you are with someone else, even a group photo.
Depending on the type of glasses, you can also capture the colours of the sky during twilight.
8. Use the Beach as Background
If you like crafts you can use the beach as background to show off your creations. This will work well with nature related crafts. The sea and the sand are a great background that adds a bit of colour without adding too many distracting elements.
If you want to try this photography idea, I recommend you to do it during sunrise or sunset. That’s when the light and colours are softer, so you’ll avoid hard shadows over your art.
This is a DIY photo holder that I like to make using beach stones.
9. Sun Stars and Silhouettes
Sunrises and sunsets are the perfect times to play with sun stars and silhouettes. The sun is low and its light comes at an angle.
Both of these effects require backlight. To get that you should place the camera facing towards the sun with the model between the camera and the sun. When the model blocks the sun completely, you get a silhouette.
Measure the exposure and adjust the camera settings according to the background to make sure that your model will appear totally black, like a shadow.
If you prefer a less black silhouette, so that the viewers can still see some of your model’s details, you can play a bit with the settings and take the photo with a slight high exposure of the background.
Sun stars are easier to get when the sun is peaking from behind something, for example your model. Close the aperture (around f14 is a good starting point), check if you need to readjust the camera settings for a proper exposure, choose a focus point and shoot.
Something a bit challenging but very important: avoid looking directly at the sun while taking the photo, otherwise you can seriously damage your eyes.
10. Message in a Bottle
With a bit of imagination and some crafts materials you can create a photo of your own treasure from the depths, in this case, a message in a bottle.
All you need is a clear glass bottle with a plug (I used a special one with LED lights, but cork would work just fine), a piece of paper and a string. I wanted a classic simple bottle so I used one of white wine but you can find other, fancier ones.
You can just roll up a piece of paper and put it in the bottle, but you can also write a little message which will make it look more authentic. If you give it a quick brush of lemon juice and some fire you will get an awesome ancient scroll effect.
Once you have the prop ready, you can take photos of it partly buried in the sand or floating in the water. And if you are with kids (or adults) you can take photos of them finding it.
Another use for the message in a bottle is to actually convey a message. You can create event invitations and later share the photo with your guests to give them the information about time and location!
The beach is a great place to try new ideas and let your creativity run wild. You can use props, build stories and scenes, take epic photos and the list goes on!
You can also try new photography techniques such as long exposure and creating silhouettes and sun stars. Just remember to be wise in the sun, take sunscreen and water to avoid getting dehydrated! Be safe and have fun!
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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