Three Simple Steps for Better Pictures at the Beach

Three simple steps for better pictures at the beach. Seems straight forward enough but sometimes, trying to manage the light and the action and the sand and the bugs all while trying to get smiles and not mid-day grimaces because it’s so bright, well, that’s what led me to create this list.

It’s summer and I spend a lot of time at the beach (or in the boat or at the pool) with family and friends, so I’m always taking pictures of our outings.  Over the years, I’d think I was getting these amazing shots and so many of them would be just okay. So I decided to get better. Not “pro” better, but at least, “Wow! That’s a great shot!” better.

three simple steps for better pictures at the beach, jumping off the dock

Photography can be intimidating and I’m not even pretending to know a lot about it but I’ve done some homework and realize you don’t need to know everything. If you can focus on just a couple of things your pictures are going to be better. Really. So here it is, my three simple steps for better pictures at the beach:

1. Shutter Priority. I set my camera on Tv, shutter priority, and choose a fast shutter speed generally 1/400 rarely slower than 1/320. With all the action at the beach whether diving from the dock, jumping from the diving board or racing each other into the water, whatever is going on you want crisp, clear shots not blurry ones. I most often will leave my ISO on auto (I know, many disagree with this but for ease of use and keeping it simple I find it works the majority of the time.)

three simple steps for better pictures at the beach, a twist from the diving board


2. High-Speed Continuous Shooting. Set your camera to take fast, successive shots. You don’t always get the shot you think you are going to get the first time. If you can hold your shutter down and get 2-5 shots in a row chances are good you are going to love one of them, the others you can delete once you’ve chosen your favorite. Don’t choose until you’ve seen them on your computer though, it’s too hard to tell on those little screens on the back of your camera.

three simple steps for better pictures at the beach, Continuous High Speed Collage


3. Get in close. Thisclose. Yes, there are times you want a lot of background for perspective but if your kids are swimming and you’re on the beach I guarantee you aren’t going to be happy with the “random heads in the water” shot I’ve taken so many times. See what I mean below, you can’t tell who anyone is:

Three Simple Steps for Better Pictures at the Beach, random heads in the lake

Get up close, focus on their faces (or toes) and get the shots that mean something when you go back and look at your pictures.

three simple steps for better pictures at the beach, toes in the water


And because I can’t help myself, here’s an extra tip: if you are shooting in bright sunlight move yourself or your subject so you can actually see their faces. If the sun is too directly behind them, you won’t see them.

three simple steps for better pictures at the beach, direct sun behind subject

If the sun is shining directly on them you are likely to get the grimace or squint shot.

Turn 90 degrees and you’ll probably get a way better shot with better lighting (and see who is sneaking into your picture!)

three simple steps for better pictures at the beach, Indirect Sunlight

Making these simple changes has made a vast improvement in the quality of my pictures. So let me know, do you love to take pictures? Do you take great pictures at the beach? What have you found that works for you? I’d love to hear your comments especially since I’m always trying to get better!


  1. April Gunnarshaug Mirabito

    Great post! Getting closer shots is definitely a goal for me. Who’s that crazy photo bomber?! Ha ha…

  2. We’re heading to the beach in 2 weeks and I can’t wait to take some shots with my camera. AND! there are surf lessons involved! Thanks for great tips!

    • We did surf lessons last year and that was one of my disappointments because so many were blurry, I was using the “sports” setting when I should have used a faster setting. Good luck with the lessons and the pics! We are going to OIB in two weeks and I WILL come home with better pictures than last year! Hope you get great pics too!

  3. Love these tips and I love your shots, especially that one jumping off the dock! I use high speed continuous shooting all the time. I have it on for sports but then I usually end up keeping it on. The kids move so fast and I have no problem deleting the extras…

    • I read that in one of your posts “delete viciously” (not exact words but close), I’d never been able to do it but once I started getting really good pics I had an easier time discarding the so-so ones. And that is exactly how I started shooting in Tv too, the kids sports, it’s not always the most appropriate setting but it works for me in many other situations.

  4. Thank you for the tips! I take the worst pictures ever and I need lots of tips, but I need them like this, broken down into very manageable chunks!

  5. That’s how I need them too, I get overwhelmed with too much info!

  6. Well you know I love taking photos at the beach! I have a post coming soon. I love high speed continuous shooting. And I love these shots – they’re incredible! I agree – you don’t have to know everything to get great shots. I generally shoot in only manual but I wouldn’t necessarily advise that for someone just wanting to have a great time at the beach.

    • Hi Tamara! I like to shoot in manual, too, I love figuring it all out. There are times I’ve been so focused on getting everything “just right” though that I’ve stepped out of the moment and missed some great shots so I needed to figure out something simple, a kind of fall-back, for me, that I can trust to work most of the time. And I was so afraid to move out of the pre-sets at one time! I figure this is a simple transition for anyone willing to experiment but still leery of going all-out manual!

  7. LOVING these pictures…I really love the first one where they are all jumping off the pier! 🙂 Good job!-Ashley

  8. Well I realized while reading this post that I know absolutely nothing about my camera! I have a nice one, and just plain old don’t know how to use it. So I followed your instructions, and changed these settings, and now I”ll probably be taking all pictures in this mode til I figure out how to change stuff back! LOL. Thanks for the tips. Those are great shots!

  9. I love these tips. I love taking pictures but you described me in so many of these instances…blurry pictures, small head shots where you can’t tell who is who and pictures where you can’t see their faces. I am going to put these tips to good use!

  10. Awesome tips! I just took a photography course to improve my skills and I’m loving playing around! We head to the beach in 2 weeks so I can’t wait to try out your tips!

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  12. Great tips in here! I will need to come back to this post once I stop shooting in Auto. Thank you for linking up to #throwbackthursdaylinkup

  13. Great comparison shots at the end! Sometimes if it’s a super bright day I bump up the exposure compensation. Can’t wait to head to the beach! Stopped by from ##ThrowbackThursdaylinkup 🙂

  14. Those pictures are amazing. It makes me really wish it was summer…Thanks for the great photography tips!

  15. momssmallvictories

    Oh I love all these tips. These are great shots. I switch my camera to manual mode but adjyst ISO first. I like your idea to set ISO to auto and adjust the Tv setting. With three fast sons, they are always running at the beach! Thanks for sharing with #ThrowbackThursdaylinkup.

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  17. I am encouraged to take my camera off of Full Auto mode, something that always intimidates me! I can’t wait for summer. Thanks for sharing your helpful tips!

    • I would say “do it” there is nothing to be afraid of. Mess around with the settings…you might delete most of your pics and you may find you “accidentally” capture something really cool. I go into it thinking…there’s no right or wrong, there may be three ways to get here and I’ll figure out one of them. Once you get a handle on even one thing, it changes your perspective on taking pictures. It’s pretty fascinating.

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