Shooting Kids At The Beach

I’ve learned a thing or two recently from lugging my DSLR and a couple of toddlers down to the beach for a quick photo shoot. I thought I’d share with you some tips to save you a little heartache and hopefully ensure that you’ll end up with some fun memories of the day. (Please note: most of these are pretty obvious, but seeing as I’m 8 months pregnant, I’m currently quite prone to ignoring the obvious.)

My first bit of advice is to pick your arrival/photo shoot time carefully. I know this is not always possible when dealing with kids’ schedules and other people tagging along, but it really is essential in getting the best light for the shoot. Preferably you would be able to go in the morning when the light is soft or in the very late afternoon/early evening during magic hour when the light is just, well, perfectly magical.

Unfortunately, I was unable to follow my own rule and ended up at the beach right smack at noon when the sun was at its brightest and harshest. Because of this, I got a lot of photos like the ones above, with dark, contrasty shadows and overexposed backgrounds. I had to do a lot of touch-up in Photoshop on the levels, colors and shadows, and even then, the photos are only mediocre (well, besides the adorable subjects!).

My second bit of advice is to bring someone along with you to wrangle the kids as you shoot. I did this, but not successfully. I had a friend there, but she was also holding her 5-month-old baby, so she wasn’t the best candidate to run after the toddlers when they got frighteningly close to the moving water that this mom just knew would wash them away at any moment. Since my friend was not able to be right there by their sides (just out of the frame, of course!), I ended up with two very soaked and muddy 2-year-olds and a lot of back shots as I ran after them making sure they kept their distance from the tide and making sure my camera didn’t get soaked. This is not an ideal photo shoot situation. Bring a baby-free friend, is all I’m saying.

Lastly, have fun and play it by ear. If the kids are having a blast in the mud, but you wanted clean white shirts, just try to remind yourself that kids and life are messy and a very sandy photo at the beach is a perfect way to reflect that. Remember to just let things happen naturally or you’ll end up with a bunch of staged shots and forced smiles. Another important part of this process is deciding to leave at the right time. Our trip was quite windy and with soaked toddlers, we realized that sometimes a half hour beach trip is all you (and they) really need.

You might not get the shots you dream of every time you head to the shore, but if you remember some of these tips for photographing, hopefully each time you try it you’ll capture some great memories. Happy shooting!