How To Photograph A Beach Wedding

Buy your tickets – you just got booked for a beach wedding! Unless you live by the beach, in which case, yes, we’re all jealous. 

Since you’re here, I’m guessing this is your first beach wedding, and you’re looking to do it right. Well, good for you, we’re here to help you with that! 

If beaches are your thing, then this might be a dream come true – low-key vibes, warm breezes, maybe a pina colada or two? After the job is over, of course.

If beaches are less your thing, then this might feel like a panic-inducing nightmare – hot temperatures, a wind that wants to tear you off your feet, and sand that’s determined to worm its way into your costly equipment. 

Whichever you identify with, or maybe you’re feeling both at the same time, we’re here to line out what beach wedding shoots look like and how to nail them. 

How To Photograph A Beach Wedding

Top Beach Wedding Photography Tips

Talk to Your Couple

Before we move any further in this conversation, the one thing you absolutely must do is talk with your clients. 

To hit a target, you need to know where that target is, and that all starts with excellent communication. So to get the best beach wedding photos, you need to understand what your couple thinks that entails!

Talking to your clients about what photos they’re expecting will also help you spot any trouble areas. Do they picture breezy, romantic images, but they’re getting married at high noon on the beach with no shade? 

We’ve got a problem. 

Use this as an opportunity to guide your client so that both of you get the outcome you desire, then coach them on any trouble areas in their plans. 

Guide them on a good time for their ceremony (hint: it’s later in the day) and if you can, get them to choose a place on the beach that provides a bit of shelter. Possibly encourage them to think about a beautiful wedding arch to make their photos more dynamic and offer a bit of coverage from the sun. 

If the bride is planning a flowy hairstyle, remind her that the wind might be acting up, as it does on the beach.

If she wants a ballgown-style dress, urge her to think about how that might feel in the heat. Maybe she can plan for another dress or invest in a reception dress that is a bit more comfortable. 

Ask your couple what successful wedding photos look like for them, find out how they’d like to achieve it and let that lead. 

Pick the Perfect Time

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Photo by: Vivian Fox Photography

To rock a beach wedding shoot, you need to have a handle on the wedding day schedule. 

What time of day is the ceremony? Is there shade? Will a canopy be diffusing the sun? When is the reception? And how does this all fit in with a sunset timeline?

Remember that golden hour on the beach is incredibly short, and light can actually be pretty harsh at sunset. 

You and your couple will also want to be mindful of the tide. If your bride and groom are enjoying their wedding ceremony on a beach that often disappears in high tide, then you might end up losing your wedding party in the ocean!

So, know your timeline. 

Lighting Can Be Difficult

Yes, natural light is abundant on the beach, but sometimes it’s a bit…much. 

You may be tempted to ask the sun to do less, but I hear she doesn’t take requests, so you’ll have to figure out something else. 

Like I’ve mentioned, lighting on the beach can be harsh, and since there’s not typically any natural shade, you’ll want to make sure that you’re ready to handle those conditions. 

Work manual mode so that you can get the lighting just right. You’ll want to keep your ISO low, shutter speed fast, and work your depth of field so you get some variety in your photos. 

You’ll also want to make sure that you do NOT overexpose. If you lean in any direction, make sure you underexpose since you’ll be able to brighten it up in post. A washed-out photo is tough to come back from. 

Also, make sure you’ve got an on-camera flash and that you know how to use it to fill in light. Beach lighting can create really dramatic shadows across faces. 

If you’re using that dramatic lighting on purpose, you can create stunningly artistic photos with it. However, if mishandled, it can just be plain unflattering. 

Use your on-camera flash to balance out some of that light and fill in those shadows. 

You may also want to bring along a diffuser when shooting couple portraits on the beach. 

Work Your Angles

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Photo by: Vivian Fox Photography

Although we can all agree that the beach is beautiful, it can get a bit one-dimensional after a bit. This is your time to really lean on your creativity!

Try shooting through the guests or the wedding party. If you’re not familiar with manual mode, make sure you get acquainted with it to really work your field depth. 

A wide shot at f/5 will look completely different from something more close up at f/1.8. Shake it up. Create the variety you’re looking for. 

Also, try your hand at some silhouettes and reflections. 

Scout Interesting Locations

bride and groom walking towards each other at beach wedding photoshoot
Photo by: Alysha Miller Photography

Find some exciting locations nearby for wedding portraits. Perhaps there’s a grove of palm trees, a pier, or an intriguing rock element that you’d like to incorporate. 

If you can change the background a little, you’ll bring a bit more dimension to your photos and the overall wedding day story. 

Keep Your Gear Safe!

This is probably a big concern, and if it’s not, it should be!

A little bit of sand in the wrong place can wreak havoc on your gear. So how do you avoid it when sand is everywhere?

Change lenses as infrequently as possible. If you can, use a couple of camera bodies with your different lenses, and that way, you shouldn’t have to change your lenses at all. 

If you do have to change your lenses, do it quickly. 

The same goes for batteries and memory cards. Change everything as quickly as you can, and bring a cleaning kit for your camera just in case. 

If you want to be extra careful, pack everything in bags, and use a plastic mat to set your gear down when you need. 

Now that you’ve got all of this seared into your brain (you do, don’t you), it’s time to take a deep breath and do what you do best. You’ve got this! 

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