Mom Guide: Beach Edition 2019

Mom Guide: Beach Edition 2019

In 2017, I wrote a post about photographing your children on the beach. That post was written with a DSLR in mind. This year, we vacationed in beautiful St Pete Beach, Florida and my DSLR came out once for sunset family portraits:

The only time my big camera left the hotel room was to capture this sunset and all ten of these crazy kids!

For the rest of the vacation, I relied on my iPhone to capture the memories OR I was actually present in the moment- no camera between me and the fun!

Should I even pack my DSLR for this vacation?

Even as a photographer, I’ve asked myself this question. I’ve learned over the years that not every trip is DSLR worthy. Before packing the camera bag, ask yourself the following questions:

Will you print these photos bigger than a 4×6?
Do you need top notch quality?
Is it worth risking sand or water damage?
Do you want portraits like the one below?

2012 Beach Portrait taken with the Canon Mark I

If you said yes, take your DSLR and pack some portrait clothing. Enjoy creating portraits on the beach that will decorate your home. But if you need 4×6 snapshots for the family album or Facebook sharing, you can use your cell phone to take fun candid photos without the stress of keeping up with equipment or getting sand in your camera when changing lenses. Cell phone pictures don’t have to be dark, hazy, or insta-filtered! Our tips will help you capture the fun of your next beach vacation so you can relive the moment through creative, colorful photographs.

Tip 1: Get a waterproof case.

Most of our beach memories are made by the water and nothing will ruin a vacation faster than dropping your cell phone into the ocean. I bought Hiearcool Universal Waterproof Case, a waterproof pouch with a lanyard, and my cell phone was always at arm’s reach to capture the moments as they happen. Full disclosure: most pictures were crystal clear but condensation inside the pouch caused some pictures to be cloudy. Cloudy pictures are still better than a waterlogged phone though!

Tip 2: Keep the sun behind you.

Avoid dark and hazy photos by keeping the sun behind you. On the East Coast, the best time to take beach photos will be in the evening. St Pete Beach is on the Gulf Coast so our best time was morning. This is most helpful for candids as most people tend to squint when asked to pose facing the sun Avoid squinting by asking people to look down then look up on the count of three.

These photos were taken seconds apart, the only difference being the position of the sun.

Tip 3: Change Your Perspective

The most uninteresting things can become interesting just by changing your perspective. Capture the fun from your child’s point of view by holding the camera at their eye level. Use a bird’s eye view for fun photos of the kids relaxing on colorful beach towels or building sandcastles.

Tip 4: Burst Mode

By holding down the shutter button, your phone can take up to 12 frames per second. This is perfect for action shots like jumping or catching a wave.

Afterwards, you can select your one favorite image or create a fun GIF like this!

Tip 5: Keep the horizon straight.

Easier said than done, keeping the horizon straight is an easy way to elevate your next beach photo. Don’t like eyeballing it? Go into your camera settings and turn on “grid” for a Rule of Thirds overlay.

Tip 6: Don’t put the horizon through your child’s head.

The horizon is a point of contrast and interest that can draw your eye away from your child’s unbelievably cute face. Try raising or lowering your camera so the horizon isn’t visible or it’s below her shoulders.

This is a portrait no-no. Unfortunately, this is an example of when expression trumps technical perfection. My samples of correct horizon placement didn’t have such a pretty smile.

Tip 7: Fill the frame by moving closer, not digital zooming.

Get closer and then take another step! Filling the frame will help minimize distractions in the backgrounds and helps your eye focus on what’s important.

Avoid using the digital zoom on your camera. It degrades the image quality.

Tip 8: Not every moment has to be spontaneous.

That sandcastle will eventually be jumped on. At some point, your child will splash you in the face. Living behind the camera waiting for these moments to happen is no way to spend your vacation. Go ahead a direct these moments. Gentle suggestions like “how flat can you smash your sandcastle?” and “What’s the biggest splash you can make?” can create fun action shots and big smiles.

Tip 9: Capture the details.

Sandcastles, favorite shells, sandy toes… Don’t forget the small stuff! You’ll miss those pudgy little fingers someday!


Don’t forget the most important part of vacation memories is being part of them! Put down the phone, let your kids bury you up to your neck in sand, build sandcastles, search for shells, and just enjoy the moments as they happen.

The Second Most Important Tip

Print your photos! A couple decades from now, your children will be talking about this vacation. Share on Facebook, backup on a hardrive but don’t forget to make a hardcopy because some day your grandkids will ask “Grandma, what the heck is a Facebook?”

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