Ocean Photography

Ocean Photography

The ocean is one of the most photographed subjects of nature. Its calming effect seems to have a keep hold on everyone. Whether it’s the water itself or the movement of water, or perhaps the “openness” combined with the clean feeling of water, it attracts and entices us. The ocean ‘de-clutters’ our minds leaving us with a beautiful sense of stillness and freedom.

So how do awesome ocean photography images turn out? How do we master ocean photography to a level at which we are proud of? What are the secrets of ocean photography that the masters know? In this article I’ll be going through a series of ocean photography tips for you to create beautiful photos.

Ocean photography – tip number 1

To start with, in photography, there’s the ‘ocean’ and there’s the ‘beach’. The ocean can be photographed as the main subject. It can also be included in your photo but not as your main subject. To give you an example of this lets take these two pictures of the ocean.

The top ocean photography image uses the sea as the secondary subject. A secondary subject is not the main subject in the photo but uses it to enhance the main subject. The first picture uses the tree as the main subject and the second photo uses the ocean as the main subject. See the difference?

Ocean photography – tip number 2
When you begin to master ocean photography, lines are of paramount importance. Lines create a place for the viewer’s eye to rest. With ocean photography, you have two lines. The first line is where the water meets the sand. The second is where the ocean meets the sky.
How angled these two lines are from each other the better at ocean photography you will become. For example if you had two lines (equal parallel to each other) then you have a very square and flat composition. If those lines had a significant angle from each then you’re constantly creating some pretty nice composition in your ocean photography. You’ll notice that most good ocean photography images consist of the “water-horizon” line and the “water-sand” line are angled beautifully from each other.

Ocean photography – tip number 3
You’re probably thinking that most beautiful ocean photography images always have a beach on a bright summer’s day with blue skies…not always. Some ocean photography shots are superbly taken at dusk. This presents itself a different set of challenges. The first is the setting sun. It’s lovely to have an orange sky with a setting sun over a beautiful ocean. But how do you take this kind of shot with even light throughout your image? If you meter off the sun, everything else can look underexposed. And if you meter off the clouds you can have an overexposed sun. (And what about flare?)

Ocean photography – tip number 4

There are a few possible solutions to this problem that can be common with ocean photography especially dusk. Firstly there is flare. Flare often happens when you are faced directly into a bright light source, such as our beloved sun. To avoid this I would suggest taking the shot at a slight angle, or perhaps waiting for the sun to go down just slightly over the horizon. This will leave a gorgeous orange brightness in the sky without the harshness of front-on, direct sunlight. But be quick. The closer to the horizon the sun is, the fastest it disappears. Ocean photography images taken at dusk rely on good timing for this reason.

Ocean photography – tip number 5
You can also place a few things in front of the sun to get a beautiful orange background with silhouettes in the foreground. This makes for a beautiful ocean photography shot.

To alleviate the problem of the sun overexposing everything else in your photo try exposure bracketing. Let’s say that your ocean photography image is not being taken at dusk, but more like 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon when the day’s sunlight is starting to fade. You can take the first shot by metering off the sun. Your settings might be something like 1/1000 and f.16. Then, to experiment, you might like to shoot the second picture at 1/1000 at f.22. Then the third photo at 1/1000 at f.32. Now layer the images and see what effect you get. (You will need a tripod.)

Ocean photography – tip number 6
You don’t always have to do it this way. You can do it the other way around and keep the aperture the same and just change the shutter speed. For example you might find that your camera responds better when you try three photos at 1/1000 and f.16, 1/750 and f.16 and 1/500 with the same aperture. Keep in mind that if you slow your shutter speed too much, you may experience the blur of camera shake in your ocean photography image.
Oceans are wonderful. If they are taken with patience and a plan, you can get the most beautiful picture postcard shots. Always remember your tripod, some sunscreen and a hat if you’re shooting in the middle of the day. Most of all remember your light.

About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time.

Comments (6)

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  1. Cassie Jones says:

    Ocean photography is so beautiful, reminds me of my childhood at the beach. I take lots of shots of the ocean and now I know how to make them even better. Thanks Amy!

  2. Adam says:

    Great ocean photography tips, thanks. I surf and love photography, I’ll take up your suggestions next time.

  3. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

  4. Gino says:

    Thanks a lot! I really enjoyed reading this. It makes me want to create my own blog.

  5. Sully says:

    I have used this to photograph a beach near my home and got some fantastic photos as a consequence. Thank you so much! I love your ebooks too,they have changed the way I do photography.

  6. Baz says:

    Good info. I previousally to spend alot of my time sailing and watching sports. It was quite possible the most memorable period of my past and your content really brought back me of that period of my life. Cheers

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