8 Tips for Photographing Kids on the Beach

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My family and I took a little impromptu trip the Beach over spring break. Just as I type the word beach, I’m realizing I should probably clarify, the Oregon coast. Which is really more of a windy, not so warm beach.  I took my camera along in hopes that we would get a break in the weather to be able to take a few photos.  I knew I did not want a formal session of my kids but instead photos that captured the experience. Taking photos on the beach can be tricky but approaching it with a documentary style in mind really changed the expectation and instead resulted in fun little details that shared the experience just as I had hoped.

Here are 8 tips and tricks that I wanted to share about photographing your kids on the beach.

1. Find Your Light.


This is probably the biggest obstacle when photographing on the beach.  You want to find the best light and do your best to work with it.  I prefer a morning or afternoon verses mid day if you have the choice. Try and keep the sun behind your subject (yes, that means you will be shooting into the sun). For my session the sun was in a spot that made shooting towards the water a little more difficult. I did not bring extra gear or fill light (I had one camera and lens with me) to help with difficult lighting so to accommodate, I started by taking photos in the high grass and sand. The beach is not always just about the water and I really wanted to get each piece of the puzzle for this session.
2. Get Posed Shots First.


When I photograph kids I try and get the posed shots first. I know these can be the hardest and I also know that kids attention spans do not always last. Its much easier to get the playing and detail shots later. Once you have your location ready start working on those posed shots. Even though I am helping these kids pose a bit I still try to keep them relaxed and fun. I asked the kids to snuggle which started a nice beginning. Take a few standing shots and then have the kids sit, either on a log or in the sand. Also make sure you get some full length shots and a few close ups. This will help you quickly get a little variety without moving locations.


3. Be Silly.


I love to end my posed photos with letting the kids be silly. I have them make silly faces or anything they want to do. This is usually a winner and the kids will be ready for whatever you have next.


4. Involve a Parent or Sibling.


If you are not alone at the Beach grab a parent, sibling or family member for a few photos.  These do not have to be posed. Instead, encourage them to play or ask them to snuggle or give love. Use the endearments that your children react to.  In these shots I had them giving love and then I asked them to snuggle noses. You can also see that I am still photographing in the same spot using the sand and grass as my backdrop.


5. Allow for PlayTime.


Play time is the best! This is your opportunity to just chase the kids around. Let them run, let them splash in the water, let them dig or build a sand castle. I suggest grabbing a long lens for these shots (or using your longest focal length) and just letting the kids be. It is these moments that may take more clicks of the shutter but will be rewarding when you get the winning shot. Don’t be afraid to over shoot. That may sound like crazy advice but when you are chasing kids it can result in more photos than you are typically used to.  They will not all be winners but you will find them.


6. Don’t Forget the Details.


These are my favorite. Often times we get so worried about the posed shots or can even get bogged down with getting that winning shot that we forget about the little things. The details that complete the story we as photographers are trying to tell.  Take some time to snag those details. For me, the beach is all about the sand. Its everywhere right? As I let my kids play I watched and photographed the details in between. I shot the sand in between toes, hands and even in the Mohawk. I photographed the treasures that were found on the beach. I used a low aperture on these shots and really tried to focus on the details without any other distractions.


7. Shoot Through Obstacles.


This can be a fun one! There are always obstacles you can find on the beach even if its just the sea grass. Take advantage of it! Get down low, shoot through it to give you a different angle and perspective.  Using objects to frame and add dimension to your images can give an entirely new look.


8. Celebrate!


Its the Beach! Of course that is a cause for Celebrating! Kids LOVE jumping, running or screaming “We Love the Beach!”. Really…it works! As soon as the kids were asked to all hold hands and scream “We Love the Beach” they all got excited! In this last photograph, I had the kids go ahead and face towards the water rather than face me. The sun was at my back and I didn’t want the bright sun in their faces. When the light does not cooperate this is not always a bad thing. Since I did not have any extra lighting gear with me I embraced it and still captured the moment.
In her bag:
Canon 5D Mark 11
Canon 28-70 2.8mm


Here is a FREE mini sample pack of a few of my favorite presets!


Processing all done through ON1 PhotoRAW
Preset pack used on these images can be found HERE.

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