Client Tips

How to Prep for Your Beach Family Photo Session with Kids

February 17, 2019

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I'm Helena!

A sunny gal from Cali living in the south of France. I adore slow living, magic, and celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I’m a self-proclaimed Disney nerd (as is my husband!), obsessed with cats and cocoa, and you can often find me swimming with the fishies in the salty sea. Come along and enjoy the magic, the simple joys of life with me...



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Here is a quick blog post on how to best manage a family beach portrait session with your kids, from figuring out what to wear to how to help your little ones look up at me and not be distracted by the sand. 

Beaches have quickly become my favorite place to photograph babies, children and families due to my love for lots of negative space, the way that golden light reflects upon the water, pearly white New England sand and a clean, stunning blank canvas. Beaches evoke timelessness in fine-art portraiture. And it is why my studio loves to photograph families at the beach. 

What to Wear to Your Beach Family Portrait Session

This is the first question I get from my clients. For family beach sessions, I love a pop of color! Pastel pinks, yellows and tons of blues all look gorgeous on camera. Even a bold Mini Boden printed stripe looks nice on camera. Try to stay away from busy patterns, and don’t try to “match” family outfits. Instead of matching, try to coordinate. I’ve got a full blog post on coordinating colors here, as well as my Pinterest board for family beach outfits that will photograph beautifully. 

Seersucker blues and yellows look super cute for little boys, and I just love a cute pair of Janie and Jack jon-jons! A nautical-look always looks classic and stylish, and I adore seeing little girls in a cute sailboat or lobster seersucker bubble, smock or dress. Anything monogrammed like a timeless Beaufort Bonnet tunic or by Bella Bliss looks classic and stylish. 

timeless classic baby girl at beach photo session with children's photographer Helena Woods

Khaki, Seersucker, Pastels and White

For a traditional look, white always looks simple and timeless, and my studio loves when our families wear white! But with the sand being so neutral and white, especially along the sand dunes in New England, wearing clothing that stands out and is colorful is best. But there is a way to mix it up! For example, if mom wants to wear some classic white pants to her beach family photo session, make sure to top it off with a blue or pink khaki blouse or a pastel-colored light sweater!

Best Time to Photograph at the Beach

The most important thing to consider when planning a family beach portrait session is the time of day. Beach photo shoots heavily rely on the natural light, even more so than any other location. Which is why I only photograph families two times per day: sunrise and at “golden hour“, 30 minutes prior to sunset. Just those two times. This is because there is no open shade on the beach, and harsh contrast leads to dark lines and shadows on faces, which do not look best on camera. Not only am I able to get that soft look and bright, clean style that it is common in my work, but I am also able to get gorgeous pastel-colored hues in the sky once the sun dips down below the horizon.

family photo session at beach laughing with baby wearing white classic outfits

Keeping your Babies Happy During Golden Hour of your Beach Family Session 

In the summer months, sunset is at 8:30 P.M. and sunrise is painstakingly early at 6:00 A.M. But this can be difficult with little ones typically going to sleep well before 8 o’clock. My tip? Plan on setting proper nap and activity schedules for the day of the shoot. If second or third naps are required for your little one to not be in a grumpy mood, let’s do it! Keep your day relaxed and open, and don’t overschedule your activities. We don’t want overtired babies!

Despite the chill, I love photographing families at the beach in the Fall, as with the sunlight fading earlier in the day, I am able to get that golden hour light and still have happy, awake faces. Something to consider if you would rather have a beach location instead of the typical New England fall-foilage look for your holiday cards. 

mom and baby with a white dress at pier beach portrait session

The Trickiness of Sand with Kids

Children love sand. While we can all admit that taking your little ones to the sandbox at the park can be a nice way to get some time to yourself while they play, we also don’t really enjoy the thought of carrying all that sand home with us. 

Here’s a great way to minimize sand distraction during your family photos:

It’s as simple as bringing a blanket or quilt! That’s right: we are basically creating a barrier. With family photos, my goal is to capture those lifestyle, playful moments of your child’s life, but it’s also to have them look up so I can photograph their beautiful eyes and expressions! To keep their attention on me, plan to bring along a special item or heirloom that is important to your family like your grandmother’s quilt or a simple easy-to-carry rocking chair, basket, wooden chair. It may seem silly at first, but it will add a ton of personalization to your photo session, as well as to keep your children at eye-level. 

Helena Woods Connecticut Beach Photographer shares on her top tips on photographing kids at a family beach photo shoot


Take it Easy

Last of all, don’t worry about how your session will go. That is why I am here. Being an expert in capturing moments and expressions quickly, I am always able to get a mix of traditionally posed, everyone-smiling-at-the-camera shots with the more fun, joy-filled lifestyle poses. 

Beach Family Photos with Baby Golden Hour sunset light Pier

Kids Feel Pressure

The worst thing you can do at your family portrait session is stress, for not only will your feel uneasy, but your kids intuitively pick up on that pressure. I love beach sessions for how casual and relaxed they are – it’s almost as if the sound of the waves immediately calm us down, right? 

Don’t Pose

My number one tip that I give to all my families: unless I specifically tell you to look at my camera and smile, don’t look me.

You heard right: don’t even look at me. Keep your attention on your loved ones. Snuggle in and stay close, soak in your child’s arms and breathe him/her in. Tell your husband a joke or tickle your toddler. Put your baby up on dad’s shoulders or swing around with your toddler, looking up at him. This is the time to spend time with your family – all while getting joyful and timeless imagery of your family to look back for years to come. Treasure this moment. 

Beach Family Photos with Baby Golden Hour sunset light Pier

Bribes Work Wonders with Children

There is nothing like an ice-cream cone or a “special treat” to perk up your child and get them to cooperate for a few more minutes. When all else fails, bribes work great! There is never been a single session when this trick did not work in getting those last-minute family shots for my clients. If you’re fine with it, pull out a bribe. And hey – this goes for dads as well!


I hope these tips help you on planning your upcoming beach family session! I’ll next be photographing families at the beach in New England Fairfield County Connecticut October 25-November 1st 2019! If you’re ready to book a sunset golden hour portrait session with me, be sure to get in touch with our studio, so we can get you on the calendar. 

Until then,


here are some teasers from my recent San Diego beach family session! How adorable is this little one?!      


How to Prep For a Family Photo Session with Kids


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I'm Helena, your new kindred spirit.

Sunny free-spirit, writer and creator in love with documenting the simple joys of life. I am passionate about noticing light and truth around me and reflecting it back to others.

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