Tips For Shooting At The Beach

shooting at the beach
Casual dress is not only accepted, it's required - photo by Mike

There are a few simple tricks that can make shooting on a beach a lot easier.  If you’re going to need to set up lights, check to see if you’re going to need a permit.  While it’s a good idea to check anyway, I’ve found that with small, portable gear I can be set up, get my shots, and be gone before anyone even notices.

For one, if you’re shooting in daylight, big flash units are not going to be necessary.  A folding reflector and portable flash will usually be enough for fill.  The great thing about the beach is when you need sand bags, all you have to carry are the bags.  I use zip-lock storage bags filled with sand to ballast my reflector, and you can dig out the sand a little underneath to change the shape of the reflector and the angle.

Keep a couple extra bags and some gaffer tape in your bag in case the surf is up and the wind off the ocean.  Salt spray will coat your optics and very few camera internals react well to exposure to salt water.

If you are worried about getting your camera wet you might consider investing in a waterproof camera, they are perfect for the beach, and you can even take them for a swim.

tennis ball
Grab three of these and cut a small hole for your tripod feet

For your tripod, grab three old tennis balls and cut a small hole in them. Fit the balls over the end of your tripod legs and use gaffer tape around the holes on top.  That keeps your tripod from sinking in the sand and throwing off your level.  It also keep sand out of the gears on the tripod feet.

Another trick I’ve used is taking a regular small beach umbrella and lining it with aluminum foil.  It makes a perfect flash bounce and folds up in a blink.

beach umbrella
Beach umbrella and some aluminum foil makes a great reflector - Photo by Molku
Of course the best part about shooting on the beach is you can dress casual and blend right in.  Use a beach bag instead of your usual camera bag and you mingle in with the tourist crowd without raising any eyebrows.