Have you ever been on holiday and spent time relaxing on one of those to-die-for beaches, but came away with average photographs that just don’t do your memory justice? There’s a reason for that. Below I’ve prepared a list of things that you should be thinking about before you press that shutter button. With a bit of effort, you can get that picture perfect beach shot, and bring home some great memories.

Railey Beach, Thailand

Ask yourself what you like about the scene

Is it the foreground palms that are over hanging the white sand and turquoise water that you like? The lazy swinging hammock thats strung up in between two trees? Or is it the limestone cliffs jutting out of the water in the distance? Decide on what it is you really want to capture about the scene, and make it an emphasis in your photograph.

Everyone loves that over hanging palm, but hardly ever do people accentuate it enough. Include it and others, make it a feature in your photo.

Want to convey how amazing the view was from your hammock? Don’t just shoot your hammock, step back and make your hammock smaller, try putting it on a third and really bring some scenery into it. This will really portray how amazing your location was.

Huge cliffs rising straight out of the water is always a beautiful site, so don’t cut them off. Position them accordingly, depending on how far away they are (or how big they are), you may want to put the horizon towards the bottom third or top. But make them a strong element in the frame.

Star Fish Beach, Panama

Include the water, people love it

What’s a beach shot without that soothing blue water? Make sure you get it in, along with some of the sand. It doesn’t have to be the absolute focus of the photograph, but including the water somewhere in the shot is very important to how the shot is conveyed. Water has a natural tendency to relax the viewer.

Shoot wide

Believe it or not, there’s often quite a lot going on in a beach scene. From the coconut in the foreground, to the palm trees, splashing waves, and the distant sun setting. Somehow it all has to fit in the scene, and a good way to do this is to go wide, ultra wide if possible. Ultra wide focal lengths decompress scenes, exaggerate distances, and allow you to fit more in than what you normally would. But be careful composing, otherwise the scene can become very flat. Pick your foreground, and then choose your background to suit.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Decide on an interesting foreground, your point of interest, explore

The background generally is going to be be a sunset, overhanging palm, or some rock/cliff formation, but what about the foreground? This is going to be the point in which the viewers eye is initially attracted to. Pick something interesting, whether it’s lines of foam washed up from the last couple of waves, some semi submerged rocks, a coconut or two, or some interesting sand formations. Choose wisely, and integrate this into the rest of your photograph evenly.

Capture the water’s movement

If there’s one thing that’s more soothing than a body of water, it’s moving water! With your camera mounted on a tripod, and a shutter speed of somewhere between 1/4 second to a few seconds (depending on how fast the wave is moving), you can beautiful capture the movement of the wave as it comes towards you, or away from you. It’ll make for a much more dynamic final image!

Port Willunga, South Australia

Convey emotion

No matter what type of photograph you’re taking, being able to convey emotion is a large part of creating a great image. Ask yourself, when you look at your final photograph, how does it make you feel? Does it draw you in? Does it make you want to keep looking at it? Try to find unique perspectives that adds depth and character to the image. Foreground is just as important as background, so spend time investigating the area to find a composition that really captures what the scene is all about.

Think about the time of day

This relates mainly to the type of lighting you’re going to be getting. Are you after that bright white sand with gorgeous turquoise blue colours in the water? If so, then you’ll be best to shoot during the middle of the day with the sun directly over head. Shooting towards the end of the day will loose those bright vibrant colours, and replace them with warmer tones. Though of course, you want your beach to feature a stunning sunset and nice warm tones reflecting off the trees and sand, then this is the time of day you have to shoot for.

Koh Chang, Thailand

Wrapping up

So, before you start taking photographs from the where you’ve been hanging out on the sand, put a bit of time aside and explore the local area. There will always be interesting subjects to use as foreground. Try and visualise your shot before you take it, and then work on composing it using the techniques above.

So how about you?

Do you have a picture perfect beach shot you would like to share? Or are there any particular challenges you experience, or hot tips you have when shooting seascapes?

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