5 Tips for Taking Better Beach Photos

Girl on San Diego beach with reflection taken by Loni Brooke Photography

In my opinion, there are very few locations as picture perfect as the beach! With the sun shining down, the sea beyond, and the golden sand by your feet, a beach photo session is a joy for both photographers and subjects. But, taking great photos at the beach is easier said than done. Here are some tips for taking better beach photos so that you can capture an amazing shot of your family!

1. Avoid Crowds

For a San Diego beach photographer like myself, taking the perfect photo on a crowded beach is simply a photoshop nightmare. However, there are some ways to avoid crowds. Usually, people prefer to go to the beach mid-morning or in the evenings around sunset.  But, if you are an early riser and are open to going to the beach at sunrise, you will have beautiful lighting as well as a nearly empty beach all to yourselves. If sunrise is not your thing, you can also try to go to the beach on a weekday rather than the weekend for a chance at having less people at the beach. Another way to avoid beach crowds is to try and find a less visited beach, maybe a neighborhood beach rather than a more touristy beach with attractions like hotels, the pier, restaurants, etc.

2. Use the Golden Hour

There’s something ethereal about watching the golden hues of the sunrise and sunset at the beach. The good news is that these golden hours, or the time shortly after sunrise or before sunset, are the best times for San Diego beach photography. At these times of the day, you will avoid harsh shadows, blown highlights, etc. It can be a bit tricky if its a very sunny day and you have a back lit sunset. But, that last 10 minutes before sunset will be perfect! Before then, try to find open shade from a pier, rocks, lifeguard towers etc for more even lighting.

Silhouette photo of a family at the beach in San Diego

3. Carry a Lens Cloth

Sand and expensive camera gear never gel well. One of the best tips for taking better beach photos that I can give you is to carry a lens cloth with you to clean up pesky sand and dust particles from your lens. This way, your photos will not have too many unwanted water droplets and sand speckles later. It works great if you’re trying to capture the movement of the waves or making a splash at the beach for your photos. Great lens cloths are easily found on amazon. Sand can be a little difficult to just wipe away, but a brush has done the trick for me many times.

4. Play

As a San Diego vacation photographer, my favorite beach photos are always the candids! Playing at the beach is a great opportunity to really capture personality. Running, jumping, splashing, and building a sand castle are just a few of the ways that you can direct your subjects and document their time at the beach in a fun and memorable way. Movement and interaction always make photos more interesting.

Family running together by the ocean in San Diego

5. Check the Tide

Nothing is worse than showing up at your favorite beach to find out that it is high tide and the sand is not accessible. Get to know the local beaches and which beaches require a low tide for access. Or, play it safe and plan your San Diego beach photography for when it will be low tide at the same time as the golden hour. Low tide is a great way to add to your composition for your beach photos with reflections! To check the tide, I recommend the app Tide Alert. It has been a life saver for me!

Father and daughter dancing at the beach, taken by Loni Brooke Photography in San Diego

Final Words

These were a few basic tips for taking better beach photos. However, the great thing about beach photography is that you can take a different approach every time to create a different effect, be it silhouettes or using long exposure to make the clouds and waves appear silky. There’s always some interesting way to capture your family vacation!

For more of my personal tips for taking better beach photos, check out the episode of the Stay Focused Podcast where I dive deep into this topic!

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