5 Quick Tips for Coastal Photography

Whether it be unmarked sand dunes, sea grasses blowing in the sea breeze, rugged outcrops of rocks and cliff faces or a beach scene complete with all the color of families on their day at the beach – coasts can present photographers with some great opportunities. Here’s 5 tips for your next coastal photography outing!

1. Look for Reflections
Any time you’re shooting around bodies of water, you should be aware of the potential for enhancing your image with reflections. This is particularly relevant when shooting at sunrise or sunset where your images can be brightened and have interest added to them by reflecting those pretty pinks and oranges in the water before you.

2. Focus in on Details
What often grabs your attention most on coastal shoots is the grandeur of the landscape – so it’s easy to overlook what might be at your feet as you’re lining up your shot. The coast is full of smaller opportunities for amazing shots – whether it is sea shells on the water's edge, the footprints of an animal in the sand, small wild flowers growing in the dunes or patterns in rock formations. Take the time to look around you at the detail of what surrounds you. Oh… and don’t forget your macro lens!

3. Add Foreground Interest
When shooting seascape shots it's very easy to end up with images that contain few focal points of interest (i.e. shots that are half sky and half sand). One way to add interest to these shots is to look for opportunities in the foreground of your shots. If you’re able to place something interesting in the foreground (perhaps some interesting rock pools) you’ll lead the eye into the image. When doing this test shooting from different heights – sometimes getting down quite low and will add more interest to the shot while sometimes a higher vantage point might work better. Also remember if you want the foreground and background to be in focus that you’ll want to shoot with small aperture (high f numbers).

4. Slow things Down
Another way to add interest and atmosphere to seascape shots is to slow your shutter speed down to blur any part of the image that is moving. In this way you might get a misty looking sea that captures the movement of waves or a furry carpet of swaying sea grasses. Of course to do this, you’ll want to shoot with a tripod to make sure your camera is perfectly still.

5. Horizons
Two last tips when it comes to horizons. Firstly – make sure they’re horizontal with the framing of your image. There’s nothing like a horizon that slopes unnaturally down at one edge of the frame to make those looking at your shot a little sea sick. If you’re going to break this ‘rule’ – break it well and make it an obviously intentional thing. Secondly – the convention is to avoid placing your horizon in the middle of your frame but rather to position it nearer one of the thirdway points (depending upon whether there’s more interest in the sky or foreground of the shot). Of course ‘rules’ are made to be broken but for balanced shots keep these in mind.

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