Six children playing at the beach near Ocean Shores, Wa.

5 Photo Tips for Your Trip to the Beach

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I am Neyssa Lee a Seattle area photographer, mom of 6, planning obsessed, and who help you see the beauty, love and joy, in your own family’s chaos. I also use my super power of time management to help fellow photographers take control of their businesses. Learn more by heading to my ABOUT ME page.

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Whether you’re heading to the ocean, lake, or river, photographing your day with the family can present its challenges. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, use these 5 photo tips for your trip to the beach to encourage you, and give you guidance, ideas, and inspiration.

Toddler running into the ocean at Ocean Shores beach

The first beach photo tip is to have the sun either behind or fully on your subject.

When photographing kids at the beach, you want to shoot so that your subject is backlit (the sun behind your subject) or in full sun (the sun is on your back with your subject in front of you). This will help you avoid hot spots, dark shadows, or images that are too dark/too bright.

If you’re watching your kids play, try picking one light to shoot in (say full sun) and then move to backlight instead of chasing them around and trying to expose for full sun, backlight, full sun, etc. This will ease the tension and give you breaks in shooting.

Bonus Photo Tip for the Beach: If shooting in full sun, avoid portraits. Instead, focus on storytelling moments, having your subjects looking away from you.

Toddler jumping waves at Seabrook beach on Wa coast for photography tip

Give your subject room to run in the frame.

When you’re at the beach (especially the ocean) kids cannot help but run into the ocean. If you’re photographing someone running, or even just looking, give them space in the frame to “run” into. In other words, frame your subject so that there is empty space in front of the direction they are looking.

This photo tip does not only apply for a trip to the beach. Giving space to look or run into gives the viewer a sense of the story. It shows them where the action is moving.

See the photo above as an example. My daughter is holding my husband’s hand as they walk into the waves. Notice all that space in front of them. You can feel the direction of his movement and where they are going. If I had left more space behind them instead of in front of them, you would be left feeling “off.”

Six children playing at the beach near Ocean Shores, Wa.

Tell a story with your photos. Shoot with intention.

When you get home and look through your photos you don’t want a flip book of the day (if you do, I suggest videos instead!). Instead, work to tell a story with the photos you are taking. This will help you to slow down, watch the moments unfold and decide what is important to remember about this particular trip to the beach.

My best tip for photos on the beach is to pause. Look for details to capture (a windy day, the specific toys the played with or things built in the sand), look for connections (the way your kids played together, ran, laughed, splashed in the water, etc), and the setting (was it a wide open beach, crowded, grey skies, blue skies, etc.).

Beach photo tip example of getting into the frame yourself

Another tip for your day at the beach is to get in the frame. You were there too (and probably doing all the work!)

Taking kids to the beach is wonderful, but can feel like a chore. You probably spent lots of time packing (sunscreen, sand toys, beach towels, swimsuits, dry clothes, and all. the. food) before you even got there. Then there is the actual play time, ensuring everyone’s safety, and feeding them snacks every 10 minutes.

This beach photo tip is about ensuring you exist in photos with your family. You were there, too. So make sure you get in the frame.

I like to set up my camera and then hand it off to my hubby for a few minutes to make sure I have proof that I was there too. Trust me, your kids will be so glad to have memories of EVERYONE who went to the beach that day.

If you’re unsure of how to be in the frame, just play with your kids. Grab a child and spin them around on the beach, dig in the sand, and splash in the water as your husband takes photos.

Children playing in the ocean as examples for beach photo tips

A final beach photo tip is to set the camera down.

It may seem strange for a beach photo tip to be to NOT take any photos. However, I must reiterate that the goal isn’t a flip book of images. Take some time, capture some moments, and set the camera down. Relax, enjoy your time, and feel confident in what you’ve captured.

Of course, you can always pick your camera back up. But giving yourself grace allows you to take the time to notice something worthy of photographing all while letting the pressure off of photographing every moment.

Bonus Beach Day Photo Tip: The best time of day for photography is when the sun is lower in the sky (so early morning and later evening). If it’s mid-day, I use that time to set my camera down and to play at the beach with my family.

Do you love photography tips and tutorials like this one? I have created free resources just for you. Grab them below.

Plus, heading to Ocean Shores or Seabrook, Wa this summer? Discover adventure family photo sessions with Neyssa Lee as a way to help you document your family.

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