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Beach Photography Subjects - What to Shoot at the Beach?

Have you ever observed one thing about pictures shot at the beach; most of them look the same. How many times have you seen that standard sunset shot, pictures of posed people with waves or the beach sand as background and not to mention a slanting horizon. What most people don't realize is that Beach is one location which offers numerous opportunities for a creative photographer. In this article, let us explore the possibilities of beach photography and subjects that could be shot while you are at the beach.

There is no dearth of subjects when it comes to beach photography. People, wildlife, sports, macro, man-made objects, water, seascapes, rocks, sand, sea shells and even debris washed in by the waves make excellent subjects for beach photography. But the key to produce stunning images from the beach is the way you present them. Try to present them in a unique and attractive way that captures the essence of the subject and the scene. The picture should be able to tell the viewer its story. Let us discuss the most common subjects that we could photograph at the beach.

1. People & Portraits

Beach is perfect settings for a portrait session, instead of posed pictures try to get candid shots of people who are involved in various activities; people having fun, people watching others, playing with sand/water, walking, jogging, sunbathing, reading, listening to music, having a drink and so on. The opportunities are many you just have to keep looking for moments that could be presented in a context. One thing to keep in mind while photographing people is about the local laws. The laws of certain countries are against shooting people in public without their consent as it is considered an intrusion to one’s right of privacy. It is advisable to know the law and keep out of trouble by getting consent from the people before photographing them.

beach photography
Photo By Struggle for Life

 2. Macro & Close ups

There are plenty of subjects available at the beach for macro photography. Crabs, Sea shells, Star fish, foot prints in wet sand, tiny flowers on plants growing by the beach and a host of insects it attracts. Sections of weathered boats, benches on the beach etc. play with different aperture settings to control depth of field to add a touch of creativity to your shots.

beach photography
Photo By Big Max Power

3. Abstracts

Do keep an eye out for bright contrasty colours. A colourful footwear, an umbrella, a surfers board, or even clothes that stand out from the regular shades that comprise of the beach scene are all possible subjects for shooting abstract pictures.

beach photography abstracts
Photo By Dave Morrow

4. Debris, Rocks and Sand

Sand is one element you could use to create context t your pictures, look out for sand castles, sand dunes of interesting shapes, channels formed by receding sea water etc. Some sea shores have rocks and some don’t. if there are rocks at the beach you could include them in your pictures. Those weathered rocks, all rounded by the constant splashing of water against it could give a unique mood to your shots. If there are smaller pebbles, you could try arranging them in shapes or shoot close ups of them. One other interesting subject could be debris washed in by the sea. It could be anything bottles, driftwood, parts of boats, dead fish, sea shells you could frame your shot either with the debris as the main subject or as elements that support your subject in a context.

beach photography rocks
Photo By Garry

5. Water

Water is undoubtedly the most important element in beach photography, Crashing waves being the most preferred background; used in 90% of pictures shot at the beach. Water has a unique ability to capture the viewers attention, it does not matter if it is still or in motion, do look for small streams and pools formed in the sand, they are all perfect focal points to anchor your shot. Try long exposures shots.

beach photography water
Photo By Esther

6. Seascapes

Seascapes especially during early morning and late evening are the most dramatic subjects to shoot. Look for an focal point like a pier, a light house or an anchored boat or look for branches of trees etc to frame your shot. One approach is to use long exposure to blur the movement of water to create surrealistic effects. If you are attempting to do long exposures, shoot with your camera on a tripod and check your histogram for exposure; having an ND filter will be of much help. A good polarizing filter could also help reduce specular reflections arising from the water’s surface.

beach photography seascapes
Photo by Brent Danley

7. Wildlife

At first glance a beach packed with people will seem devoid of wildlife, but if you know where to look you will find many interesting subjects to photograph. Explore the rock pools, you will often find crabs or starfish or such other small creatures. At the water’s edge you will find birds like gulls and lapwing. If there are plants growing in patches, you will find many insects, may be lizards, butterflies, spiders etc. Although it could be a bit hard to shoot macro at the beach due to the strong wind, the lighting conditions there and the background could create some stunning pictures, so do give it a try.

beach photography wildlife
Photo By Jason Samfield

8. Night Shots

Night photography is also a possibility at beach. The desolated beach, lights on the pier, lights on boats anchored etc all make interesting compositions. Beaches are also used to host many events during celebrations and festivals, the decorating lights, and other elements make interesting subjects for some long exposure shots.

beach photography night shots
Photo by Amir Kuckovic

9. Sports

Try to capture people engaged in different sports like surfing, jet skies, speed boats etc. You could either use a fast shutter speed to freeze motion or use techniques such as panning to add a touch of creativity to your shots. Use a polarizing filter to reduce glare and increase colour saturation.

beach photography sports
Photo By John Harvey

10. Man made Objects

Man made objects like a surfboard, a beach umbrella, a pair of sandals etc could make interesting subjects. Frame your shot in such a way that the subject is placed in the foreground and the beach scene at the background gives it context. You could also experiment with various depth of field effects to further enhance the feel.

beach photography man made objects
Photo By Gero
In the next article we will discuss about Photography - Nature and Wildlife Photography - Accessories For Nature Photography

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