How to take brilliant beach photos: 16 easy tips

I love the beach. Living in a coastal city has been a true blessing. And I missed the sea whilst living in Essen, Germany which is landlocked. I never got to visit the beaches of Europe which added to my beach blues. Now that I’m back home I take way too many photos of the beaches of Cape Town. That got me thinking about sharing tips on how to take brilliant beach photos. Grab your sun block and camera but first  keep reading my tips on how to take brilliant beach shots.

Wear sunscreen

Ok so you might be thinking what does have to do with beach photography? Well who wants to look like a steamed lobster in their beach pictures. And who wants to feel grumpy from sunburnt skin. This goes for all skin tones.  Feeling good means you will be able to take good photos.


Get there at the right time

Ideally the golden hour which is sunrise or sunset is the best time to take photos. The natural light added so many varied colours to photos.  Some beaches also draw in hordes of people. To avoid having photos with lots of people in them get there early or later after the other beach goers have left.

Table Mountain from Bloubergstrand

Lesser known beaches

If you happen to be shooting in a coastal city like Cape Town with lots of beaches  try to visit some lesser known beaches. All the Clifton beaches, Camps Bay, Muizenberg, St. James and Boulders are normally full on weekends during summertime. Opt for beaches like Seaforth, Windmill, Bakoven, and Smitswinkel instead.


Avoid light glare

To avoid photos that are too glary don’t take photos between 1pm and 4pm. That’s when the sun shines at its brightest. You can still take photos around this time but be sure to edit them for over brightness.  Remember that the sun should always be behind the subject you are capturing this will also stop the dreaded glare. Alternatively you can take photos of the glare and make it work for you. Like my sister did when she took the photo below.

Seapoint Promenade at sunset
Seapoint Promenade at sunset


Get close to things on the beach to get artistic looking photos. Take a close-up photo of beach stones, the waves or even the beach sand. These kind of photos are unique.

Arniston beach stones
Arniston beach stones



If you are including photos of people try to make them smile. Allow them to smile naturally. You should always try to smile as well. A genuine smile does wonders for any photo. If you are looking to boost your Instagram followers it’s good to know that pictures of people smiling get the most likes. People can spot fake smiles and the human face is the number one thing which people connect with in advertising.  There are research studies which back this up. Smiles are powerful.

Arniston South Africa
Laughing at Arniston beach

Keep it steady

Use a tripod or practice keeping your camera steady. Taking photos at the beach on a windy day can be tricky. My advice is practice if you can. If you can’t practice hold tight on to your camera and stand still, moving will cause your photos to blur. Blurry waves can look good with editing  but it’s better to get the shot right the first time rather than editing.


Take photos of objects

Think sand castles, shells, driftwood, boulders, pebbles, seaweed washed out onto the shore.  These beach objects contribute to a lovely image.

Arniston beach
The rocks of Arniston beach

Take photos of vegetation and animals

Palm tree photos with the beach in the background always look amazing. Then there’s the animal shots. Seals, dolphins, whales, penguins and seagulls are often spotted along  Cape Town’s shore line. I love nature and capturing a photo of marine wildlife or vegetation adds to my good beach memories.

Seagull at Sepoint
Seagull photo taken at Seapoint
Camps bay
The beach around Camps bay beach side. This was taken from a moving car.


Use shadows

The sunset or sunrise will cast a glow on to people. This is the best time to capture that beach silhouette photos. Don’t forget to ask permission first. You can also take a shadow selfie by standing in the sun and taking a photo of yourself in the sand. Wet sand  will work the best for this as the “canvas” is flat.

Camps Bay
Camps Bay at sunset
My shadow captured at Muizenberg beach

Add props

I have spoken about adding a twist to photos by using props before. At the beach you can use your beach towel,  sarong, sunglasses or sandals as a prop. For example allow a corner of a towel to be added to you photo. Take a photo of you sandals in the sand.  Ladies can stand with your sarong in your hands whilst it blows in the wind. Being buried in the sand and having a photo taken can even turn the sand into a prop.

Prop beach towel.jpg

Messages or symbols

Write a word in the sand, a message or create a heart out of shells. I see a lot of #beach photos  of people who added the word and hashtag in a photo on Instagram. Around Christmas time there were many beach themed photos with people wearing red swimsuits, a santa hat and #MerryChristmas written in the sand.


Winter time

Take advantage of the moody colours of the beach around winter.  The change in season will make the same beach look completely different. The added bonus is that the beach will be less full.

Along Muizenberg and St. James Catwalk
Along Muizenberg and St. James Catwalk


Experiment with angles of your shots. Taking a photo of the sea straight on is pretty. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mix it up. Take side angle shots of the sea and shore line. Stand closer and snap a pic. Stand further or higher up if there’s a bridge  for example.

Side shot of Arniston beach
Side shot of Arniston beach
Muizenberg beach  huts
Muizenberg beach huts
Muizenberg beach huts from a bridge
Muizenberg beach huts from another angle


Professional photographers tend to use Adobe lightroom  to edit their pictures. I’m not professional and I almost always use my phones camera. I have a Nokia 5 which  is light years away from a iPhone’s camera. This means that despite my best efforts I sometimes have to edit my photos. I use Snapseed, I adjust the brightness then add either the Pop or Accentuate filter. I use PicsArt and InShot filters less often. Making a digital collage with PicsArt or InShot is easy and making your images smaller can allow them to look much better. And if all else fails add a black and white filter which is very forgiving.

Add a fliter to save a bad photo. Again the Muizenberg beach huts.
Add a filter to save a bad photo. Again the Muizenberg beach huts.

Have fun

Most importantly have fun. This goes back to my tip on smiling. If you aren’t a beach person then don’t go. If you are one swim, take a walk, listen to the waves, play beach volleyball, eat ice-cream have an enjoyable time. When you have fun with loved one’s it can lead to beautiful images taken candidly. Taking solo beach photos can be great as well because you can linger and take your time when capturing a scene or a #beachselfie.

My mom walking at Muizenberg beach
My mom walking at Muizenberg beach


How to take brilliant beach photos


Thank you for reading and please let me know if you have anything to add to this list of tips. I haven’t delved into night time beach photography yet and when I do I will update this post.  I love reading comments on my blog and I’m open to online collaboration. If you have any questions inbox me, e-mail me or leave them down blow in the comments section.

Happy travels!

xxx Nikki xxx



  1. tsepotheview says:

    Being in Durban beach during winter season is very owsome because as much as it is cold, in the beach is warm than in summer the weather there becomes cool anyway your pics are perfectly captured.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I haven’t been to Durban yet. But, I plan on going as soon as I’m no longer a broke intern ha ha ha. Thanks for the tip about the beaches in Durban during winter will keep it in mind when I can visit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. tsepotheview says:

        Being an intern will soon be over then you will be financially able to explore such incredible places…

        Liked by 2 people

        1. From your lips to Gods ears it’s my third internship now.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. novembrella says:

    You have such a pretty smile! Loved all your photos! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so sweet of you to say. Thanks a bunch you made my day ( :

      Liked by 1 person

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