10 Tips for Beach Photography: How to Take Images of Children at the Beach

I recently returned from a luxurious vacation to Turks & Caicos in the Caribbean and I can't wait to share the images. However, some people may not even know where to start when taking images on the beach.I just wanted to give some pointers and hints or tips so one can easily see what to do to take images of the beach.

Beach Photography

Prepping for Beach Photography

I do not own a point and shoot camera, nor do I own a cell phone with a great camera on it either. I carry my DSLR, everywhere! I love it, it loves me, it takes fantastic images and I sort of can't live without it (although after being at a resort with 100 other bloggers who happen to take fantastic images with their cell phones, I may be reconsidering ). . .  just maybe though.

Anyway, while you can take nice images with a point and shoot camera OR with a cell phone, my DSLR will blow you away. .  well, always! My lens is better and the results are A-MAZ-ING! The reason I say this is simply because the sensors on a point and shoot camera are just too small for getting all the details. I am not a professionally trained photographer and there are still a ton of things I can improve, but I will give you some tips I used whilst at Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos on how to take images of children at the beach.  

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I brought along my Canon 7D as well as a couple of prime lens. I wanted to bring my entire bag of lens, but that literally weighs more than I do! A prime lens is really the way to go. It makes all the difference between a crisp image with a fabulously blurred background or a boring image with nothing special.

Beach Photography

I use my Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens for portraits or even for just as a walk around lens. But, I also brought along my Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM lens(this is a standard zoom lens) for non-portrait images. When I use the 17-55 with my 7D, I basically get the equivalent of a 27-88mm lens. I really wish I had lugged my 70-200mm as well, but I think my husband may have left me home.  The 50mm f/1.2 will make you fall in love with the dreamy bokeh (the circles in the blurry part of the background of your image) and background blur.

Here are 10 tips to use when photographing children at the beach:

Beach Photography

#1 Keep it Sand Safe . . . I really can't stress this enough. Prep for the day in your room, select the lens you will be using and keep it on for the duration of your beach stay. Never change your lens at the beach as there are one million(grains of sand) reason not to do so. Pre-assemble your gear, pack it up tight in plastic bags and put that bag into another bag that will remain dry for the day. You can bring along a reflector, but if you don't have one, a large white beach towel will work great as well. I want to capture fabulous beach images, but I also want to keep my gear in perfect working condition.

#2Utilize a Polarizing Filter . .  . Since I was going to be in the Caribbean, I also put polarizing filters on both of my lens. The polarizer is a must-have for outdoor photography because it adds vibrant colors and darkens a boring sky if there isn't any color or if is super hazy. 

Beach Photography

#3 Manual Mode vs Aperture Priority Mode . . . I shoot in full raw manual mode and I can say I don't think I would even be able to shoot in aperture priority mode any more. If you are leery to shoot in manual mode, stick your DSLR in aperture priority mode. At least you can control the aperture while the camera will decide what the shutter speed should be.

I know the beach can be quite bright with the reflection off the water and off the sand. This can lead to harsh shadows and can be a bit tricky if you aren't used to these aspects. The best advise I can give it JUST KEEP SHOOTING! Keep trying, change your settings and shoot again and again and again! Practice does make perfect!

Place your kids in a shadow if you are worried about harsh lines across their faces or you could plop a hat on their head as well. OR, you could simply embrace the shadows, you are at the beach after all!

Beach Photography

Also, you want a nice wide aperture in order to blur the background. This will ensure that your kids will pop off of the background and become the focus.

Beach Photography

#4 The Sun is Your Friend.. . . .Really it is! Always -- shoot with the sun at your back. No this does not mean your kids will be looking directly into the sun, move them so they are not. Trust me, it will work. My kids already know to just keep their eyes down or close them and count to 5 and open them. Yours will too!

Beach Photography

If this simply does not work out for you . . . then position your kids in between you and the sun and use your reflector or your white towel. If you are still getting harsh shadows on the faces . . . get out your flash. Yep! You can use the flash in the bright sun at the beach. The flash will fill in the shadows on your kids faces.

Here is a great tip . . .  point your camera at your feet or your kid's feet and lock your exposure (push your button half down) then recompose (move your camera back to the spot where you want to take the image) and take the picture.

Beach Photography
Beach Photography
Beach Photography
Beach Photography

#5 Mix up the Pictures . . .  Take images everywhere . . . don't be shy. Take some images close to the waves, some in the sand, some splashing, some sitting, some sunning, some floating, some jumping . . . you get the idea. The sun will hit your family differently depending on where you take the images.

Beach Photography

#6 Different angles . . . Don't stand in the same spot either, move all around your kids in a semi-circle taking images from every angle . . . stand up, sit down, lie down . . . don't be still. Also, don't take images with your kids in the middle of the frame in every image. Move them around within your frame --to the left--to the right--  move them. All your images will look exactly the same if you don't try different angles.

Beach Photography

#7 Get up Close & Personal. . . . Don't forget to capture some great faces! You will get great blur, fabulous detail, and can really feel the emotion of your kids when shooting up close and personal.  You will also capture the most intense bokeh in the background. 

Beach Photography
Beach Photography
Beach Photography
Beach Photography

#8 Tell A Story . . . Don't simply take images of the beach and the water and your kids on the beach and your kids in the water.  There is so much going on at the beach and you must capture it all! Get the real-life action shots as they are happening.  Be prepared! Set your camera on Auto focus so it can maintain focus on your moving kids. That way you don’t have to worry about not being in focus if your child is running towards you. Tell a story with your images.

Beach Photography
Beach Photography

Take pictures of your walk to the beach, there are usually some superb leading lines as you are walking along the boardwalk or something of that nature. Look for the charm in your setting. Oh, before I forget, when you are taking images of the horizon, BE SURE, to tilt your camera so the horizon is STRAIGHT! You can always correct it later in PS, but it is best to get it right in camera!

Beach Photography
Beach Photography

#9 Golden Hour . . .  As sunset approaches the color temperature of light coming directly from the sun becomes extremely warm, while the light coming from the sky becomes very cool . . . it is one of my favorite times to take images . . . I just get so excited about images during the Golden Hour. During these magic hours, you get a soft, golden, diffused light that is just beautiful.

Beach Photography

#10 Silhouettes . . . Turn your flash OFF! Place your children in front of the sun set. Set your exposure for the brightest part of your photo and not for the subject of the image. To meter accurately for this, point your camera at the sun set, hold your shutter half way down and adjust your settings so that the meter line is in the center. This now means that your exposure is correctly set for the sun set and for your silhouette. Once you have the setting where you want it, put your kids where you want them. Snap away. You can take different exposure to play around to see what you like best.

Beach Photography

Lastly, don't forget to get in the pictures too! Yourfamily will wonder e you where the entire trip if there aren't any memories of you! Hand the camera over, put it in auto mode . . . let your kids have fun taking images of you . . . they will love it. So what if the images are over exposed or under exposed. Your kids want images of you and them!