Tips for Seascape Photography

Posted on: 20th December 2013

The sea is the perfect location for capturing images that are laden with intricate moods and drama. Though the photographer cannot control the waves and actions within the surroundings, he can be patient and observant so as to pick the opportune moment to snap those desirable photos. Take into consideration these tips.

  1. Perfect timing is everything.

Patience is a virtue, as they say. This holds true when doing seascape photography. Take notice of the changes, however minute, in the colours, texture, moods and weather. Natural light provides a long lasting impact on the photos. Its three basic qualities – colour, direction and intensity – combined together, makes for the best seascape images. Choose the time of the day that would add drama to your photos and remember to protect your camera gear because salt water and sand can cause irreparable damage to them.

  1. Wide angle lens are highly recommended.

Seascape PhotographyCrashing waves are not the only subject for awe-inspiring seascape photos. During calmer, misty days, the use of wide angle lens can render an entirely different result. Do not limit yourself to the water and the waves; capture people, rocks, shells and other aspects within the beach. If light is low, use a monopod or tripod and set the aperture f/16-f/32 for sharp images. A soft focused image can be produced during a hazy day.

  1. Use a fast shutter speed.

Curling waves crashing down the beach makes for a dramatic shot. You can freeze the moment by using a fast shutter speed – around 1/1000s. This way, you can deflect the sun’s reflections which may overexpose your image. A telephoto lens is what you need if you want to shoot the waves from a distance. Don a waterproof housing so you can venture a little bit out in the water and take even more creative shots.

  1. Capture various movements.

A long shutter speed is what you need to be able to take great shots of gentle moving water. This makes for a soft and smooth photo. Use a tripod and set the camera mode to TV or S (Shutter-Priority). By setting the camera to a slow shutter speed, it can automatically choose the correct aperture for the best results desired.

  1. Create dramatic reflections.

If you want real drama, wait for times when the sun is either rising or setting as well as taking a peek behind the clouds. This action, which is mirrored on the water, can be captured if you set your camera to AV (Apertue-Priority) mode. Use a tripod to avoid camera shake. For a deeper depth of field (DOF), use a small aperture f/16-f/32. Improve the sky colour by using a polarizing filter. It brings out the clouds and minimizes the reflected glare off the water.

  1. Use lines.

Dramatic skies can be created through long exposure times. You’ll get wonderful cloud trails and smooth foaming water. Both foreground and background can remain sharp by using a wide-angle lens and a small aperture of f/16 – f/32. For controlled movement, use a tripod. The eyes are drawn to the images if you use lines.

  1. Make the most out of lighthouses.

Lighthouses are reminiscent of peaceful, romantic settings which makes them iconic. Both children and adults adore images featuring this subject. A good composition is important to make it stand out from the background. Through a wide angle lens, position the lighthouse in the far left corner and choose a wide aperture of around f/16 to capture an entirely different image. A slow shutter speed can render a soft light beaming out at the top of the lighthouse.

  1. Choose time of the day wisely.

Red hues are produced when taking images in the early morning. Long shadows are cast along a scene at dawn. As the day progresses to noon, it would turn to yellow hues and then the shadows will disappear. Stronger colours that are quite similar to what you will get during the morning will go back as the sun sets.

Recommended Settings

Always put your camera on a tripod to minimize movement. A slow shutter setting of 1/30s is the best way to capture dramatic shots. If you want an ethereal, serene and almost blurry effect, lower the shutter speed for a few seconds. This is even more achievable during low light conditions. You can also choose aperture priority and let the camera automatically choose the shutter speed.

Recommended Equipment

Lens filter

To protect the camera from salt, sand and water always keep your bag at arm’s length. This way, you can always put away your camera when you’re not taking shots. Cover the lens with a filter at all times since it is more expensive to replace scratched lens than a broken filter.

Lens cleaning kit

You can clean the front element of your camera with distilled water or lens cleaning fluid. This is a must-have especially if you want to quickly remove any trace of salt spray. Always put the lens cap on when not taking a shot.

Clean cloth

Salt spray and blowing sand cannot be avoided even if you are shooting on a calm day. To ensure that it would not wreak havoc to your camera, always keep a clean cloth handy so you can wipe it as soon as it comes in contact with sand grains.


Seascapes offer limitless photography possibilities even if the common elements such as dramatic waves and blue skies are missing. On a dull day, you can focus on other interesting aspects such as rocks, sand, people and surroundings. As long as there is movement, it would make for a fabulous seascape photo. Reflections are also great subjects. Always have your polarizers and neutral density filters ready. It would add more creativity and complexity to your shots. It is a far more effective strategy than just relying on Photoshop later on.

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