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The great thing about visiting a tropical destination like Bali is that it’s just so photogenic. All those beaches, that lush jungle, those beautiful turquoise waters. All the sorts of things to fill your Facebook friends with envy when you post the photos from your trip.  

Light filled locations like Bali do, however, pose their own unique challenges for the traveller looking to grab the perfect shot of their holiday. With that in mind, I’ve put together a nice and easy tips list for getting the best beach shots from your trip – whatever gear you are using!

Get the basics right

There are a few things that apply to photography generally, which are no less true for taking pictures at the beach. Get these right, and you’ll be well on your way to getting better shots.

First – get your horizon level. There is nothing more distracting when looking at photos than a horizon that isn’t level – and shooting at the beach means there is likely going to be a lot of flat horizon that will stick out like a sore thumb if it isn’t level!

reef-in-bali

Next, remember some basic rules of composition. For example, consider the rule of thirds. This basically means that you divide your photo into three parts, with different elements in each. At a beach, that could mean one third sea, and two thirds sky. Or a coconut tree in the right hand third, and the rest of the scene in the left two thirds.

Remembering some basic rules of composition will make your photos stand out from the crowd, and turn your holiday snapshots into something friends and family will truly want to see.

There are a whole pile of other compositional guidelines that you can use to take better photos, from the golden ratio through to framing – the use of objects that form a natural “frame” in your image.

By keeping these in mind, and thinking about how you compose your shot before pressing the button, you are going to start taking better photos overall.

Take a picture of *something*

The problem with beach photos is that they are a fairly comprehensively covered subject. And that is all fine and well, but wouldn’t you like to take a photo that stands out against the crowd?

The way to do this is to think about what you are taking the picture of, and build the composition around that.

Perhaps it’s a shot with shallow depth of field of a person walking. Or that lone surfer chasing the perfect wave. Or a sand castle. Or a silhouetted palm tree. Or a shell. The list goes on – my point is, make the photo about something more than just a pretty beach with a nice sky.

As with all photography, try and tell a story to your audience. They say a picture tells a thousand words – it’s up to you to write them.

Shoot at the right time of day

Beaches are wonderful places, but the amount of light during the day isn’t really great for photography. All that glare off the sand and the water can result in the camera struggling to capture the image properly, meaning you get images with over-exposed skies, or harsh shadows on your subjects.

To avoid this, try taking your photos in the evenings or early morning, around sunrise or sunset. This is the so-called “golden hour”, where the light is softer and warmer, and will give you much more favourable photos, with balanced tones.

Bring a waterproof camera

Let’s be honest, fine sand does not play well with complex electronic devices. I have destroyed at least one camera in a tragic beach related accident, and now I am extra careful about my gear in sandy environments.

One way to solve this problem is to bring along a waterproof camera. As well as being more “beach-proof”, it will let you capture the action *in* the water, which will give you many more creative options in terms of photography. You can do shots half in and half out of the water for example or close up shots of waves and people enjoying the sea.

Use the flash

If you don’t have the flexibility of being on the beach for the perfect light, or you really want to get some photos in the middle of the day, one option to remember is your flash. Most cameras will let you set the flash to a “fill” mode, or at least, allowing you to force the flash to fire.

Using a flash will help to compensate for all that light bouncing around the place, particularly for portrait shots, and sort out issues such as dark contrasty shadows.

Use a polarising filter

One of my favourite bits of photographic equipment is the polarising filter, a special type of filter that screws on to the front of your camera lens. These aren’t available for every camera type out there, but if you can get one for yours, I would highly recommend it.

beach-in-bali

Their actual function is fairly complex, but the end result is that they cut out a lot of the glare, largely eliminate surface reflections, and can make skies really pop.

You would need to do a bit of research into getting the most out of them, which is a bit beyond the scope of this post, but once you’ve started using one for your beach photography, you’ll wonder how you ever coped before!

  • sarah

    Great tips! I’m especially bad at keeping the horizon level. I’d love to know more about using a flash during the day.

  • Maria Falvey

    Kudos Lawrence – love your work and now I understand better just how you score that wow factor so often.

  • Rizky Caesari

    great advise! since i love beach like you. thank youu 🙂

  • Danielle

    Hi Lawrence, do you have a link to what camera gear you use as i am interested in getting a filter like you mentioned. great post by the way.