Digital photography school has a list of Top 10 Features to Bring Your Seascape Photos to Life.
Not that you need much to do that, I find the sea inspiring and ever changing BUT anyone can take a picture of a beach with waves. There are a few things you can do to make your photo stand out from the crowd and create a special feeling or mood rather than just a snapshot.
Jim Hamel outlines 10 ways to do just that in the Digital Photo School article. Please press on the link above to go to his tutorial. I will outline them below:
1. Old piers and docks… YES, YES and YES… these I love especially with a slow shutter speed to blur the ocean into smooth water.
It can give a mood to a photo, a feeling like no other, one that you cannot actually see with your eyes but can create with your camera. Its the closet thing to being an artist as there is, you are painting a picture with your camera instead of a brush.
2. Lighthouses. Add a lighthouse to a seascape to add a point of interest. This can be difficult depending on where you live and the availability of a lighthouse in your area. Sometimes you can find one but it is hard to take a picture where you can see the lighthouse and the sea. Lighthouses are always interesting whether the sea is in the picture or not. They are an artefact of a bygone area taken over now by modern technology, whilst efficient, does not give off any feelings or moods as a lighthouse can.
3. Sunrise and sunset. Always a winner by the sea. Depending on the area where you live, it can be highly spectacular especially with the sun sinking into the ocean at dusk. No matter where you are the light from the golden hour will always give a beautiful hue to your photo and therefore a lovely feeling.
4. Interesting rock formations especially in the foreground to catch your attention and lead
your eyes then to the rest of the picture. I find when the tide has just gone out there is a pool of water just under the rocks which gives them a different feel and makes for an interesting picture. Rocks with moss on them or small pebbles can add a lot of interest to an otherwise dull photo.
5. Patterns in the water. The ebb and flow of the tide through rocks or sand making patterns adds interest in the foreground of your photo to catch the eye and lead it into the photo. Its a great point of interest but one that can be hard to capture. Studying the water for a while watching the way it swirls around rocks and across the sand is a valuable thing to do. Apply this with a slow shutter speed and you have a great photo.
6. Animals. Adding an animal to your shot will definitely give a point of interest to a seascape and a different viewpoint to the usual wave and sand. You may be lucky enough to be in a rural area where sheep and cattle roam near the beaches to add a very interesting subject. It can be something that you or other people do not see every day and this makes for a great photo. Even the seagull, which should never be underestimated, can make a shot interesting. Just because they are pretty common doesnt mean you will have a boring shot. Watching them and cropping in can be of benefit in this case.
7. Powerful waves. You just have to pick the right day. It might not happen for weeks but there will come a time when the sea is up and pretty hostile. Waiting for the right wave can bring great benefit. A slow shutter speed will show the trajectory of the wave but sometimes for a better effect a faster shutter speed to catch a wave at its highest point, a moment frozen in time, faster than the eye can see, can be a great capture.
8. People – for a sense of scale. If there are no people sometimes it is hard to judge the size of a cliff, or a wave. Unless you were there to witness it, to convey this and tell a story in a photo you need a sense of scale and often having people in the photo is the best way to do this. Personally I try to avoid people shots being a landscape photographer, but they do serve a purpose sometimes…. 🙂
9. Reflective water. This is the best outcome to a seascape for me, mostly near on dusk when I can use a slower shutter so the water stops shimmying and stays still long enough for a reflection to appear. You dont always need a slow shutter, you can get a reflection in the sand just sometimes when the water has just washed up, of the clouds and if there is a pier or other larger structure around, this can also be reflected and add a lot of interest to your photo.
10. Finally but not in any means least, clouds. One thing in most of my above shots that is common to all of them is clouds. They really add a mood to any shot. Unfortunately at times if the sun is coming up or going down it can blow out the clouds somewhat. Using a neutral density filter or in post processing using the graduated filter and underexposing can really bring out the dramatic effect of clouds and can give a completely different feeling to a photo. It is worth experimenting with the graduated filter if you have Lightroom and see what effects you get. Personally if its a seascape the more dramatic the cloud the better I like it.