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Video: 5 Beach Photography Ideas and Tips For Better Portraits

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. Often times, even our own photographers will come back and say they’ve run out of ideas for photos at the beach. I’ve shot weddings, portraits, engagements, you name it, at the beach countless times. Through a decade of experiences, I’ve developed these 5 beach photography ideas and tips to make the most of the beach’s stunning scenery for better images.

  1. Photograph Along the Water Line
  2. Look for Natural Frames
  3. Photograph in the Shade
  4. Showcase the Landscape
  5. Create a Foreground

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.

Tip #1: Photograph Along the Water Line

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.

Tip #2: Look For Natural Frames

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.

Beach Photography Idea #3: Photograph in the Shade

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 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.

Tip #4: Showcase the Landscape

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 against the sun like I was. 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.

Beach Photography Idea #5: Create a Foreground

I use this 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.


I hope you enjoyed this article/video. Be sure to refer these five beach photography 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.

Be sure to catch our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next week! If you want to catch up on all the episodes, make sure you check out our playlist!