Tips for taking photos of seascapes and introducing the best time, necessary equipment, and techniques.

Do you want to take beautiful seascape photos but need to know how? There are three points to keep in mind when photographing seascapes:

  • Take photos of landscapes that change over time;

  • Use a wide lens and tripod;

  • Consider a balanced composition between the sea and sky.

In this article, I will discuss these points to make your photos of seascapes even better.

1. Take Photos of Landscapes that Change Over Time

The sea is also a mirror of the sky. For this reason, the seascape changes dramatically depending on the sky, which varies from moment to moment.

Here, I will introduce two time periods for photographing mysterious seascapes.

Golden HoursTop 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(2)

The golden hours, occurring about 40 minutes before and after sunrise or sunset, offer a mystical ambiance where the sea beautifully mirrors the sky's changing colors. It's a time when natural light can transform an ordinary scene into something extraordinary.

The weather plays a crucial role in this transformation. While a cloudless, sunny day might seem ideal, the clouds tinged by the setting sun truly enhance the scene's beauty and atmosphere. These clouds and the sun's changing position create a dynamic visual spectacle, making golden hours the perfect time for seascape photography.

However, capturing the true essence of this golden light can be challenging. Photographers often find a disparity between the vibrant golden hues they witness and the paler colors captured in their photos. This discrepancy is usually due to the complexities of white balance during these hours.

Adjusting the white balance based on instinct alone can be tricky. A handy tip? Use the 'Golden Hour' feature in Luminar Neo. Here's how:

Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(3)

  1. Open the Landscape tools.

  2. Find the 'Golden Hour' effect.

  3. Slide to adjust until it looks just right.

  4. Watch your seascape photos come to life with that perfect golden glow!

Ready to see the difference? Check out this side-by-side comparison: on one side, we have the original photo, and on the other, the same photo with the 'Golden Hour' effect set to +70. 

Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(4)
Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(5)

Full Moon Night

If you want to take mysterious photos of the ocean that are different from the usual, I recommend taking pictures at night with a full moon. The water illuminated by the soft pale moonlight has a variety of beauty that differs from the magic hour.

Night photography, however, presents its challenges, primarily due to the lower light levels compared to those around sunset or sunrise. In such low-light conditions, you have a few options:

  • Slow down the shutter speed;

  • Lower the f-stop;

  • Increase ISO sensitivity.

If you don't have a tripod or a fast lens, you might lean towards increasing ISO sensitivity. But beware, the main issue here is noise.

For a clearer understanding, let's examine the photo below. At first glance, it looks fine, but zooming in reveals significant noise, especially in the cloud area.Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(6)Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(7)In such situations, Luminar Neo's "Noiseless" feature is a game-changer. It uses AI to tackle tough noise removal effortlessly. Here's how to use it:Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(8)

  1. Go to 'Extensions' in Luminar Neo.

  2. Open the "Noiseless" tool.

  3. Follow the on-screen advice and choose between Low, Medium, or High.

  4. Use the sliders to fine-tune the adjustments to your liking.

For this specific photo, a 'Low adjustment' was suggested, and I followed that recommendation.

Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(9)Now, let's compare the before and after photos. On one side is the original photo with noise, and on the other, the same photo after using 'Noiseless'. The difference is obvious, right? Our photo no longer feels clunky due to noise. It's nice to be able to do this automatically.

Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(10)
Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(11)

2. Use a Wide-Angle Lens and Tripod

When taking seascape photos, I recommend using a wide-angle lens and tripod.

Why a Wide-Angle Lens

A wide-angle lens, ideally in the 16mm to 35mm range, is perfect for capturing the vastness of the sea and sky, emphasizing their expansiveness.

In most landscape photography scenarios, an F-stop range of F8 to F11 is sufficient. However, for special conditions like photographing the ocean under moonlight or hand-holding your camera, a faster lens with an F-stop of around F2.8 is beneficial.

A faster lens allows you to take clear photos without increasing ISO sensitivity, resulting in less noise and higher reliability images.Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(12)

The Benefits of Using a Tripod

Without a tripod, you'll need to increase the shutter speed to minimize camera shake, especially when shooting handheld. Generally, a speed of 1/80 or higher is recommended in such cases. In darker environments, if slowing down the shutter speed isn't an option, you may have to increase ISO sensitivity, which can introduce noise into your photos.

However, many of these challenges can be mitigated by using a tripod. It stabilizes your camera, allowing for longer exposures and lower ISO settings, enhancing your landscape photos' quality. So, remember to bring along a tripod whenever you're out capturing landscapes to ensure the best possible results.

3. Consider a Balanced Composition Between Sea and Sky

How much of the ocean and how much of the sky did you include? It will significantly change the impression of the photo.

Keep a few key tips in mind when setting up your composition.

Level the horizon

Remember, keeping the horizon level is super important in seascape photography, probably more so than in other landscape shots. That's because the horizon line is always horizontal, and if it's off, even by a little, it can make your photo look weird.

For example, look at the photo below. Feels strange, right?Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(13)

Usually, a tripod or your camera's level feature is the best way to get this right. But if you can’t get it perfect in-camera, cropping is a handy fix. Luminar Neo makes this easy:Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(14)

  1. Open the ‘Crop’ tools.

  2. Find the 'Horizontal Adjustment’ option and press the button.

  3. The software will automatically level the photo for you.

Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(15)
Note: If the automatic adjustment does not make it perfectly level, you can also make fine adjustments manually. When you move the mouse pointer to the top of the photo, the pointer changes to an arrow shape, as shown in the image below.Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(16)

Use the Rule of Thirds

In seascape photography, getting the right balance between the sea and sky is key. A great way to do this is by using the Rule of Thirds. 

Imagine your photo divided both vertically and horizontally into thirds, creating a grid. Try placing the main elements of your seascape, like the horizon or a focal point, along these lines or at their intersections.

For example, in Luminar Neo, when you use the crop tool, you'll see these grid lines. They're really handy for aligning your shot just right.

Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(17)I tried cropping this photo like this.

Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(18)If you look at the grid lines, they are arranged as shown in the image below.

Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(19)I placed the horizontal line on the grid line and divided the forest area on the right into three sections.

Based on the Rule of Thirds, it's a good idea to think about what you want to show more and change the proportions. For example, if you want to emphasize the golden sky during golden hour, it would be a good idea to bring the horizon line slightly below the grid lines.

Next time you look at professional photos, ask yourself, "What's aligned with the grid lines here?" You'll start to notice that many well-composed photos keep these lines in mind, helping to create a visually appealing balance.


1. Time is of the essence when photographing seascapes:

  • During the so-called Golden Hour, the time around sunrise and sunset, the sky turns a mysterious color, and the sea that reflects it shines beautifully.

  • Nights with a full moon are also recommended. You can take fantastic photos illuminated by soft light.

2. I recommend using a tripod and a wide-angle lens when taking these photos:

    • Using a 15mm to 35mm lens, you can emphasize the sea's and sky's expansiveness.

    • A tripod allows you to take pictures even at slow shutter speeds without worrying about camera shake, and you can take photos even in dark conditions without increasing the ISO sensitivity.

    3. When composing, keep the following in mind:

      • Horizontality is more critical for seascape photography than for other landscape photography. Since there is an absolute standard called the horizon line, a photo in which this line is slanted feels strange.

      • When thinking about composition, it's a good idea to consider the grid lines of thirds. If you use the grid as a reference and widen the area you want to show more, the photo will convey your intentions.

      • Keeping grid lines in mind when looking at professional images will teach you much to apply to your work.

      Top 3 Tips for Better Seascape Photography | Skylum Blog(20)

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