Wherever you live by the seaside or go in holiday, you may have a 50mm lens that is not uncommon nowadays, but now, you have to figure out how to take great beach photography with a 50mm lens. A 50mm prime lens is inexpensive to buy and can deliver high-quality photographs, sharp and unique. But the question is, how to capture the beach with a 50mm lens?
Frame the beach, sea, and elements with your 50mm lens properly and keep the horizon line straight in your photos. Use an aperture of f/8-f/16 for sunny days and f/5.6-f/12 for overcast. Keep your ISO always at 100, and the shutter speed can be anywhere between 1/60sec to 1/500sec. Long exposure photographs are recommended for professional beach photography.
In principle, I am mainly reflecting into using a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera where we have a 50mm focal length. If you have a 50mm fx lens on a dx camera, you will have a 1.5x crop ratio, therefore, your real focal length would be 75mm.
But in this topic, I will try to cover both using a 50mm lens on fx and dx to capture great beach photographs, and everything is to know to ensure you will capture amazing images whilst on the seaside.
50mm beach photography – how to get started
When we think about beach photography, we mostly think about the seaside and sand. But we have to keep in mind that although those are primary elements you want to focus on, don’t. Finding a subject to focus (e.g. a palm tree, chair, person or even close-up object in the sand) should be the main element to draw focus where the beach and the seaside should be considered backgrounds.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should not create a seascape photograph, you should definitely do it, without any additional elements in the photo. Try to simplify it as much as possible (e.g. beach + sea).
There are a few simple techniques you can use to improve your photographs at the seaside. The main one I want to mention is the horizon line. This is easy to identify and try to keep it straight in all of your photographs.
But when we reflect into taking beach photographs with a 50mm lens, there is a bit more to consider. Not only what settings to use, how to frame your composition properly, but why would you use a 50mm lens in the first place?
A 50mm lens is a great tool to have. It may not be favourable to capture sceneries where most photographers may prefer to have a wide lens. Still, between the facts to consider, a 50mm prime lens is cheap in price, has good quality glass inside and is probably one of the outspread lenses for sale on the internet. If you have a 50mm lens, creating panoramic photographs can create an amazing landscape.
What settings to use when you photograph the beach with a 50mm lens
When you are at the seaside, and you have your DSLR with a 50mm lens attached, you realise the strong sun and the amount of light available. You definitely need to drop down the aperture in order to slow the shutter speed a bit, which in general, may go even beyond some cameras maximum capability, therefore, the images may be overexposed.
But when we drop down the aperture, the shutter speed drops as well. Anyhow, here I want to share with you a table with general settings to use when photographing the beach and the seaside.
|50mm Beach Photography Settings||50mm Beach Photography Recommended Values|
|50mm Beach Photography Recommended Values|
|Shutter Speed||1/120sec – 1/500sec||1/60sec – 1/250sec|
|Colour Settings||Sunny, Auto||Overcast, Auto|
|Other Values||No Flash, EV -1 to 0||No Flash, EV 0 to +1|
Taking long exposures of the beach and the sea with a 50mm lens
No matter what settings you are going to use, you are not able to create beach photographs with your 50mm lens during the day if you don’t have an ND filter. ND (neutral density) is a piece of glass you put in front of the lens which reduces the amount of light you capture by a large margin.
Reducing the amount of light we can capture in special during the day, allows us to slow the shutter speed enough to create long-exposure photographs. Remember, in order to do that we will need a tripod for stability.
In the above photograph, I used a LEE ND 10-STOP filter with a 20 seconds exposure time, f/11 and ISO 100 on my Nikon D750 full frame camera with my Nikkor 50mm lens.
See the difference? To be able to slow down the shutter speed enough in a sunny day at the beach, you will for sure need an ND filter and a tripod. But it’s all possible and you can create amazing photographs with your 50mm lens at the beach.
How to frame the beach and the sea properly with your nifty fifty lens
Having a 50mm lens to capture the beach and the sea means that you can capture only a number of elements due to the medium focal range compared with a wider lens. Following the basic rule of thirds and the leading lines proves that the basics are met in order to create amazing photographs.
There are multiple techniques to frame the beach properly, but because you have a clear horizon line, this should help you keep it straight. Moreover, following the landscape leading lines will help you create a technically correct photograph to consider.
The next step would be thinking about some extra elements you may want to add into your photographs? What would it be? As the simple example given above, I have chosen the pier to be on the right side of my photo and to follow its leading lines alongside the cement wall dividing the beach.
Each photograph in each place would be totally different than mine. Therefore, you must find the elements you have to work with in order to get good photo results.
How to create panoramic images of the beach and the sea
Now, let’s think, what can we do with a 50mm lens to capture the whole beach? Directly it’s not possible as you are too close to it, and getting more distant may not be an option. Well, for sure, creating a panoramic image from multiple 50mm shots would be the solution in this case.
The advantage of a panoramic shot is the high resolution resulted. What would be the main steps to do it?
Well, first you need an anchor point from where you photograph. Take multiple shots from either left to right or right to left, connecting to each other and keeping the horizon line straight through your viewfinder. If those technicals are correct, you are able to combine those multiple images in Lightroom or photoshop (or any other post-processing softwares) and create a panoramic image.
It is a simple process to follow, I would recommend you to watch the following video if you are interested more about (btw, the video is not mine, credit goes to nateinthewild on YouTube)
Capture the beach with a 50mm lens during the night
To capture the beach with a 50mm lens during the night is another story. To capture in general with a 50mm lens during the night I will strongly recommend you to refer to one another post “What settings to use for 50mm night photography“
In our case where we want to use our 50mm lens to take photographs to the beach during the night, we have to take the next points into consideration:
- Is it the beach enough illuminated?
- Are you able to capture with a tripod to take long exposures?
Referring to the first point, it is unlikely that you may be able to capture with your 50mm lens handheld the beach during the night. Unless there is a strong source of light (such as bonfire on the beach), you probably will need to have a tripod and capture.
If you have a tripod with you and the beach you want to photograph is enough illuminated (it doesn’t have to be plenty of light if you take a long exposure photograph, dim sources of light should be more than enough), there is no doubt that the best course of action here is to capture long exposures of the beach with your 50mm lens during the night.
But what settings to use? Every scenario comes with different settings to apply, but with a tripod, I would go for the manual mode of your camera, with the ISO set on manual and with values between 400 to 3200 (I wouldn’t go beyond 3200 to keep the noise level to a minimum), the widest aperture of your 50mm lens (unless the beach is enough illuminated to stop down the aperture to increase sharpness) and the shutter speed as long as it is necessary to get a good exposure (sometimes you may have to set your camera to bulk mode and take exposures over 30 seconds)
During the night you probably won’t have to worry about one thing if you decide to take long exposures of the beach with your 50mm lens: motion.
Instead of the sea if you will be able to capture and get a decent “smooth water”, there should not be any other motion in your composition to ruin your photographs (e.g. people walking on the beach at night in front of your camera) – it is unlikely, at least, as compared to taking long-exposure photographs of the beach during the day.
Post-processing images of the beach taken with a 50mm lens
Post-processing of a photograph taken on the beach with a 50mm lens wouldn’t be any different than any photographs taken with any focal lengths at the beach. Before you post-process, visualise the results in your head: how do you want the image to look like?
Furthermore, although I cannot say the exact settings to use because of too many variables (such as lighting, time of the day, shadows, etc.) a few things will improve the look into your images: you either favourise the blue sky and the water colour by increasing the saturation, either decrease it to accentuate the black and white style like in the photograph below (from the conclusion) or a less saturated version of the photo.
Another thing which you can do is to play with the contrast and sharpness, crop the photograph if it’s necessarily and adjust the right white balance.
Conclusion on 50mm beach and sea photography
By doing this right, you will be able to create amazing photographs by using our 50mm beach photography techniques, both handheld or taking long exposures. I can say that the tips in this blogpost will largely apply to the 50mm focal length but mostly to any focal lengths; however, I wanted to focus on the 50mm focal length.
For now, I say thank you and I hope to see you around. Take care and stay safe!