Next up in our Ask the Photographer series is the talented Mandy Haber from Haber Photography! With this new blog series, we hope to provide you with some expert tips for getting the most out of your family photos and capturing your children's precious memories. If you have a question you'd like to have answered by our panel of professional photographers, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!
What's the best way to manage a beach photo session with kids?
So, you're headed to the beach for vacation when it dawns on you that the beach is the perfect setting for a family portrait. Well, I couldn't agree more. The vast majority of my client sessions take place on the beautiful white sand beaches in Orange Beach, Alabama. The white sand, the sea oats, the vast sky, the crystal clear water - it all sounds like a magical combination for perfection. The beach does present its own set of special challenges for a portrait session, but nothing that can't be overcome with a little planning and quick thinking! So what's the best way to manage a beach photo session with kids?
The first question I receive from clients is always about what to wear. The beach is a blank canvas. I love it when families wear color! Yellows, blues and pinks all photograph so beautifully on the beach! I just advise to stay away from busy patterns and too matchy, matchy. Theres a huge difference between coordinating and matching.
For little boys seersucker is a big hit! Jon-Jons, shorts, pants. I love it all! For little girls, dresses or bubbles with geometric smocking or nautical themed smocking are perfect think sailboats, fish, crabs, etc. If you are set on the traditional white/khaki combination, think of different ways to do it. Have Mom wear white pants with a khaki top or a khaki dress. Have the kids wear khaki seersucker instead of something solid. The sand is so neutral, you want to make sure you stand out!
I have a Pinterest board that I use for inspiration. Start one for yourself and see where it leads.
The time of day for a beach session is very important. I only offer sessions at sunrise or sunset. That's it. During the middle of the summer, sunrise is around 6:00 a.m. and sunset is around 8:30 p.m. Most little ones are ready for bed well before 8:00 and it can get ugly fast! On the beach, you dont have any open shade to hide in at 9:00 a.m. when your child is at his/her happiest. So proper nap and activity planning are very important on the day of a portrait session. I always recommend that parents allow their children to take a later nap than normal. Or take a second nap, if needed. Also, don't plan too many activities for the day of your session. There is nothing worse than photographing a child that is overtired and uncooperative.
The sand is like a magnet for little hands. Kids just can't help themselves. They love to touch it and play in it and sometimes throw it. To minimize this distraction, bring a basket, chair, or quilt to act as a barrier to the sand. It can help keep the attention off the ground and up at eye level where you want it! These items can also add a pop of color to your images.
You can also incorporate items that are special to you. If your grandmother made one of your children a quilt, bring it! If they have a favorite rocking chair, bring it! Little details like that can add so much personalization to your session.
I know that everyone wants a happy family portrait with everyone smiling and looking at the camera. But the worst thing you can do as a parent is stress. Kids can feel that pressure and they crack. And then you stress more. Its a vicious cycle. The beach is the perfect setting for a casual, laid back portrait of your family.
I don't like "say cheese"! It never gets a genuine smile. Not out of my kids, anyway. Here is an example of my own son. For this one, I asked him to SAY CHEESE!
For the second shot, I was just talking to him and interacting with him. I think I told him I would run over and tickle him. This is the one that is hanging in my house!
I usually ask kids to watch my lens for their favorite cartoon character: Lightning McQueen, Elmo, Mickey Mouse, etc. It's a great way to get kids to engage and give eye contact to the camera. But they don't always have to look at you. Some of my favorites from sessions are of kids just playing and having a good time!
Let kids, be kids! Let them have some fun. Ask them to hold hands and run at the camera.
Let them ride on Daddy's shoulders.
Have Daddy toss them in the air. Hold their hands and swing them as you walk down the beach.
Look for seashells or dolphins swimming.
Ask them to sing their favorite song.
These are all FUN things for them to do and you will always get smiles!
When all else fails, BRIBE them! I am not above giving suckers, candy, toys, or prizes of any size for cooperating at their session (this goes for the dads as well!). Most kids are willing to work for a new toy and make sure they know that they will be rewarded in the end for good behavior!
A session on the beach doesn't have to be stressful if you are well prepared!
Mandy Haber of Haber Photography is an on-location, natural light photographer based in Orange Beach, Alabama providing custom photography for newborns, children, families, and high school seniors. Mandy spends most of her summers photographing vacationers from all over the country on the white sand beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. Mandy lives in Orange Beach with her husband and her two children, ages 3.5 and 15 months.
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