Curious about the art of seascape photography? These seven photographers share their favorite travel stories and offer their most effective tips on how to capture the pristine beauty of beaches.

The French explorer, conservationist, and photographer Jacques Cousteau once said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Oceans, lakes, and rivers are realms of mystery; with every wave, they transform, and yet, in some essential sense, they remain the same throughout the centuries. A group of people could look out from the same shore at the same time of day, and each person would see something different.

The sea and its many unknown creatures are reminders of the smallness of humankind; no matter how big we feel, we are dwarfed by the vastness of the water. But at the same time, the sea is fragile. Rising sea levels, increased temperatures, overfishing, and marine pollution are forever changing the ecosystem of our oceans, with ramifications that could last millions of years.

While seascape photography has always been in vogue, it’s even more important now than it was for previous generations. When we photograph our waters, we pay tribute to them, preserve their memories, and advocate for their protection. We asked seven outstanding Shutterstock contributors to tell us their best tips for seascapes that make a lasting impression.

1. “Try shooting in bad weather.  Some of the most beautiful and intriguing seascapes I have in my portfolio were captured during heavy storms.”

Sopotnicki (Jacek Sopotnicki)

7 Photographers on Shooting Seascapes Around the World — Shoot in Bad Weather

Image by Sopotnicki (Jacek Sopotnicki). Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, 35mm lens. Focal length 35mm; exposure 30 sec; f16; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This picture was taken during a very heavy storm on the Curonian Peninsula in Lithuania. The wind was so heavy that day that I had to hang my backpack under the tripod to make it stable.

Pro Tip:

Try shooting in bad weather. Some of the most beautiful and intriguing seascapes I have in my portfolio were captured during heavy storms. Don’t forget to bring enough layers to keep yourself warm and dry, and try using a very dark ND filter like the ND1000 to get spectacular blurred water effects. With that said, photos of locations that people love for their sunny weather and blue skies sell better if they capture those attributes. The image below is one example:

7 Photographers on Shooting Seascapes Around the World — Seek Unusual Locations

Image by Sopotnicki (Jacek Sopotnicki). Gear: Sony A6000 camera, E 16-50 OSS kit lens. Focal length 30mm; exposure 1/100 sec; f11; ISO 160.

You can find great seascapes in unusual locations. Travel to countries fewer people visit, and allow yourself to be surprised. Don’t give up too quickly. Sometimes you need a day of walking around with your equipment to find the best angles, places, and light. Try not to overshoot. Be selective, and push your thinking and imagination further.

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2. “Your tripod must be heavy and robust enough to remain still and withstand the beating of the waves.”

Mimadeo (Mikel Martinez de Osaba)

7 Photographers on Shooting Seascapes Around the World — Invest in Robust Equipment

Image by Mimadeo (Mikel Martinez de Osaba). Gear: Sony A6000 camera, Sony E10-18mm F4 OSS lens. Focal length 12mm; exposure 2 sec; f16.0; ISO 100 (I used bracketing of 3 exposures).

What’s the story behind this photo?

This photo was taken on the beach in Barrika in the Basque Country (Spain). It is a well-known location for landscape photographers around the world, and I am lucky to live only twenty minutes away. On this particular day, I went to the beach with little hope of getting great photos since there were no clouds in the sky, and there was a lot of atmospheric haze; however, that haze produced this extremely soft light and made it possible to take this beautiful photo.

Pictured: [1] Mimadeo (Mikel Martinez de Osaba). [2] Mimadeo (Mikel Martinez de Osaba). [3] Mimadeo (Mikel Martinez de Osaba).

Pro Tip:

Usually, when I’m in the mountains or in a city, I like to travel light. However, seascapes are another story. Your tripod must be heavy and robust enough to remain still and withstand the beating of the waves. For this type of photo, I use a Manfrotto tripod from the 055 Collection. Another technique that I usually use in seascapes is bracketing instead of neutral density filters since it gives me more power in the post-processing and also saves me weight and money.

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3. “A beautiful foreground will make a simple photo more voluminous and interesting. This foreground can be stones, the shoreline, or reflections on the water.”

(Evgeniy Biletskiy) biletskiy

7 Photographers on Shooting Seascapes Around the World — Find Light and Reflections

Image by (Evgeniy Biletskiy) biletskiy. Gear: Nikon D600 camera, Tamron 17-35mm f2.8-4 lens. Focal length 24mm; exposure 1/5 sec; f13; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This is one of my favorite photos. It combines beautiful light with the reflections on the smooth water. The story of its creation is simple: I took a walk with my dog on the beach on the coast of the Azov Sea in Ukraine, and I had a camera with me.

Pro Tip:

Shoot during sunset or dawn. I try to use a minimal number of details in my photos. A beautiful foreground will make a simple photo more voluminous and interesting. This foreground can be stones, the shoreline, or reflections on the water. In winter, it can even be ice formations on the shore. For example, I made this photo a month ago while traveling to Norway. I returned to the hotel and drove past this bay, where I saw an excellent combination of foreground and light:

7 Photographers on Shooting Seascapes Around the World — Include Eye-Catching Foregrounds

Image by (Evgeniy Biletskiy) biletskiy. Gear: Fujifilm X-T2 camera, Fujinon 10-24 f4 lens. Focal length 10mm; exposure 1/5 sec; f8; ISO 200 (panorama from three photos).

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4. “Sunrise and sunset are always unpredictable, but that is what I love about them. Work the scenery, and find something interesting.”

Merrillie Redden

7 Photographers on Shooting Seascapes Around the World — Find Points of Interest in the Scenery

Image by Merrillie Redden. Gear: Nikon D500 camera, Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR lens. Focal length 16mm; exposure 3 sec; f8.0; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This photo was taken at Killcare Beach on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia, on a Sunday in February. It was a very hazy sunrise with a low cloud bank and wild seas. I was out practicing with my new Haida Filter system, and Killcare Beach always provides a beautiful backdrop with so many elements: great waves, lots of rocks, and even some green moss.

Pictured: [1] Merrillie Redden. [2] Merrillie Redden. [3] Merrillie Redden.

Pro Tip:

I always try to get to the location in the dark in hopes of getting a few nightscapes and possibly some Milky Way shots. From there, I stay through daybreak/dawn and sunrise. As the light changes, you get the blue hour and the golden hour. Sunrise and sunset are always unpredictable, but that is what I love about them. Work the scenery, and find something interesting. Look for leading lines to incorporate into your scene. Try new things. Play with your settings, especially your shutter speed, and try different heights on your tripod. Don’t stay in one spot; move around. Most of all, have fun. Don’t forget to stop, breathe, and enjoy the scenery.

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5. “Visit the location before you shoot. Look around, remember where the sunset and sunrise take place, and find the best photo spots.”

Ivan Kurmyshov

7 Photographers on Shooting Seascapes Around the World — Visit the Location Before You Shoot

Image by Ivan Kurmyshov. Gear: Canon 6D camera, EF 17-40 f4L lens. Focal length 17mm; exposure 1/200 (Auto-Exposure Bracketing) sec; f8; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

During my Indonesia trip, I went to Nusa Penida, an island where nature and sacred places are preserved in pristine conditions. The place where this photo was taken is called Kelingking Beach. This viewpoint is located at the top of the cliff near the parking area, and it is not difficult to get there.

7 Photographers on Shooting Seascapes Around the World — Scout Ahead with Online Maps

Image by Ivan Kurmyshov.

Pro Tip:

Visit the location before you shoot. Look around, remember where the sunset and sunrise take place, and find the best photo spots. You can use your smartphone camera to find the best composition, and then, when the weather is good, pick up your photo gear. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to discover the location beforehand. In those cases, I’ll use Google Maps and street view to search for places before I travel.

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6. “The weather is often of secondary importance. To add an amazing atmosphere to your seascapes, try to use long exposure times.”

Milosz_G (Miłosz Guzowski)

7 Photographers on Shooting Seascapes Around the World — Try Different Exposures

Image by Milosz_G (Miłosz Guzowski). Gear: Canon 5D Mark III camera, Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L II USM lens. Focal length 16mm; exposure 56 sec; f11; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This was photographed on a cold April morning in Gdynia in Poland. I liked the stones protruding from the water, the morning sky, and the calm weather. I used a dense gray filter to bring even more tranquility to the scene and to make it more surreal.

7 Photographers on Shooting Seascapes Around the World — Remember that the Sea is Unpredictable

Image by Milosz_G (MiłosGuzowski).

Pro Tip:

Always get to your spot before the tourists arrive. In my opinion, you have to be able to convey peace and tranquility in seascapes. The weather is often of secondary importance. To add an amazing atmosphere to your seascapes, try to use long exposure times. Always be careful and watch out for your tripod. The waves and wet sand can be unpredictable, and they can spoil the shot, especially if you use long exposures.

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7. “Take advantage of the best available light, which can usually be found early in the morning or late in the afternoon.”

Palis Michalis (Michalakis Ppalis)

7 Photographers on Shooting Seascapes Around the World — Check the Weather and Tide

Image by Palis Michalis (Michalakis Ppalis). Gear: Nikon D750 camera, Nikkor 70-200 VR II F2.8 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/6 sec; f13; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

Luckily, my homeland, Cyprus, is famous for beautiful beaches, including wild, natural beaches that are difficult to access. This beach is located in the Akrotiri area in Limassol. It is known to photographers as one of the most picturesque coasts in Cyprus. Every time I am there, I think about new compositions I’ve never seen before. During this visit, I noticed the way the waves were crashing on the rocks. It is a simple and artistic composition but still shows the beauty of the sea and the power of the waves.

Pictured: [1] Palis Michalis (Michalakis Ppalis). [2] Palis Michalis (Michalakis Ppalis). [3] Palis Michalis (Michalakis Ppalis).

Pro Tip:

Do your research, and plan in advance, especially if you intend to visit the more inaccessible and unknown beaches. Google and social media are my best friends when it comes to searching and getting an idea of what to expect on location.

When you are on location, spend some time exploring the coast for unusual compositions, and find elements to include in your seascape. Take advantage of the best available light, which can usually be found early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Stormy weather is best if you want to include dramatic clouds and big waves. Always check the weather and the tide. Be safe and protect yourself and your gear from the sea, especially in stormy weather.

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Top Image by Milosz_G (MiłosGuzowski).