There’s something magical about photographing near the coast. Striking cliffs and silky-smooth water can give you truly stunning results. The great thing about coastal photography is that it isn’t difficult, and you will often find yourself with plenty of time to be able to execute the shot that you want. To get you started here are 6 tips to help you capture stunning coastal shots.
Choose the right time
Even if you are new to photography you have probably heard of the “golden hour”. There is a reason that experienced photographers will always tell you that you should aim to shoot at these times. This is when the light is soft and golden in colour and as a result, provides a pleasing composition. Typically, these times are an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset.
This doesn’t mean that this is the only time that you should take photos. In fact, before sunrise and after sunset and even during the blue hour can give you amazing photos. Because the sun is low in the sky, with the right conditions you may also find you get a beautiful or dramatic sky. If you can take photos in these conditions, you will immediately see an improvement in your photos.
Pre-visualize your shot
One of the key things about capturing a great coastal shot is that you need to have an idea of the type of photo you want to capture. This might sound like an obvious thing to say but so many people take photos without really thinking about what they are photographing.
Knowing what your final photo will look like (known as pre-visualizing) will give you a better chance of being able to execute a great photo. Sure you can look at a coastal scene and think it’s just a beach scene, but if you really think about the small details you can dramatically change the photo you create.
Are you looking to capture smooth water effect or freeze those crashing waves against the rocks? Do you want to include the footprints in the sand or somehow crop them out? If you can work out all of these small details in your head, you will be able to form the photo in your mind before even setting up a camera.
Think about your foreground
Often one of the main problems with photographing coastal scenes is avoiding them looking uninteresting. This usually occurs when you photograph something with little interest as there is a repetitive colour or pattern. Like for example a photograph of a beach looking into the distance.
But by simply composing your shot with a point of interest in the foreground, you will often see a dramatic improvement. That’s why your foreground is so important when it comes to coastal photography. So always be on the lookout for rocks, driftwood or even people that can add a point of interest to your shots.
Look for a different perspective
Photographers always strive to find new ways of showing things that have been photographed lots of times. A coastal scene is no different. Usually, the big limitation for things like beaches is that they are pretty flat and so there’s isn’t the obvious opportunity for different angles or compositions.
But even in these sorts of places if you are willing to put some effort in you will find ways to capture unique angles. For example, on beaches look for a place where you may be able to get an elevated view. Rocks or even high sand dunes might be enough to give you a view that often might not be seen.
Brave the cold and wet
The majority of the time the pictures that grace the front covers of magazines and guidebooks are taken in beautiful sunshine with blue skies. But actually some of the best coastal photos you will ever capture will be taken during the times where people don’t want to be near the coast. Like cold or snowy weather or stormy skies.
These conditions not only show the viewer a vision of coastal areas that they often don’t see themselves, but they can look incredibly dramatic. So, don’t be afraid to get yourself wet in the rain or be cold to be able to capture those stunning photos.
Obviously, the most important thing is that you stay safe so make sure you are aware of any weather warnings and also tide times. Be extra careful of your own well-being and your equipment if you are high up on cliffs when there are high winds. A strong gust of wind can knock over a tripod really easily.
Make sure your settings are right
The good news is that getting your settings correct for coastal photography is not difficult. You can make life even easier for yourself by using a tripod. Which you really should be doing if you want to capture the best possible photos at the best time.
With any sort of landscape photography, you need to keep your image sharp all the way through so naturally this means using a smaller aperture for greater depth of field. Start at around f/8 and raise your f/number for the desired depth of field. Be very careful at extremely small apertures such as f/22 as these can actually have an adverse effect on the sharpness of the photo
If you are using a tripod, then your shutter speed can be determined by your aperture and won’t be an issue at slower speeds. The only other factor that might affect your shutter speed is if you are wanting to freeze the action or capture movement. If you are using a smaller aperture and faster shutter speed, you will probably need to raise your ISO to be able to achieve the shot. But only raise the ISO as much as you need to. Remember that the higher your ISO is the more noise will appear in your photo (which will make the photo lack sharpness).
A word on keeping your equipment safe…
Sand and salt water are two of the biggest threats to modern DSLRs. Just a grain of sand can wreak havoc with your sensor meaning a costly repair. So, keeping your equipment safe shouldn’t be taken lightly. Avoid changing lenses unless absolutely necessary. If you are going to change a lens do it quickly with your back against the wind. It’s a good idea to have a towel with you to wipe your camera dry if you get sea water splashed on it. If there is a lot of water spraying from the waves or it’s raining use a plastic bag with a hole cut at the end to protect your camera.
A well composed coastal scene, taken in beautiful light will look stunning whether it’s a screen saver on your computer or hung on a wall. The great thing about coastal photography is that you’ll have lots of time and space to set your shot up and subsequently take the photo. Follow these tips and you will be on your way to capturing great coastal shots.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage anywhere online without permission.