Tips for Beach Photography

Learn how to keep your equipment safe near the water

Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

If you choose to take your camera to the beach, you just have to be careful around the sand and water. Prevention will help you shoot photos that will turn out great, while ensuring your camera doesn't start malfunctioning from sand and water damage.

Even though shooting photos at the beach can be challenging – and potentially dangerous to your camera’s health – you don't want to let potential setbacks keep you from shooting some photos that will create great memories of the summer spent near the water.

Follow these tips to help you with your beach photography goals.

Keep Equipment Safe

  • Use bags. Protect your camera from the harsh beach environment by using a camera bag and including a plastic bag you can seal. The camera bag will protect the camera from sand. The sealed plastic bag should keep water at bay.
  • Stay out of the wind. If it's a windy day, you may want to think twice about using your camera at the beach. Two potential problems for your camera can exist on a windy day near the beach. You could end up with sand blowing around, which could lodge itself in your camera's housing. You also could have spray from the water strike your camera, which could eventually cause water damage to the camera in the long run.
  • Avoid changing lenses outdoors. If you have a DSLR or DIL camera where you need to change lenses while using it, you will want to be especially careful on windy days at the beach. If sand or water spray gets inside your camera while changing lenses, you could see damage to the camera occur very quickly, requiring a thorough cleaning or a trip to the repair shop. Go inside your car or perhaps a changing tent where you can get out of the wind.
  • Use straps. If you’re going to shoot really close to the water, use a wrist strap or neck strap to protect yourself from inadvertently dropping the camera into the water, or purchase an underwater housing to protect the camera.
  • Keep equipment in the shade. Don’t leave the camera in direct sunlight; use the camera bag to protect it.
  • Try to avoid touching the camera. If you have sunscreen on yours hands, you can cause problems for your lens and LCD. Make sure your hands are dry before handling the camera.

Use Key Photography Tips

  • Pay attention to the horizon when shooting beach photos. The line where the water meets the sky or where the sand meets the water will provide a clean horizontal line as a background in many of your photos, so you don’t want a slanted horizon. Some cameras can place superimposed lines on the LCD, helping you line up the horizon. Otherwise, just pay close attention to the horizon as you shoot. Try to place the horizon in the upper or lower portion of the frame, following the “rule of thirds.”
  • Check your exposure. Beach photos often involve shooting with a strong backlight, such as the sunset photo included here. Make sure you set the exposure for the photo for the subject and not for the background, or you'll end up with a subject that is underexposed.

  • Turn away from the water at times, too. Some beach activities don’t involve the water, so don’t forget to shoot things away from the water. Perhaps there are some interesting birds along the rocks near the beach. Or maybe there are colorful beach umbrellas along the sand that will make an interesting photograph, with or without water in the frame.
  • Use the right shutter speed. Plenty of activities occur at the beach, and, for most of them, the subject will be moving somewhat quickly. Be sure to shoot at a fast shutter speed for these, which shouldn’t be a problem in the bright sunlight that occurs during most days at the beach.
  • Watch for shadows. Finally, bright sunlight can create harsh shadows on some subjects. Consider setting your camera to force the flash to fire, which will create a "fill flash" for removing those harsh shadows.