Hi guys. Finishing my family portraits on the beach season. Today wanted to share a few beautiful beach family portrait sessions I did on my favourite Gullane beach. Will give you some ideas and a few tips if you are planning family portraits at the beach.

Family walking on the beach in North Berwick
Family portraits on the beach

I’m an Edinburgh based family photographer who creates family portraits at the studio and outdoors. I love when families are choosing the beach for their family portraits. There is so much what you can do and family photoshoots are always very relaxed. Kids definitely have an amazing time.

Family portraits on the beach Guide 1

The reason why I love this particular beach is that it is pretty secluded and not very windy. Leading up to the beach there is like a grass area where I love taking a few more formal family portraits. Just before madness unravels and everyone gets soaked.

Family portraits on the beach Guide 2
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What time of the day to do family portraits on the beach?

early morning. The evening gives you better softer light. If you have an overcast day, then you can do the session earlier. I always recommend starting the shoot around an hour before the sunset. You can check the sunset time here.

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Family portraits just at the end of the sunset

If you do session midday, your light can be very harsh on subjects. I would do a mid-day photo session only if there are no other options. You have to communicate with your family that there might be some eyes squinting and harder shadows under the eyes.

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It is harder to organise family photoshoot if you have very young kids in the family, like up to 3-year-olds. Could be that little one needs to be in the bed by evening time. Sometimes families try to get a little one for the nap before the shoot to get most out of it without tantrums.

How to prepare for the beach family photoshoot.

First things first, check the weather day before. I always check it on the night before. Usually, it is pretty accurate. Here in Scotland, I use Mettoffice website. I have found that BBC one can be a lot of hit and miss.

If the place where you work has huge swings in water tide. Please check where water will be when you are planning the session. I check tides on this website. It is not super crucial, but for example here in Midlothian, if I’m planning a water splash session and tide is out, I might need to walk almost an extra mile to get to the water. Depending on where I go.

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Preparation would greatly depend on what kind of things you planning to do during the photo session. Are planning to get in the water? If you have kids, will you be doing sandcastle activities?

  • I always ask families to think about activities they might want to do on the beach.

Since we are on the beach, you might want to think about footwear. Will you be in flip flops or bare feet. If we are planning a bit more active session, then probably bare feet.

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  • How you will carry around your stuff. Where you will put flip flops if you bring them. I recommend bringing one bag where you can put all in.

During the shoot, I tend to take the bag off you as I don’t want this to be in photos. So try not to load it with random things you might not need :)

  • Check if the day might be windy. You might want to bring an extra layer or shawl with you.
  • If you coming with kids, will you bring beach toys and a blanket with you? It all depends on how quickly you want to be done with this. If you are coming as a large family and want individual portraits done of each family and then kids, you might consider this. If you are just like the family of 4-6, you should be ok without it. Water will be enough for kids to enjoy.
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  • Even if you are not planning to get in the water, bring a little towel. I might ask you to play games, have fun and this could lead to getting a bit wet feet.
  • Bring an extra layer of clothes. Definitely, if you are coming with kids, it is a MUST. Before you know it, kids will be in the water. No matter what time of the year :)
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  • While we are on the clothing topic. It doesn’t matter if you wear light or dark clothing. As long as you on the same colour palette, you should be good to go. Try to avoid lines across the body, big logos, clashing colours.
  • Ladies, if you don’t like your arms, please don’t wear sleeveless tops and expect the photographer to ‘fix’ your arms in every photo. Long sleeves or ¾ sleeves.

Simple activity ideas for family beach portraits.

  • Bring a ball. There are loads of things you can do with the ball
  • Play tag with each other. It is great to portraits in the moment while you chasing someone. I always do it with kids
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  • Bring a kite. Kids love running with it and if the beach is a bit windy, it is a great idea.
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  • For younger kids, you can bring a spade and go treasure hunting. Bring a little bucket too. Maybe try to find some shells.
  • Bring a larger plain colour blanket for all of you lay down and take a photo from the top. Always fun. Make funny faces photos too.
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  • Kids on shoulders and walk around.
  • Wobbly walk with kids. Hold each other around the waist and slowly walk wobbly.
  • A simple walk along the beach and run away as water comes in. Great for families or parents only. For parents, I ask if they can try to push each other into the water without actually doing it. Results into nice reaction shots.
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  • Hold hand in hand and have a race. This way nobody is really a looses and you don’t have a meltdown from 3 years old.
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I hope this will help you to prepare for your beach sessions and get some ideas going.

Feel free to check out my other blog posts and guides. If you are from Edinburgh or Midlothian areas, please check out my family photography page. Loads of different ideas there.