The beach is one of the most popular places to take photographs and justifiably so. Beaches provide stunning natural elements and at the right time of day, can create a perfect setting for any genre of photography.  The combination of soft sand, sparkling water, rock formations and breathtaking sunsets offers an ideal setting for creating memorable portraits. Whether you’re a professional photographer or simply an enthusiast with a camera, these essential beach portrait ideas and tips will help you elevate your beach photography game to the next level. In a previous article, we covered general beach photography tips, and in this article, we’ll narrow down to beach portraits.

Video: 5 Tips for Better Beach Portraits

Through a decade of experiences photographing weddings, portraits, engagements, and more at the beach, I’ve developed these 5 beach portrait ideas and tips to make the most of the beach’s stunning scenery for better images. For this video, I’ll be photographing my friend, Chelsea. I’ll also be using the Canon EOS R5 paired with the Canon 28-70mm f/2L lens. Let’s jump in.

Here’s what we’ll be covering in this article:

  1. Photograph Along the Water Line
  2. Look For Natural Frames for Beach Portraits
  3. Photograph Beach Portraits in the Shade
  4. Showcase the Landscape in Beach Portraits
  5. Find a Foreground for Interesting Beach Portraits

Photograph Along the Water Line

When shooting beach portraits, take advantage of the water line as a natural leading line in your composition. Position your subjects along the edge of the water, where the sand meets the waves. This not only adds a dynamic element to the image but also helps create a sense of depth and perspective. The gentle waves rolling in or retreating into the ocean will add a touch of motion to the scene, making the photo come alive.

I love photographing against the water because the foam reflects the light back at the subject. This natural bounce light creates a subtle fill. I’ll show you an example.

beach photography ideas water creates fill
Notice the subtle fill light that the waves provide.

I often like to photograph couples along the water line. I got low and framed Chelsea against the sky and had her walk as waves came up and got this image.

beach photography ideas water line walk

A bonus tip is to frame the subject against the highlight in the water. Pull the angle over to the bright reflection and you can capture a great profile image.

beach photography ideas water highlight

With the fill from the waves, we end up with a beautiful portrait.

Look For Natural Frames for Beach Portraits

Beaches are often adorned with natural frames that can enhance the composition of your portraits. Keep an eye out for palm trees, driftwood, rocks, or even beach umbrellas that can act as frames within the frame. Framing your subjects with these elements not only adds visual interest but also helps draw the viewer’s attention to the main focal point—the people in the photograph.

Photographing your subject by themselves on the beach will look great by itself. However, the subject is doing all the work. To mix it up a bit, look for natural elements to help create some interesting poses and frames for your image. Our beach has some great rock formations we’ll be using to naturally frame Chelsea.

beach photography ideas

I used the sun to frame Chelsea and exposed dark in order to preserve highlight detail. I’d normally use the histogram but in these types of scenes, it’s often difficult to tell when you’ve lost information.

beach photography ideas frame sunlight
Images edited with VF Presets > Modern

After, I came in closer and used the rock formation to entirely frame Chelsea. This is a technique I use a lot for my engagement clients. I let just the right amount of sunlight peek through and we end up with this beautiful portrait.

Photograph Beach Portraits in the Shade

The harsh midday sun at the beach can cast unflattering shadows on your subjects and cause them to squint uncomfortably. Instead, opt for shooting during the golden hours—the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. During these times, the sunlight is softer and casts a warm, flattering glow on your subjects, making them look more radiant and reducing the chances of harsh shadows.

Beaches with a lot of cliffs will have many shaded areas you can photograph under. The natural light coming from the sky itself rather than the sun provides a large and soft light source that is great for beach portraits.

beach photography ideas shade portrait

beach photography ideas shade portrait
Images edited with VF Presets > Modern

The rocks provided a great formation for creating foreground and background elements. I also had Chelsea look straight ahead to capture the light on her face.

Showcase the Landscape in Beach Portraits

While your primary focus may be on the people in your beach portraits, don’t forget to showcase the stunning coastal landscape as well. Incorporate the vastness of the ocean, the textures of the sand, and the colors of the sky into your compositions. This not only adds context to your portraits but also helps evoke the feeling of being at the beach.

Our clients know us especially for this style of images. We capture a vast and wide shot of the landscape with our subjects framed small somewhere in the scene. This rock formation provides a great opportunity for this type of shot.

It’s important to underexpose if you’re photographing your beach portrait against the sun. Check the histogram to make sure the image isn’t clipped on the highlights and capture as much information as possible.

beach photography ideas
Edited with VF Presets > Modern

With Chelsea posing in unique shapes, we end up with these stunning images that showcase the environment. These are the types of images we often use for the covers or prints of our wedding and engagement clients.

Find a Foreground for Interesting Beach Portraits

Adding a foreground element to your beach portraits can create a sense of depth and dimension in your images. Look for interesting objects, such as seashells, beach toys, or beach grass, to place in the foreground of your beach portrait. By doing so, you’ll add visual interest and lead the viewer’s eye into the main subject—the people in the portrait.

I use this beach portrait tip for our wedding clients. For example, I’ll often take a photograph with the ring as the foreground. Here, I’ll be using the sand since we have that in abundance.

beach photography ideas
Edited with VF Presets > Modern

I used a fast shutter speed to freeze the sand as it tricked down. I let the sun slightly peek out from behind Chelsea and we end up with these images.


Beach portraits offer a fantastic opportunity to capture the natural beauty of both the subjects and the coastal environment. By photographing along the waterline, looking for natural frames, shooting in the shade, showcasing the landscape, and creating a foreground, you can elevate your beach portraits to new heights. So, grab your camera, head to the nearest beach, and start capturing stunning portraits that will be cherished for years to come.

I hope you enjoyed this article/video. Be sure to refer these five beach portrait ideas and tricks if you’re ever in a pinch. The beach provides countless opportunities for amazing photos for any genre, whether it’s wedding, portrait, family, etc. We use these tips and tricks for our own engagement and wedding clients and have gotten consistently great results. Be sure to check out our Premium Channel where we have full courses on Weddings, Engagement, Maternity, and more. You’ll see in practice how we use these tips to capture images that wow our clients every time.