If you’ve ever walked along a shoreline, chances are you’ve witnessed an idyllic beach photo op, and probably posted it to Instagram. Nearly 3 million users have posted their photos with the hashtag #seascape, but how is it that some of the shots are more dramatic than others when everyone is virtually shooting the same subject in the same setting?

Yes, quality of the shot has to do with using the right camera and adjusting the proper settings, but it’s also important to approach seascape photography with a unique perspective. Here are the top four moments you should look out for when capturing nature’s most dramatic works of art.


The continuous break of waves allows for constant chaos and action that you can use to paint an intense scene. Play around with your shutter speed settings to control how motion is conveyed in your image.

You can use a fast shutter speed (1/200 sec or higher) to freeze the waves’ movement in place. This will avoid blur and allow you to catch ocean drops mid-air. Or you can use a slower shutter speed to depict the waves’ motion with a painterly effect.

Shot by Olympus Superfan Jerry James with an Olympus OM-D Camera | M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO Lens | 1/80 sec | F5.6 | ISO200


There’s nothing quite like the sun (or moon) reflecting over the sea. From the right vantage point, you can capture the reflection sinking into the ocean, giving the horizon a sense of scale and depth. Some cameras have special Scene Modes for sunset photography that help balance your exposure to compensate for the brightness of the sun.


Leading lines can provide structure and balance to an image while drawing attention to your focal point. For seascape shots, natural rock formations, like cliffs or sea stacks, are a popular choice to add dimension but some man-made structures can do the trick as well. Try locating a pier, dock, or boardwalk to act as the crossroads between land and sea.

Shot by Thomas Machuelle with an Olympus OM-D Camera | M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO Lens | 1/200 sec | F8 | ISO200


With a tripod and some patience, you can create a unique perspective of waves approaching the shore. Narrow your aperture and slow your shutter speed to blur the waves. While this forces you to stray from your camera’s automatic settings, it creates an image that contrasts the stillness of the sand with moving waves. By blurring the water, you can add a dramatic touch to your photo.

Shot by Olympus Gallery Contributor Lihang Fan with an Olympus OM-D Camera | M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO Lens | 2 1/2 sec | F8 | ISO100