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  • Writer's pictureRachel Z

How to Photograph a Beach or Coast

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

One of the most amazing places you can take the time to capture in photos is the beach or coastline. It is amazing what kind of photography can be made at these wonderful natural locations. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed though and wonder how to photograph the beach or coast for your next photo endeavor. As always, I’m Rachel with Rachel Z Photography, your San Francisco, California photo guide and let’s break that very subject down today.

Equipment to Consider

It is always pertinent to have the right equipment for any job and that is just as true with the gear you want to dedicate to your photo project.


Your lens of choice will depend on what type of photography that you plan to do, but most seascape shots call for a wide-angle lens, ideally something between a 16mm to 35mm focal length. While less ideal for landscapes, a telephoto lens can come in handy for images that call for compression and are great for birds or other wildlife. They can also be useful for close-ups.

Lens Hood

A lens hood helps to shield out glare and sun flare. It also offers some protection from the sea spray.

Neutral Density Filter

An ND filter is an important tool for coastal photography. Like sunglasses for your camera, an ND filter allows you to capture images with a slow shutter speed, even in bright sunlight.

Polarizing Filter

Polarizing filters create richer, more vibrant colors. They also cut down on reflections, and can help to reduce glare on the surface of the water and rocks, making them useful for seeing through shallow water, or capturing life in rock pools.


Many compositions can benefit from a slow shutter speed, and you’ll want a tripod to minimize camera shake.


If you’ve ever been to the beach, then you probably know that the elements there are a camera’s worst enemy! Sand, water, and sun can all cause damage to your camera and equipment. To help keep your gear safe, store everything in your camera bag and only take out what you need. Put nothing except your tripod down in the sand. Try to avoid changing lenses on the beach, and of course, be sure to clean all of your equipment when you get back.

Composition Tips

Composition is arguably one of the most important aspects of photography–especially for ocean photography, and recreating the scene at hand!

Focal Point

A strong focal point is important for any composition. The focal point helps to anchor an image and grab the viewer’s attention. Your point of interest could be anything from a rock or a piece of driftwood, to a wave, some texture in the sand, or even a person. With practice, you’ll soon be adept at spotting great focal points.

Find a Reflection

Whether it’s a sunset reflected on the sea or some clouds mirrored in a rock pool, reflections can help to add depth and interest to your images. Remember, a polarizing filter can eliminate reflections, so be sure to take it off when capturing a reflection.

Capture Detail

While it’s easy to be overwhelmingly focused on capturing the amazing sunset, or the waves crashing on the beach, there’s beauty in the details as well. Close-up images of crabs, shells, and coastal flowers can all make for wonderful images.

About Rachel Z Photography

I’m a 31-year-old San Francisco-based photographer, whale-watching enthusiast, and guardian of 2 lovely rescued birds. My goal with my photography is to empower you by taking the essence of who you are and turning it into works of art. I want to hear what YOUR ideas are and help make them into a reality. I want you to feel powerful. I want you to feel beautiful. I want you to feel confident, because we all deserve that.

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