15 Ideas For Amazing Beach Family Photos

Warm sand between your toes, salty wind in your hair, and countless family memories made. For many of us, the beach is filled with nostalgia of simple yet cherished family times. Beach family photos combine it all: stunning views, beautiful memories, and lots of family fun.

Whether you are at the beach for an afternoon or a week long vacation, its a great time to capture your family with professional photography. I have photographed many families along gorgeous Oregon beaches, so I wanted to share 15 tips for amazing beach family photos.

Plan For Your Beach Family Photos Well in Advance

One of the secrets to any family photo shoot is to plan well in advance! When you are dealing with sand, surf, and kids, however, you’ll want to put in a little extra thought.

Here’s a simple timeline to help:

3-4 months out book a trusted photographer whose work you love

2 months out start a pinterest board with outfit ideas, and start ordering clothes as needed

1 month out let your kiddos know you will be doing photos next month

2 weeks out remind your kids!

Day before: wash and iron clothes and hang to prevent wrinkles

Day of: make sure kiddos are well rested and fed (see below)

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What to Wear For Your Beach Family Photos (Think Neutral!)

Organic, neutral clothing can photograph beautifully for beach family photos. Muted greens, blues, tans and nature oriented colors tend to photograph very well.

Linens and cottons help create a relaxed feel to your shoot and many styles still look elegant.

Coordinate Clothing Colors and Styles

To get the most out of your beach family photos, you will want to coordinate color and style of clothing.

Make sure there is a color theme- if you are all wearing blues, greens, and tans make sure they are the same tone. Avoid matching colors completely!

Pick one style of clothing: if everyone is in casual beach wear don’t have mom go formal!

Bring Extra Clothing for Your Beach Family Photo Session

Young kids, sand and surf always equal a bit of a mess in my family! To ease stress, be sure to bring an extra outfit for kiddos that goes well with the photo shoot theme.

Wear Solid Colors and Simple Jewelry

Solid colors with minimal patterns photograph beautifully and are less distracting. One or two prints that align with your color palette can be fun, but be sure to monitor them so they don’t dominate the photo.

For timeless photos, avoid logos, cartoon characters and large text on clothing. Keeping jewelry simple can be a really good idea. Adding just a few beautiful jewelry pieces can go a long way!

fun beach family photos

Have A Resting Time the Day Of the Family Photo Shoot

An afternoon resting time can really help kids of all age do well in an evening photo shoot. Whether it is a nap or a movie, make sure kids have several hours to just rest and decompress before the session.

Stay out of the sun during the heat of the day and just relax together. This will help prevent kids from melting down later during the photo session. They will be more cooperative, I promise!

Bring Toys for Kids to Play With (or as Photo Props)

Sand shovels, buckets, and toys can be a great way to distract kids and allow them to have fun on the session. Kids playing at the beach make for amazing candid photos. I love this set of sand buckets here, and they come in a variety of neutral colors that would photograph very well.

mom and daughter portrait on beach

Make a List of Must Have Family Photos for Your Session

The precious time with your young kiddos is so so short. (Yes, some days it does seem to last forever, haha). If you know you’ve never had a photo one on one with your daughter, mention it to your photographer!

Don’t be shy in sending over a short list of family combinations. Its a great idea to let your photographer lead most of the shoot and direct you and capture creative images, however make sure you chime in on photo combinations you really want!

Cannon Beach family photography session

Feed Your Kids Before Your Session (And Bring Snacks!)

Well fed kids are happy kids, and happy kids enjoy photo sessions! Feed your kids their favorite meal a few hours before the session, and don’t be shy on bringing snacks to your shoot.

Cheese sticks, trail mix and granola bars are easy snacks that won’t stain clothes!

Keep Accessories In the Car During Your Photo Shoot

As a photographer, I may cringe a little when I see the outline of a phone in a photo! A simple fix to avoid distracting items in your beach photo session is to leave them in the car (and lock the car!).

You can leave behind sunglasses, phones, and your own camera, or tuck them safely into a purse or diaper bag.

I often keep keys in the pocket of my camera bag for clients.

portrait of young girl playing at beach

Book A Longer Session for Lots of Photos

Many photographers offer various sessions lengths for the convenience of their clients. I highly recommend you allow at least 2 hours for beach family photos.

This gives you time for relaxed, fun photographs of the kids playing in the sand and surf, as well as formal photos. A longer session also gives you time to get amazing portraits of each member of the family.

If you need to rest, grab a snack, or change outfits, you will have plenty of time without worrying about running out of light.

two sisters posing for beach family photos with their family members at Cannon Beach oregon

Avoid Sunblock (and Cover Tan Lines!)

Sunblock can really be a problem during family photos. As a red head, I totally get the desire to slather up at the beach… but your skin may have that ghostly white tinge if you do.

Sand can also stick to sunblock, resulting in very sandy kiddos!

The best light for beach family photos is always early in the morning or in the evening, so you shouldn’t need sunblock during these times.

You will also want to cover up any tan lines that may show in your photos.

extended family photo session at the beach

Book A Photographer You Can Have Fun With

Family photos can be stressful. But, they can be a ton of fun as well! Scour the internet, ask friends and family, and try to find a photographer who will make the process fun for you and your loved ones.

The more people that are involved in your session, the higher the potential for stress. Be sure to hire someone who has experience photographing large groups if you are doing an extended family photo shoot.

I pride myself in keeping photo shoots light hearted and fun, and I love when kids get to run free and express themselves at a session. You can read more of my reviews here!

Tips For Extended Family Photos at the Beach

Extended family photos can be a challenge, but are so worth it! Here are five tips for ensuring your extended family photos at the beach go well:

  • Create a group pinterest board where you can share image ideas and coordinate outfits
  • Forward communications from your photographer prior to the session to your family members so they know what to expect
  • Have an area while kids can play and hang out while waiting for their turn in the photo session
  • Set clear expectations on how long the photo session will last and what to expect
  • Go over expected photos with your family to make sure no one gets left out
beach family photos in Seaside Oregon

Have Fun and Enjoy Your Session

My last tip is just to have fun and enjoy your session! The best photos truly happen when everyone is relaxed, having fun and enjoying their time together.

Let your kids romp and play in the surf, build sandcastles, and go for a walk together. Your photographer will be love you for it, and you’ll get amazing candid photos of your kids and family.

And when the “formal” photos take place, it will be much easier to get a genuine smile from your kids!

Jamie Rae Photo is a Portland based photographer and works all over the Pacific Northwest. She has ample experience photographing families in Cannon Beach, Seaside, Long Beach and more. To book Jamie for a family photo session, fill out her contact form here.

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Jamie Rae Photo is a fine art film photographer based in Portland, Oregon specializing in families and portraits. She has a ten year background in photographing weddings


and is currently available for elopement photography as well.