Preparing for Beach Portraits…With Children | Outer Banks Beach Photographers


Heeeeelllloooo!!  And, Happy Cold Wednesday!

I feel fairly certain that I am not alone in saying that Winter Storm Titan (when did we start naming winter storms??!) has me looking forward to warmer weather!  As as the wind and sleet rattle my windows, I am dreaming of sunshine, sand, rolling waves, and…yes… another exciting season of visiting families.  Sarah Keenan Photography and Design has the opportunity to work with close to 200 families every year.  Large and small family groups from all 50 states and many places outside of the good ole USA travel to these Outer Banks of North Carolina seeking all types of things; fishing, good food, beautiful beaches, lighthouses, wild horses, southern hospitality.  And when you have the entire family together one must take family portraits, right??!!  Absolutely!!  That’s when we get to join in on the fun!  🙂

In chatting with our families during the planning phase of their family photography session, 9 times out of 10 I get some type of warning.  The warnings typically sound something like this: “My 3 year-old daughter is very shy.  I really, really hope she cooperates.”  Or, ” Be prepared!  We have 15 kids, 17 years-3 months.  I hope you can handle the group!!”  Or even, “Fair warning, we are 8 adults, 10 children under the age of 5 and we are wide open!”  While often these comments make me chuckle, our photos are all parents and can relate 100% to these concerns.

So…here are few things that we have found tend to help when children of any age are involved in your family beach portraits!

1) The timing of beach portraits can be tricky for some young children.  Hoping to catch the just-before-sunset glow, beach portraits are often scheduled near dinner time.  Make certain that children are not hungry during the shoot by moving dinner to an earlier time or providing a good snack before the shoot.  Happy bellies makes for happier kiddos!

2)  When feeding infants before a shoot, avoid foods that are bright orange in color.  These have a tendency to stain skin, leaving a yellow or orange ring around the mouth!  (And, have been known to stain a white shirt or two when spit-up!!)

3)  Not to dwell on food, but bringing an easy snack with you for young children can be a helpful tool.  Fruit snacks seem to be a popular choice as they are dry, small, and can be handed out one at a time.  Who says bribery for a sweet smile doesn’t work!?

4)  Preparing children for a portrait session means prepping yourself and other participating adults, too.  Going into the shoot expecting that children will be children is important.  Asking them to be anything else just wouldn’t be fair!  So, prepare that they may be silly, shy, loud, or busy-bees.  It’s ok!!  Really…

5)  Getting to know your group is important.  Gaining your child’s confidence is more important.  Our photogs are awesome with kiddos…and, I mean awesome!  We know how to engage your child, age appropriately.  Whether it is humor, games, or simply distance (for the shy wee ones out there) our photogs will find a way to capture your child’s attention.  So, don’t worry about pushing your child into this picture thing…we’ll help.  🙂

6)  This one seems like a no-brainer, but let your photographer do his or her job.  That’s why you hired us, right??!  For the parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle looking for that perfect image of a child, nothing can be more frustrating than the child that seems to be interested in everything but smiling for the camera.  For the photographer that wants to capture the perfect image of your child, nothing is more frustrating than an almost perfect image- Everyone is looking at the camera…except Aunt Sallie who is looking at 4 yr old Matthew telling him to “SMILE!”  Let the photog ask for smiles.  We are pretty good at getting them 😉

7)  Let them play.  It’s ok!  That’s what children do!  So, we have a couple of beach portrait rules (especially for the little ones): 1) Please keep the sand in the sand.  Throwing sand can hurt others as well as equipment.  And, 2) Use listening ears.  Short of that, we want to have fun with your family.  If your child wanders, we will wander with them (taking pictures along the way!).  If your child wants to dig in the sand, we will sit with them (taking pictures, of course!).  We will definitely capture those portrait style images.  But, often the best memories made are those of your children being children.  We will make certain to capture those shots, too.

8)  Last, but certainly not least, prep your photographer.  You know your child better than anyone else in the world!  You know if they hate sand or are afraid of the water.  You know if they are going to gravitate toward pets walking on the beach or be clingy to you.  You know if bribery works, if they are having a grumpy day, or if they really dislike pictures.  You know their favorite colors, cartoon characters, disney princess, and special treat.  So, feel free to share these things with your photographer.  Let us know if there are special needs, rules, or tricks to your parenting trade.  You do it best when it comes to your child.  So, let us know what we need to know!

We have a blast with our family beach portraits.  It is some of our favorite work.  In fact, we don’t really even think of it as work!  We love getting to know about our families- where they are from, why they vacation in the OBX, plans for the vacation week, or what’s changed since last year’s portraits.  Each family becomes a part of us.  We love watching our families grow and change year after year…children are a big part of what we do.

Sooooo…schedule those portraits, pick out the outfits, and take a deep breath.  You’ve got us…and, we’ve got this!!

Until next time~