Take Better Beach Photos: Advice From an Expert


Take Better Beach Photos: Advice From an Expert | Ward Realty

You’re finally on your long-awaited beach vacation and beauty surrounds you. You feel inspired to capture every sunrise, sunset, lapping wave, jumping dolphin and happy smile to remember upon your return home. It’s such a bummer when many of those photos don’t even come close to capturing the colors or feeling of the moment. 


I sat down with Rachel Carter (a talented local photographer and blogger) to discuss the most useful and popular tips she likes to share with photography enthusiasts.

First, a little background on Rachel: She has been taking pictures since she was 9 years old. She uses her beloved Canon 6D camera, and she currently lives in Sneads Ferry. 

Her most recent claim to fame was to be contacted by CBS news during hurricane Florence for comment on her footage of the Chadwick Shores area during the storm. 

She was even retweeted by the Weather Channel's most famous storm-chaser, Jim Cantore!  →

Read on for her tips on how to take better beach vacation photos.

Retweet by Jim Cantore for Rachel Carter Images | Ward Realty

Ward Realty's Interview with Rachel Carter

woman holding camera on topsail beach | Ward Realty

Q. What is your number one tip to improve our photography?  

A. Light is so important. The best light for photography is an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset – with the rising or setting sun to the photographer's back.

Q. What are your favorite things to photograph? 

A. Long exposure landscapes. 

iphone beach photography of sunset on topsail island | Ward Realty

Q. What is the best camera to take to the beach? 

A. The best camera is the one you have with you! 

All joking aside, any camera that you feel comfortable using is perfect. Obviously, using a more advanced camera will yield more options, but you can capture some pretty great shots with the camera you have in your pocket – your phone.

Q. Can I print my cell phone pictures out to frame or create a canvas? 

A. Yes. The best size for printing photos taken with your phone is up to 11x14.

Q. What is the best way to edit my photos?  

A. There are so many programs out there, both free and paid. I use Lightroom and iPhoto for my camera images. You can use both to edit on your mobile device and computer. But if you are only using your phone, you will find several editing options within the phone’s photo editing settings (for brightness, exposure, etc.). Make a copy first and play with the copy. View more tips on this Pinterest Page.

Q. Do you have any tips for taking great sunrise & sunset photos?  

A. Here is a link to a series of sunrise photos, and here is a link to a series of sunset photos. Follow them to see exactly what settings I used for these photos. They take a little patience but it's worth it! 

Sunrise on North Topsail Beach by Rachel Carter Images | Ward Realty


Sunset on North Topsail Beach by Rachel Carter Images | Ward Realty

(photos courtesy of Rachel Carter Images)

Q. Any tips for a better family portrait?  

A. Book in advance. Schedule your session for early in your stay to leave time for weather rescheduling and before your group is potentially sunburned. Plan ahead for your holiday cards – some of the best pics of your family will be from your vacation. Erin Costa, a local portrait photographer, shares her tips for being prepared for your photo session.

Q. What else do you photograph?

A.  One of the things I do is photograph real estate properties, both for vacation rentals and for real estate sales. Here’s an example of one of Ward Realty’s properties with a special history behind the home. Enjoy this tour of Tower 4. 


"From an old missile tower to an oceanfront vacation home, this is now one of many beautiful Topsail Island rentals."

Tower 4 by Rachel Carter Images | Ward Realty

(photo courtesy of Rachel Carter Images)


Thank you so much to Rachel Carter for this great information about making the most of your photos. 

Rachel Carter Images | Ward Realty

For more useful information, check out Rachel Carter's Blog

(Here are a few blog posts you will definitely find interesting)


Take to the air! 

Another hot way to memorialize your vacation is with aerial footage taken with a drone. Here is one of our favorite videos taken in July, 2016 by local resident Russell Williams (and his drone, Wilbur). 

Topsail Island, July 2016

Interested in catching some drone footage? Be sure to follow the rules. 

According to knowbeforeyoufly.org, "All drone pilots need to obtain a remote pilot certificate from the FAA. The only exception is for some non-commercial pilots who are active participants in and follow the safety guidelines of a community-based organization."

Here are some general rules for operating a drone. For a full list of rules (and more information), read this article.  

* Do not intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property.

* Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.

* Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property.

* Do not conduct surveillance or photograph persons in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual’s permission (see AMA’s privacy policy).


Buy from a pro

Would you rather just purchase amazing photography of Topsail Island? Check out the work of some of our local photographers. 

Their work can be viewed in many shops on Topsail Island, such as The Mermaids Purse, The Coral Cottage, The Daily Grind, Sugar Island Bakery, and many more. Some even have an online catalog of prints, canvasses and more depicting the Topsail Area. 

Above Topsail by Jeff Wenzel | Ward Realty

(Photo courtesy of Jeff Wenzel, owner of Above Topsail)


Sunrise, sunset, playtime under the pier, epic sandcastles, beach babies, and blue water... we've all tried to get that perfect shot that captures the essence of what it's like to be at the beach. Sometimes we're lucky and they turn out great, but other times, not so much. We hope you have learned a little bit about how to best capture those memories to bring home and enjoy forever. 


What is your favorite place to photograph on Topsail island?

Leave a comment for future blog posts! 

Take Better Beach Photos: Advice From an Expert | Ward Realty


Comment on this post!