fine art wedding & portrait photography

rachael osborn




4 Tips for Better Family Photos at the Beach – or Anywhere!

September 19, 2022

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So you finally booked that family photo session you’ve been telling yourself was long overdue – three cheers, mama (or dad!). As a mom myself who has been on BOTH sides of the camera (yes, even with screaming kids – trust me, we’ve all been there), I’m here to help make your session go as smoothly as possible. Here are four little tips to help get you off on the right track as you count down to your photo session, whether it’s on the beach, at the park, or anywhere!

Little girls holding hands on the beach

1 // PREP, PREP, PREP. You know the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Y’all, it’s sooooo true when it comes to getting kids ready for photos. Make sure you arrive fed, refreshed, and excited for your session – nothing will derail a session faster than a yelling and frustrated parent, a kid who desperately needs a nap, or a tired family that hasn’t eaten their dinner yet (hey, I get it, I get #hangry too). Plan to arrive with plenty of time to use the restrooms, be changed into your clothes, and calmly walk to your meeting point with everything you might need for your shoot. I always recommend packing a tote with things you might end up wanting – think: water, little snacks, a beach blanket or towel, and (if you want) it also never hurts to pack some extra clothes for little ones who might run into wardrobe malfunctions – I learned this the hard way when my daughter got carsick all over her new dress on the way to session, so learn from my mistakes. 😉 Prep for success!

little girls pose at the beach for a photo

2 // A LITTLE BRIBERY ISN’T ALWAYS A BAD THING. Remember that promise of ice cream or a treat later? It can work wonders for keeping older kids on target and task during a session, but for much smaller kids, they probably haven’t developed the ability to reason through the process of waiting for the end of the session, so when you keep promising that treat and 30-45 minutes later it still isn’t there, you can pretty much expect a frustrated and confused child. Instead, I recommend some short-term immediate rewards during the session to help them through. Mini marshmallows are a great non-messy, non-staining treat that you can bring to your session and offer as mini rewards throughout the session. Fruit snacks, pretzels, or goldfish crackers are other good options – but I don’t recommend anything that could melt and cause a mess (looking at you, chocolate). 

Another alternative is to plan that “bribe” right into your session – maybe you can to stop on the beach boardwalk for ice cream cones as a family. Make it part of your session! Sure, you might get a little sticky, but I am a firm believer that capturing real, authentic memories is so much better than the posed ones. For this session, I asked my daughters to look for sea shells and have a dance-off on the beach. We had so much fun twirling in the waves, collecting shells, and building sand castles, and I love the photos so much more than I ever would have if we had only had them stand and smile at the camera. The expectations were realistic for their ages, the activity was fun for them, and the result was beautiful images that captured real memories – not fake ones. In those cases, bribes aren’t always even necessary.

3 // PLAN FOR GREAT LIGHT…..AND YOUR CHILD’S SCHEDULE. Golden hour is hands-down my favorite time to shoot (as is it for many photographers, especially at the beach), but if golden hour happens to fall smack-dab in the middle of your daily bedtime ritual with your toddler, it’s probably not going to get you the best photos. Instead, talk to your photographer about exploring locations that will give you beautiful light earlier in the day at a time that will suit your family’s needs and your child’s schedule. Golden hour is certainly not the only time you can capture great images – for example, this entire session was taken about 3 hours prior to sunset (which you can tell from the shadows captured on the sand), just before golden hour technically begins, but we still got fantastic, beautiful images.

4 // RELAX. This can be so hard when you’re feeling pressured or stressed, but I promise you – a photo session is not worth a family fight or yelling at your kids over, and yelling, anger, and threats will absolutely not bring out the best in your kids (or your partner!) for photos. Take a deep breath – you (and your photographer) have got this. Try to avoid unnecessary stress by arriving 10-15 early to your session and having all the items you think you might need (diapers, lipstick, those perfect outfits) laid out and ready to go BEFORE the day of the session, so you aren’t rushing around last minute, which can cause you to feel hectic and frazzled (and that negative energy can rub off of your kids and partner, too). Communicate with your spouse or partner what you need from them, and talk in advance with your photographer about anything you’re worried about. Remember – they are on your team and want you have a great experience, gorgeous photos you love, and make some special memories in the process, but it really is a team effort. With some prep work, a calm attitude, and a photographer you trust – capturing magical family photo session anywhere, anytime is possible.

Have another tip you would add? Tell me about it in the comments!

About the photographer and author:

Rachael Osborn is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer dual-based out of Central Florida and Chicago. She serves the entire Florida region, from Orlando (her home base!) to the Palm Coast to Amelia Island to Clearwater to Sarasota, and beyond, as well as the Chicagoland area, where she returns to every summer and throughout the fall. Rachael has photographed weddings and portrait sessions worldwide and is available for travel. You can email her at to inquire about booking a session.

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