Beaches are one of the top subjects for photography in the summertime. They’re beautiful and work well with a variety of genres and styles, but their popularity does make it harder to create interesting, one-of-a-kind shots. You have to think creatively and possibly experiment with new techniques.
One way to start thinking outside the box is to consider the mood of your photo. What kind of atmosphere are you trying to create? This one question can push you to think more strategically and creatively, rather than taking a quick snapshot like so many others.
A seascape can inspire a wide range of moods, from joy and peace to sadness and loneliness. You can also transform an everyday beach into a slightly surreal or dreamlike location without much effort. Here are some ways to make your seascape pictures look like images from a dream or novel, rather than reality.
How to Create Surreal-looking Seascape Photos
Surrealism can be subtle or obvious, blatantly bizarre or only slightly strange. The majority of the images below are not crazy weird, but instead have a tinge of surreality to make them stand out. If you want stronger surrealism, find more inspiration from these surreal examples of photo manipulation and fine art portraiture.
Start with a long exposure.
Taking a long exposure is the quickest way to make a seascape look surreal. Just by lengthening your shutter speed, you change the entire appearance of a shoreline. The water has an unusual sheen, and the lighting takes on a different quality, making a familiar beach look suddenly strange and unfamiliar.
Try intentional camera movement.
Intentional camera movement (ICM) is another simple way to create a surreal seascape. All you need to do is move your camera while shooting. Of course, you might end up with dozens of mediocre images before you get a compelling shot, but that experimentation is part of the fun.
Play with reflections.
Seeing sky and other reflections in water can be beautiful, but also a little surreal. Add an interesting composition, and you’ll get an image that seems unreal, even if it’s an exact picture of reality.
Capture a surreal-looking sky.
A lot of seascapes focus on the shoreline and water, but the sky is no less important. In fact, a beach can be the perfect place to shoot a strange-looking sky, since there’s nothing blocking it from view. Whether it’s an unusual sunset or a bizarre cloud formation, your seascape can look surreal simply because of the sky’s appearance.
Find an empty boat.
An empty boat floating in the water can look surreal because you expect someone to be in it. Left empty, boats can have ghostly vibe, like something you’d see in a horror movie. This effect is strongest with empty boats anchored in the water off the shore, but you can capture a similar mood with boats stranded on a beach, too.
Add people to the scene.
People can bring oddness into an otherwise normal seascape. Part of this surreality is due to the fact that people are familiar, so when you make them and their environment look slightly different – for example, by using a unique angle or Photoshop effect – viewers immediately notice the strangeness.
Shoot a rocky shoreline.
Though a rocky shoreline may not seem strange at first glance, it’s an ideal location to experiment with some of the other ideas in this list. For example, a long exposure of a rocky cliffside or giant boulders in the water will often look more surreal than a sandy beach. That’s because the water flows and crashes differently against rocks compared to flat sand, creating a more unusual long exposure.
Switch to black and white.
Beaches are prime spots for color photography, especially during sunsets and sunrises. However, black and white photography can make your seascape look more dramatic, as it increases the contrast between dark and light. This contrast can also give your image a more surreal look, turning a normal scene into an otherworldly shot.
Many of the above images were selected from our creative Flickr community.