Amazing Beach Portraits! (A Tutorial)

A and M(My prize, above.  A favorite beach portrait still makes an appearance on our mantel this time every year.)

One of the earliest business lessons I learned was to show the type of work you want to produce.  You may be surprised to know that I do occasional bridal portraits and pet photo sessions, and although I enjoy them, it is not where my passion lies.  So I don’t highlight them on the website.  And while I wouldn’t likely turn down a plane ticket to Maui, getting a Roanoke photographer to the coast is not something that makes a lot of sense.

Having said that, the word among my mommy-friends is that a spectacular beach portrait of the kiddos is the ultimate vacation souvenir.  And I know first hand they can be hard to get!  So I’ve put together some tips on how you can rock your next DIY beach family photo session and have a beautiful memento to display in your home.




1.)  Bring help.  Check out the amazing help, above.  If photo assisting was a sport, my husband would be pulling 10s.   This picture deserves it’s own spot on our wall!  You will need an extra pair of hands – while you’re army-crawling through the sand wielding your camera – to help reposition the crawling baby, to make the kids laugh, and to chain-feed chocolate chips as incentive for compliance.  Make sure the funny faces are being made directly behind you (your help needs to be “all up in your space”) so that the kids are looking at the camera.  Also, be wary of too much “help.”  When Dad, Grandma and 4 cousins are all yelling, “Look!  Look here!  I’m doing the chicken dance!” you will get children looking in 6 different directions.


2.) Bribe.  As alluded to in Tip #1, we do in fact keep little treats on hand during our family photo sessions.  At the beach, gummy fruit snacks would be a better bet than chocolate.  Just whatever it is, make it small, so the child won’t be chewing in the pictures and please, choose something that won’t leave Junior’s tongue green.  I feel compelled to tell you that I actually think bribery is a terrible parental practice.  But, um…turns out I’m not perfect. By the end of any given Amiss family photo session, our kids have been promised ice cream, extra TV, a treasure-box trinket and a new pony.


3.)  Take your pictures in the evening.  There is a magical time of day, when the light is golden and flattering and every thing just looks better.  It happens an hour or 2 before sunset.  Plan your session for this time.  Leave enough time in your schedule to have fun and not be in a hurry.  Make sure your kids know what you will be doing, and refer back to my #2 tip.   Don’t be tempted, on the fly, when everyone is headed out to the Crab Shack, and you suddenly notice how cute your kids look in their sundress and polo and how Uncle Bob is actually wearing a shirt to say, “Let’s do a few quick pictures first!”  You will not be well-received.


 4.)  Get down on their level.  Mentally, this may bode well for you too, but I’m talking physically.  Sit, kneel or lie in the sand and your pictures will be better.  Shots from directly over-head, with your child looking up at you are nice, as well.


5.)  Not every shot requires a super-smile and direct eye contact.  In fact, when doing a grouping or collage of pictures on the wall, it’s more flattering to have different angles from your subjects.  Having 6 images of people all from the same angle cheesing at you looks a bit off.

IMG_9246Above: (Wonky ocean!)

IMG_9246 fix horizonAbove: (Nice and straight!)

6.) Watch your horizon.  Normally, I wouldn’t include this in a tutorial, but if you have the ocean in the background, an uneven horizon can make the whole image seem particularly wonky.  Just be aware of that and you can always use photo-editing software to fix it, like I did above.


7.)  Be Prepared.  You’ll want to have some wet wipes, a snack, and some water.  And maybe something for the kids, too.  Ha!  But really, you may want your “help” to schlep a water bottle for you as well.  Bring something for young hands to fidget with.  But, um, not small enough for the baby to eat, please.  (Another reason why you need to bring help!) And don’t break out some new, cool toy that will absorb all of your kids attention and will be an eyesore in the picture.  So, like, no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Although…that is kind of beachy…. Oh, and it goes without saying, have the kids use the potty before heading out.

8.) Be Prepared (Part 2).  The kids have been fed.  Their faces have been wiped. The ocean looks sparkly and the light is golden. And miracle of all miracles…your Wild Child has his sister’s hand in his. (The one he usually pushes her down with.)  You whip out your camera only to find the battery dead.  Or the SD card full.  Or gone.  Argggggggggh!  That, my friend, is the stuff nightmares are made from.  Take care of all of that long before you hit the sand for picture time.  Remember to bring something to set your camera on/in to keep sand out of it.


9.) Don’t quit too easily (but know when you’re done).  Bring your patience, allow for breaks (sometimes those afford the best photo ops!) and refer over and over to Tip #2.  It can take time.  Moms, you’ll likely know when you’re done and hopefully, you’ll have some beautiful photo treasures as your prize!

IMG_8897 bw

10.)  Hire a pro.  Don’t worry, you are not cheating on me.  If you feel exhausted reading this tutorial, do yourself a favor and hire a beach photographer.  Be sure to look at portfolios online so you will be happy with the results.  Ask your friends for referrals and book in advance.  And you still may have to refer to Tip #2!  😉

Good luck!

About catherineamiss

Catherine Amiss Photography specializes in childhood lifestyle photography. Catherine shoots on location and serves the Roanoke, VA area.
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4 Responses to Amazing Beach Portraits! (A Tutorial)

  1. Hannah Ruble says:

    This is great advice! I will remember it for our trip! As you well know, your “evening” advice has warranted me three beautiful kiddo canvases already! 🙂 Love those gorgeous babies! Those were some of my fave pics of your boys.

  2. Alicia says:

    I just enjoyed reading this while having a cup of coffee :o) These are wonderful tips that I will put to use for our beach trip this summer. Seeing the photos of your boys when they were younger made me realize how quickly they are growing up! You have done a great job capturing the moment!

    • Your comment made me smile. They really are growing up fast! I’ll have to heed my own advice come next February and see if I can get one with the cousins too. (Yikes!) 🙂

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