This past week I had the opportunity to visit Fort Tilden Beach for one last summer hurrah before fall begins. Mary and her family wanted idyllic beach photos, and that’s exactly what she received. Her photo shoot went off without a hitch, and yours can too. In today’s blog post I’ll share a ton of family beach photo tips to help you get the same effect.
Beach Family Portrait Tips – When and Where To Go
It’s all about timing. There’s no place to hide on the beach, and no shade either. You need to avoid the harshest rays of the sun near the middle of the day and time your portrait session accordingly. This can be difficult when you have little ones who may not be able to stay up until later in the day or rise early in the morning. I always say that the time of day when your child is happiest is the best time for photo shoot, however, the middle of the day should be avoided at all costs.
Cloudy days are best. When you have clouds overhead protecting you from the harsh rays of the sun, you have a lot more leeway when it comes to timing your session. Clouds will also add a lot more depth to your photos.
Choose a lonely beach. There’s nothing worse than having a fat, random tourist in a beach thong shows up in your family portrait. (Or, maybe that might add a little spice.) I recommend choosing a beach where you pretty much have the whole place to yourself. This may be as simple as scheduling your beach photo session during an unpopular time of the year, such as after Memorial Day. You might also go early in the morning, though, then you might have to contend with fisherman. In New York City, your loneliest beach options are the farthest ends of the Far Rockaways and Fort Tilden. You can also have the beach to yourself at Coney Island if you head farther down the boardwalk towards Seagate.
For Mary’s family portrait, we chose for Fort Tilden. However, the photo shoot was scheduled for the last nice weekend of the summer season. So needless to say, there were lots of other people on the beach. Luckily, we scheduled our shoot for 5:00 p.m., so most people were leaving the beach at this time. Still, I did have to position the family towards the ocean on several occasions to avoid either a few nude sunbathers at Jacob Riis Park or orca-sized fisherman down at the other end of Fort Tilden. It was an adventure.
Beach Family Portrait Tips – What To Wear
Go casual. The mood of a beach family portrait session should be casual and relaxed from start to finish. Your clothes should reflect this, and I always recommend going barefoot. That means minimal jewelry and unfussy clothes. Furthermore, since you can’t fight the wind at the beach, I recommend you roll with it and wear clothes and have a bit of movement to them. A swingy skirt or dress is a great option. The only caveat is that you don’t want clothes with too much movement, such as ruffles around your face that will require constant readjustment.
Stand out in color. Seems like every beach family portrait session I see online has the family dressed in white or light pastels. The problem with being dressed in such light colors is that you end up blending into the beach itself. There’s nothing wrong with that look, but you might stand out more if you add a bit more color to your wardrobe. Even taking your blues, pinks, or yellows up a notch will add a little more vibrancy to your photos.
Be prepared for the wind. Beachy hair is windswept tendrils flying here, there, and everywhere. While a little bit of wild hair goes a long way, I recommend you have a hairstyle for both you and your child that doesn’t require constant tweaks. The wind is going to be ever present, so be prepared to have a tendril or two out of place.
Beach Family Portrait Tips – What To Do
The family that plays together, takes great photos together. Watching your whole family make sandcastles and play around in the surf is a great opportunity for photos. Bring some toys and let the kids get all sandy. The relaxed, casual atmosphere of the beach should show through in your family’s photos. This is no time for stiff, staged portraits.
Here’s a list of the best beach activities for photo shoots:
Go fly a kite. Use the wind to your advantage and have a bright, beautiful kite be part of your family portrait session.
Sports. Just about any sport will do, from soccer to frisbee. Just remember, however, if the ball lands in the ocean, you have to go retrieve it.
Miniature car racing. Where else are you going to have miles of sandy road all to yourself for your miniature race car?
Bring a picnic. Do you feel more at home in the kitchen? Then bring the food to you, and lay down a blanket on the sand.
Make a sandcastle. Nothing says beach family portrait session like building a sandcastle together.
Hunt for seashells. There is no better photo moment than the look on a child’s face once s/he finds the perfect shell.
Beach Family Portrait Tips – Practical Concerns
Lobsters don’t photograph well. Make sure you lather yourself and your children in suntan lotion, so that no one gets burned at the beach. Note, however, that you should make sure that your skin is dry before your session so that you don’t turn into a sand magnet.
Bring sand-proof snacks. Goldfish crackers and Cheerios are the snacks of choice for kids of all ages. A little edible bribery goes along way when it comes to portrait sessions. It also goes without saying that you should bring some water or something to drink for everyone.
Try on the new clothes at home. If your kids are going to be wearing new bathing suits or shorts, then make sure you try the outfits on at home first. You want to ensure that the outfits are comfortable, fit well, and that your children can move in them easily enough.
Bring at least one change of clothes. The beach encourages kids to get all wet and sandy. Ideally, this would happen at the end of your portrait session, but if your kids run into to the ocean early on, you’ll at least have a change of clothes for them.
Know where your public restrooms are located. Bathrooms can be in short supply, especially at the beach. Know where yours are in case of emergency. New York City beaches are pretty good when it comes to having enough public restrooms, however, they can operate on limited hours or be only serviced as a porta potty. Case in point, the beaches at Fort Tilden beach are nothing more than porta potties. Use at your own risk.
If you are going to be bringing your pet, then come prepared. First, make sure that pets are welcome at whatever beach you will be visiting. Also, a quick reminder that you have to pick up after your pet and carry this with you off of the beach. Lastly, note that there is no place to tie pets down in order to take a photo without your pet. As such, you might want to bring someone to look after your furbaby during your portrait session.
Enjoy all the Fort Tilden family portraits of Mary and her family, and I’ll have more photo adventures for you next week!
Looking for some more interesting family portrait locations in New York City? Check out my article here. Want to see what happens when Mary and her family go apple picking? Read all about it here.
Interested in scheduling a family portrait session at the beach for your own clan? Drop me a line, and let’s chat about your photography needs.
If you would like to see more images from my family portrait portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com