Seascape photography is a branch of landscape photography where, mostly, the main subject is the ocean or the sea. The ever-moving water is what makes your photography look amazing and interesting. For landscape photographers, the coastline offers a number of opportunities to capture mesmerizing seascape photos. However, this comes with a lot of challenges, as well.
In this guide, we will take you through a few tips that you can use to take your seascape photography up a notch, no matter what camera you use.
What Time is best for Seascape Photography?
The most important thing that matters a lot in seascape photography is time. Now, the word ‘time’ can have two different meanings here; time of the day and time of the year. The best time of the day depends on your requirement. For example, if you want to capture the picture of the horizon with the ocean in the foreground, then you should be there during the sunset.
If you think that summer is the best time of the year to do amazing seascape photography, then sorry to pop your bubble, it is the worst! If you want satisfying shots that are attractive, you should consider autumn, spring or winter for seascape photography.
Top Tips for Seascape Photography
The key to best seascape photography is patience. You should always be on the lookout for the changes in weather and colors. The thing that affects your seascape photography the most is natural light. If you get it right, everyone will love your photos. The three basic qualities of light are direction, intensity, and color.
If you get these three qualities right, you will get amazing shots that you will be proud of.
2. Use a Range of Lenses
As seascape photography falls under the category of landscape photography, you need to have a variety of lenses to capture different shots. Most landscape photographers follow the classic approach – they just mount the widest lens and click photos. But you should be more creative as having only one lens might limit your productivity and photography opportunities.
Although a wide-angle lens works well for seascape photography, it exaggerates the foreground and makes all the things look much smaller than they appear to the naked eye.
3. Use a Fast Shutter Speed
Capturing tides and waves as they curl create a dramatic shot. To freeze the water and avoid overexposing your photo, you should use a fast shutter speed (around 1/1000s). If you own a telephoto lens, you can try shooting a wave from a distance. Otherwise, you can even be in the water with waterproof housing. Doing this will help you create dramatic and creative photos.
4. Do Photography From a Cliff-top
Shooting from top of the cliff offers a whole new experience and perspective. You can smooth out and blur the water surface using a 30+ second shutter speed. The combination of smooth water surface and crisp cliff edges will make your photo look surreal. These photos are on a whole new level. Make sure to do this when it is dark.
If you capture a photo of the ocean or the sea from the above, when the light is brighter, all the water patterns will make your picture look busy. Therefore, you can go down to sea level at that time.
5. Use Filters to Enhance Your Photos
The use of filters can help enhance your seascape photography in several ways. You don’t have to do much work in the post-production if you know what type of filter to use. The best filters you should invest in for seascape photography are:
1. Focus on the Composition
Composition plays a vital role in all the different types of photography, and seascape isn’t an exception. For most photos, you will need to highlight a specific focal point to anchor your shot. Focusing on the subject in seascape photography is pretty easy because the things are too obvious, for example, a lighthouse, a fishing pier, and a rocky cliff.
Sometimes, your focused subject might be less obvious, so you should put smaller subjects like flowers, shells, and pebbles in the foreground to create depth. You can also use the ever-famous composition technique, The Rule of Thirds.
2. Use Long Exposures to Smooth the Water
Long exposures work best to smooth the water and create amazing photos. Typical seascape photos include smooth water surface in the background and sharp subjects like rocks, cliffs along with a moody sky in the middle ground.
An ultra-long exposure (30+ seconds) makes the water surface look quite smooth, and if the sea is restless, it turns foggy. If you opt for a 10s long exposure, then the surface will not be much smooth and even. However, your photo will have unique and impressive patterns, which are different for every shot.
To create dramatic shots with dynamic effects, go for a 2s long exposure. This shutter speed creates mesmerizing shots while smoothing and removing the scattered look of the sea of the ocean.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Stepping Into the Water
If you want to create the best-ever photos, you need to step into the water. This means you need to be close to where all the action is happening. If you are on the beach, you need to stand up to knee-deep in the water. And on the cliff, you might be hit by the powerful waves. Don’t afraid of getting wet because that is the price you have to pay for those amazing photos.
4. Look For Reflections
Reflection shots are now a trend, and that is for a reason! These reflections don’t just add an element of attraction but also level up your photos. On perfectly calm days, when the ocean or sea looks like a mirror, it reflects the sky and the shoreline. You can benefit from it and capture those spellbinding reflections.
Best Settings for Seascape Photography
Since seascape photography falls under the category of landscape photography, many rules that apply to the whole category can be applied to seascapes too. Following are the best settings for seascape photography:
Just like for landscape photography where you need to keep the aperture narrow, you should do the same for seascapes. Keep your aperture from f/8 to f/16 for most of the shots. This way, you will be able to achieve a large depth of field, and most of the objects in your photo will look sharp.
- Shutter Speed
One of the toughest challenges that you may encounter when shooting a seascape is finding the right exposure time, according to the shot. There isn’t any general hard and fast rule that you should follow when it comes to shutter speed. However, if you want to achieve that classic “silky water” effect, you can do so by using a Neutral Density filter and increase your exposure time to 10-15 seconds.
If you want to add some details in your frame, you should set your exposure times to 1/5 to 2 seconds. If you want to freeze motion in your picture, you can shoot for 1/100 sec or 1/250 sec.
- Depth of Field
Use narrow aperture if you want to have more details of the objects in your photos – this is how you will be able to achieve the depth of field in your photography. And in seascape photography, you need to have details to make your photos look outstanding.
Recommended Equipment for Seascape Photography
Make sure to keep your camera if not in use – doing this will protect it from sand and salt. You can use a lens filter to ensure that it doesn’t get scratched.
Doesn’t matter even if you are shooting on a calm day, there will still be splashes of salty water and the blowing sand. These conditions are not good for your camera. Therefore, you should have a clean cloth or microfiber cloth to wipe your camera and ensure there is no sand on it.
This one is an extra but will be worth your money. A lens cleaning kit will help you clean the lens once you are done with your seascape photography session.
Seascape photography is fun, even if there is no action happening in the ocean or the sea. Even if it is a calm day, you can still capture amazing seascapes by looking for aspects of interests on the cliff, in the rocks, people, and sand.
Moreover, reflections are a great way to add an element of interest in your pictures. And yes, don’t forget to use ND (neutral density) filter and polarizers to enhance your photography. This will be convenient than using Photoshop to edit your photos later in post-production.