With the official arrival of summer, many of us will be spending more time outside, especially at the beach. Below are five ways to help you get creative with your beach photography!

1. Reflections

Adding reflections into your beach photos can help boost your compositions. Tidal pools are one of my favorite places to create reflection photographs. You can reflect people, objects or just the sky. Walk around a tidal pool and look at it from different angles to see what is reflected in the water. 

Alternatively, if you’re on a sandy beach and the tide is receding, wet sand can also reflect the colors in the sky. This is especially nice at sunset and sunrise when you might have more dynamic tones and colors. 

Tidal pools make for great reflection images.

2. Long exposures

Long exposures can be a great way to change the composition of a beach scene. Neutral density filters are great for giving you a longer exposure which can change how the water and sky look in your images. A thirty second exposure, for example, can smooth out the water and give any clouds in the sky a streaky look. These images can often look more artistic and painterly. I love using my Lee Filters Big Stopper for these types of images.

Additionally, if you’re at a beach with waves or moving water, try experimenting with shorter exposures like 1/4s or 1/10s to see what the movement of the waves looks like. I love capturing the waves on a beach as they pull back into the ocean, it gives images movement and feeling. Usually these types of photos take a bit of experimentation with the shutter speed to get the desired look of the water. Play around and see what you get!

3. Camera position

This tip can apply to many types of photography but it’s one that I often use at the beach. Getting your camera down low can drastically change the perspective of a beach which can give you a more unique composition and provide you with more foreground details. 

Another place I like to take pictures is in the water. Even without a waterproof housing, you can wade into the water and shoot back toward the beach if your subjects are on shore. Or, you can have your camera just above the water while facing the horizon so that the water itself is your foreground interest if your subject is a bird, boat, sunset, etc. Obviously this tip comes with the caveat of being careful; always protect your gear!

Getting low allowed me to use the textures in the sand as foreground interest in this image.

4. Night

Summer means camping and beach fires where I live, so I often find myself at the beach in the evening and at night. This is also a great time to take photos, as long as you have a sturdy tripod. From capturing stars over the water, to a cozy beach fire with friends, there are lots of opportunities to create images at the beach at night. The wide-open spaces can often lend themselves well to silhouetted environmental portraits, or light painting can be another fun technique to play with at the beach.

5. Think smaller

Given a beautiful, sweeping beach scene, it’s easy to want to shoot with your wide-angle lens. But beaches provide plenty of opportunity to seek out details, textures and patterns. Sand affected by wind and tides can often create interesting shapes to photograph. Seaweed and driftwood have all sorts of different textures to explore. Search out tiny wildlife like crabs and snails, or find a cool shell to use as your subject matter. Try bringing your macro or nifty-fifty lens and see what you can come up with!

Snails at sunset.

Next time you’re out enjoying the beach, try one of these ideas to help spark some creativity. As with any genre of photography, early morning and late evening often provide the best light, especially in the summer months when mid day light can be extra harsh. Don’t forget to always protect your gear, and have fun out there!