Tips And Tricks For Romantic Beach Photos


Soft shimmering sand, wavy waters, deep blue sky, colorful umbrellas — a holy grail for many portrait photographers! 

And when it comes to romantic photos, the beach provides a wonderful background. Yet, taking beach photos can be challenging if you don't know much about lighting and proper camera settings for different times of the day. For instance, harsh midday sun can easily ruin your beach shots. 

Therefore, an excellent understanding of how to adjust your camera to avoid these problems and capture wonderful photos is paramount.

So, today, we’ll look into exactly how you can create an excellent backdrop for romantic beach pictures. You’ll understand how to:

  • Capture water and cloud movement
  • Create starburst effect
  • Master different types of lighting
  • Create color contrast by choosing proper outfits for your models
Photo by Candy Goode

Pick The Perfect Time And Weather 

Early Sunrise Or Late Sunset

During the early hours of the morning and late hours of the evening, also known as the blue hours, you’ll be able to capture otherworldly images thanks to the soft, bluish light. Such atmosphere and lighting are very suitable for romantic beach portraits.

To get that blue/purple quality of light, there’s a specific window of opportunity during the twilight times, just before sunrise and after sunset. Make sure to arrive to the beach at the right time!

To get the perfect shot where the couple has even light on them and a darker background:

  • Use off-camera flash or 
  • Place the flash at ⅛th power and increase as needed
Photo by Ryan Jacobson

Golden Hour

Most photographers prefer taking photos during the golden hour (sunrise and sunset), and for good reason. These hours have warm, diffused light, which brings out better and clearer photos.

Moreover, you don’t get highlights or overexposure on your subjects as you do with the harsh noon sunlight, making for richer photos. 

But the best part is that there are fewer people on the beach during this time, so you’ll have little to no interruptions. When taking photos during the early sunrise or late sunset, use your camera’s flash at the lowest setting or add a reflector for more lighting.

Golden hour is also perfect time for experimenting with silhouettes. Silhouette photos help to showcase the beach scenery and beautiful colors around the couple.

If you want to capture the starburst effect during the golden hour, set your lens aperture at f/11 or lower. The smaller you make your aperture, the more starburst you’ll see in your image. If you want to switch up the look, experiment with different lenses as well as different apertures.

Photo by Guilherme de Alvarenga


At noon, the sun is at its peak and the light is harsh. This excess light reflects on water and sand, creating overblown highlights in the photos.

That’s not even the worst part!

The excessive light can create a very high contrast, which usually doesn't look flattering in portraiture unless you want to achieve that kind of look intentionally.

So, to take perfect beach photos at noon, use polarizing filters

Photo by Toa Heftiba

These filters will darken shadows, enhance the ocean blues, and suppress the sun’s glare from reflective surfaces like the water and sand. Moreover, they will make the sky much more dramatic.

Besides polarizing filters, you can use spot metering to capture great photos at noon. Check out this video tutorial on spot metering:

Mid Morning Light

The sunlight is not too harsh during this time, which gives you the perfect opportunity to take beautiful reflection photos. In addition, you will get clear shots without highlights and other effects created by harsh sunlight. This is a very convenient time for taking romantic beach shots.

Photo by Vincent Gerbouin

Less Than Ideal Weather

Less than optimal weather can create uncommon, jaw-dropping photos. Cloudy weather, storms, and windy days can make your beach shots much more memorable than those idyllic sunny images that you see all over the internet.

If the people you are photographing are adventurous, you can capture these types of beach photos:

  • On a foggy morning, just as the fog clears out
  • During the onset of dark clouds to add a little drama to the photos
  • During a windy day, so that you can capture the movement clothes and hair of the people you're photographing
Photo by Frank McKenna

Find Amazing Beach Features

Besides the most popular features on the beach like sand, waves, and umbrellas, you can also venture into less popular features like:

  • Small pathways leading to the ocean
  • Abandoned boats 
  • Old ropes
  • Unusual rocks and plants
  • Shells
  • Water motion

So, how do you use these features to capture the perfect romantic beach pictures?

Beach Umbrellas

You can take fantastic photos of couples lounging on the beach under an umbrella and away from the scorching midday sun. 

Although beach photos like these are prevalent, especially as stock photos, you can add some creative spin–-like having one partner jog towards the other lounging under the umbrella.

Photo by Ralph Kayden

Piers And Palm Trees

Piers and palm trees also provide some shade for the couple away from the glare of the midday sun.

What’s more, piers provide leading lines that enhance the composition.

When taking pictures on piers or under palm trees, you can use a wide-angle lens because it can help you create a more interesting composition, with secondary subjects, frame within a frame, and so on. Typical portraits on beaches taken with telephoto lenses tend to be overly simple in terms of composition.

Photo by Asad Photo Maldives

Water Motion

Water motion can help you create breathtaking beach pictures and it is a perfect backdrop for romantic photos. 

However, most photographers, especially those just starting, find taking such photos challenging.

The good news is that just a few tweaks to your camera settings will help you capture excellent long exposure photos. Experiment with various shutter speeds until you find what works for the scene you're shooting. 

Shutter speedResult
⅛th  to ½th of a secondSlight blur
15 to 30 secondsCompletely blurred
30+ secondsPerfectly smooth water
Photo by Alex Blajan

Photoshoot Outfits

When the people wear the right outfits, it’ll help them stand out more in photos.

Clothes with solid colors and subtle patterns are usually the safest options.

These are some colors that will look stunning in beach photoshoots:

Dark Light
Navy, Brown, Dark RedBright Pink, Pale Yellow, Pale Orange, Light Teal

If one person wears a light color, say, pale yellow, the other can have a dark blue outfit. Don't forget to consult the color wheel if you don't know much about complementary or analogous colors.

Besides outfit colors, you should also look into the fabrics and type of clothes to wear. 

Ladies can wear soft, natural fabrics that drape and flow to create a dreamy beach look. On the other hand, men can put on shorts or fold pants around the ankles or knees.

Photo by Adam Kontor

Let Your Creativity Run Wild

The beach is a perfect canvas for photographers to show off their creativity. And since most people consider the beach a romantic setting, knowing how to take great photos that look more engaging than typical beachy shots can set you apart as a photographer.

So, to capture memorable beach pictures, make sure to:

  • Get the proper exposure
  • Experiment various many compositional rules and break them occasionally
  • Use different lenses, both wide-angle and telephoto ones
  • Shoot models at different times of the day
  • Pick outfits carefully
  • Include long exposure shots
  • Use external flash occasionally as the available light isn't always the best choice
Photo by Vitor Monthay

Further Reading:

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