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How to Plan the Perfect Beach Photoshoot: Ideas & Tips from a Professional Photographer

By: Christopher Todd

Award-winning Orange County photographer specializing in people with 20+ years of experience

How to Plan the Perfect Beach Photoshoot: Ideas & Tips from a Professional Photographer

By: Christopher Todd

Planning a beach photoshoot for your family? Dive into expert tips from a professional photographer to make your beach portraits unforgettable.

Table Of Contents

    Beach Photoshoot Ideas + Tips from a Professional Photographer

    Hey there! Have you ever dreamed of a beach photoshoot that captures the essence of your family's spirit and the breathtaking beauty of the ocean?

    You're in the perfect spot. As a native Southern Californian, I grew up surfing and exploring the coast at our local beaches. It was only natural for me to combine my knowledge and passion for both photography and the ocean.

    Having spent years behind the lens, specializing in beach photography, I'm thrilled to share my insider tips and tricks to help you plan the ultimate beach photoshoot. Whether you're a mom or dad looking to document those fleeting childhood moments or simply a lover of the natural beauty of a beach setting, I've got you covered.

    We'll talk about the best times to catch that soft, golden light, outfit choices that complement the vibrant beach scenery, and how to keep things fun and relaxed for genuine smiles. 

    Learn about Christopher Todd Studios' family portrait photography.

    two young girls running on beach with tidepools in background

    What To Wear For a Beach Photoshoot

    When it comes to what to wear for a beach photoshoot, comfort is key. You'll want to choose outfits that not only look good but also allow you and your family to move freely and enjoy the moment. Opting for the right color scheme can significantly enhance your photos—think soft, natural tones or pastels that complement the beach's palette without competing with it. 

    However, it's essential to consider practicality and visual appeal in your attire. This means steering clear of logos and busy patterns, which can distract from the simplicity and beauty of your surroundings.

    Formal outfits and all-white themes might have been popular in the past, but often contrast too sharply with the laid-back atmosphere of the beach, potentially making your photos feel less authentic. Please, stay away from the white t-shirt and jeans/khaki pants look or anything where everyone is wearing matching outfits. I explain more why matching outfits are not good for photos.

    pre-teen and teen girls wearing long dresses posing on the beach for photoshoot

    Beach Photoshoot Outfit Ideas for Women and Girls:

    • A Flowy Dress: Nothing captures the beach's essence like a breezy, flowy dress. It's elegant yet comfortable, perfect for those candid moments by the sea.
    • A Long Solid Color Skirt and Top: This combination is timeless and photographs beautifully, especially in natural, soft colors that reflect the beach's palette.
    • Solid-Colored Pants and Sweater: Ideal for cooler days or sunset shoots, this combo brings a touch of sophistication to your beach photos.

    Where to Shop For Moms: Bohme, Zara, Gap, Target, Amazon. Search: Pattern dress, tulle skirt, knit sweater, flared pants, woven top. Girls: Zara, Old Navy, Rylee + Cru, Target  Search: maxi dress, tulle skirt, tuckable sweater.

    Pro Tip: Avoid tank tops, low-cut blouses, and tight skirts above the knee as they may not translate as well in the natural, relaxed beach setting.

    brothers wearing khakis and white pants standing on the beach posing for beach photoshoot

    Beach Photo Outfit Ideas for Men and Boys:

    • Chino Pants: A great choice for a more polished look, chino pants work well with the beach's casual yet picturesque environment.
    • Button-up Short Sleeve Shirt: This adds a touch of smart casual to your photos.
    • Henley Shirt: Offers a relaxed but put-together look, perfect for capturing the laid-back vibe of the beach.
    • Chino Shorts for Boys: Keeping it casual and comfortable for the little ones, chino shorts are both practical and stylish for a day at the beach.

    Where to Shop For Dads: Zara, Target, Kohl's, Amazon, Old Navy. Search: Chino pants, dark wash jeans, crew neck sweater, henley top, button-up top. Boys: Zara, Target, Kohl's, Amazon, Old Navy. Search: Henley, button-up, flannel, khaki pants.

    Opting for comfortable, appropriate beach attire allows for genuine moments to unfold naturally, ensuring your photoshoot is an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

    family of 6 couples holding hands walking on the beach during sunset for beach photo shoot

    Best Colors to Wear for Beach Photos

    When planning the outfits for your beach session, picking the right color scheme is as crucial as the location and timing. The hues you choose can either complement the stunning beach backdrop or, if not thought out well, can clash with the natural surroundings. To ensure your photos look harmonious and visually appealing, let's dive into the best colors to wear for that dreamy beach photoshoot.

    Bright Colors: A pop of bright color can truly make your photos stand out. Think vibrant blues, lively corals, or even radiant yellows. These shades are fantastic against the blue sea and sky, bringing a lively and energetic vibe to your photos. However, it's important to balance bright colors with more subdued tones to avoid overwhelming the scene. these colors should be used as accent colors to your outfits.

    Muted Colors: Soft, muted colors blend beautifully with the beach's natural palette, creating an effortlessly chic and cohesive look. Colors like sage green, dusty blue, and lavender work wonders by echoing the hues of the sea, sky, and sand. They add a touch of elegance and subtlety to your photos, ensuring that the focus remains on your family's interactions and expressions.

    Natural Colors: Embracing natural colors is a foolproof approach to ensure your beach photos look timeless. Shades of beige, tan, and soft whites mirror the sandy beaches, while navy and soft grays can reflect the colors of the ocean and rocks. These colors not only complement the beach setting but also contribute to a relaxed and serene vibe in your photos.

    Pro Tip: Incorporating patterns can add depth and texture to your photos, but be mindful of their scale. Mix smaller patterns with larger ones and solid colors to avoid a busy or chaotic appearance.

    Beach Color Scheme Example
    Beach Color Pallete For Outfit Planning
    young family with boy and girl posing on the beach for portrait

    Coordinate Colors During Your Family Session 

    To get the best cohesive look for the entire family, coordinate colors and outfits based on a color scheme. A good rule of thumb is for every pattern be sure there are two solids. So for example if mom is wearing a dress with a simple pattern have dad and child #1 wear a solid color outfit. This not only adds depth to your photographs but also celebrates the uniqueness of each family member.

    Creating a Cohesive Look for Family Beach Outfits:

    When planning your family's beach picture outfits, think about creating a visually pleasing look that reflects each family member's personality while maintaining a unified theme.

    Choosing a few key colors and incorporating them into each person's outfit can significantly impact the overall aesthetic of your photos. For example, selecting shades of blue, white, and tan can mimic the beach's natural colors, creating a harmonious and balanced look.

    Beach Couple Outfits:

    For couples, coordinating outfits can add an extra layer of intimacy and connection to your photos. Think of complementary colors and styles that reflect both your personalities and the romantic setting. Whether it's matching linen shirts or coordinating color palettes, what matters most is capturing the love and bond you share.

    Remember, the goal is to complement the beach's natural beauty without competing with it. Comfort, style, and a touch of personal flair are key to creating memorable beach photoshoot outfits that will make your pictures shine.

    Older couple holding hands walking in low tide wearing cardigan sweater
    engaged couple embracing during beach photos shoot

    When To Plan a Beach Photoshoot

    When you start planning your beach photoshoot consider a few key factors. Start with the time of year, time of day, and month you want your photos taken. If you are planning your photo session while on vacation you might be limited to a specific day or month. In this case, be sure to know the best time of day. If you live near the beach and are more flexible, knowing when the peak seasons and the busiest times are can help avoid crowdedness when taking photos. 

    Choosing the ideal moment for your beach photoshoot can truly elevate the experience and the outcome of your portraits. While the golden hour, remains a favorite for photographers, there's more to consider for that impeccable shot. Early mornings at sunrise not only promise cooler temperatures and fewer people but also offer a soft, gentle light that brings out the best in your family's expressions and the surrounding landscape.

    But what about those not-so-sunny days? Overcast skies can be a hidden blessing, providing a natural softbox effect that ensures even lighting, avoiding harsh shadows, and flattering everyone in the frame. And let's talk about the breeze—while a strong wind might seem challenging, it can add movement and life to your shots, capturing the free-spirited essence of beach life.

    If you are timing your photo session with a beach vacation, timing is everything. To dodge the crowds and enjoy a bit more intimacy, opting for a morning shoot midweek can be your best bet. The beach is naturally quieter outside of the weekend rush and peak holiday periods like summer and spring break. 

    Remember, each part of the day brings its own unique light and mood to your photoshoot. Whether it’s the calm clarity of morning light or the dramatic hues of an evening sky, the best time is when you can capture the essence of your family amidst the natural beauty of the beach, creating memories that last a lifetime.

    laguna beach bluff pathway on a clear blue sky day

    6 Steps on How to Plan for a Beach Photoshoot

    If you have decided you want photos at the beach it is never too early to start planning your beach photo shoot. Let’s dive a little deeper into the planning process. The checklist below is intended to help make the planning process less stressful and easier. 

    1. Decide on a location. This might take some time and research or you can see our location guide for our favorite beaches. If you are not familiar with the area ask a photographer what they would recommend. If you are familiar with the local beaches be sure to pick a location that is good for photography. You will also want to consider accessibility to the location, scenery, parking, permits, and time of year. I will go into more detail on these below. If you know you will hire a photographer choose a date and time and coordinate with them.
    2. Choose a date and time: Keep the time of year and sunsets in mind when planning. Here in Southern California, we have nice weather all year round. Although it is cooler in the winter, the sunsets are beautiful; if you are lucky, the weather will be warm and the sun will shine. Spring and summer time tend to be busier with tourists enjoying the beaches.
    3. Always check the tide: Some places we love to shoot at are not accessible during high tide. The tide can affect the time you choose for photos. Some local beaches go underwater during high tide making it impossible to walk on the beach. As well as dangerous. I always check the tidal charts during our planning call to make sure the date and time work with Mother Nature.
    4. Know where to park: Once you have chosen your beach photoshoot location figure out the parking logistics ahead of time to avoid unnecessary stressful moments. Some beach towns only have street parking, while others like Huntington Beach have both paid parking lots, meter parking, and free parking in certain areas. If your photoshoot involves multiple family members or small children it can be worth going for the paid parking for convenience and logistics over free parking. Which might lead to a long walk to the meeting point with your photographer. 
    5. Directions: One of the many benefits of hiring a photographer is they will provide you with exact directions and parking details beforehand. This will help ensure you have a nice start to your photoshoot. 
    6. Arrange permits if needed: It is important to know which beaches require permission to get professional photographs on. Some locations like Laguna Beach require a photography permit. This can easily be arranged. 

    Pro Tip: If you plan on bringing your fur baby make sure ahead of time if dogs are allowed on the beach and whether they need to be on a leash. 

    surprise engagement marriage proposal of couple at the beach holding champagne flutes

    Ideas for Beach Photoshoot Poses


    1. The Classic Hand-Holding Line: Have the family hold hands in a line parallel to the waves, with the camera capturing you from a slight angle. This pose not only emphasizes unity but also takes advantage of the beach's expansive horizon.

    2. Walking Along the Shore: Capture the family walking towards or away from the camera along the water's edge. This candid moment can reflect movement and natural interactions, perfect for a more relaxed and genuine feel.

    3. Parents Embracing Children: This pose is great for capturing close-up expressions and the warmth of your family's bond.

    Fun Family Beach Poses:

    1. Jumping Shots: Time a jump where everyone leaps up from the sand at the same time. These shots are full of energy and joy, often resulting in genuine smiles and laughter.

    2. Piggyback Rides: Perfect for families with small children, piggyback poses add a dynamic and playful element to your beach photoshoot.

    Family of four embracing young daughters at the beach

    Beach Photoshoot Ideas for Couples Sessions

    Beach Couple Poses:

    1. Walking Hand-in-Hand: Start with a simple yet romantic shot of you both walking along the shoreline, hand in hand. This pose captures movement and a sense of adventure.

    2. The Forehead Kiss: For a tender and intimate moment, share a forehead kiss. This pose is great for close-up shots that emphasize connection.

    Engagement Picture & Session Ideas:

    1. The Surprise Moment: If planning a surprise proposal, coordinate with your photographer to capture the moment of the proposal candidly, ensuring those genuine reactions are beautifully documented.
    2. Use Props: Incorporate the engagement ring as a prop in your photos. A close-up shot of the ring on a seashell or in the sand can add a unique touch to your engagement session.
    3. Sunset Silhouettes: Utilize the stunning colors of a beach sunset to silhouette your engagement pose, adding drama and romance to your photos.

    Beach Couple Photoshoot:

    1. Dance on the Beach: Share a dance on the shoreline. This movement can capture your harmony as a couple and the playful side of your relationship.
    2. Reflections in the Water: Look for tidal pools or calm waters to capture reflections. This can create a dreamy, romantic effect, doubling the beauty of the moment.
    newly engaged couple looking at each other during sunset photo at the beach
    couple walking on the sand during low tide

    What Shoes To Bring For a Beach Photoshoot

    When it comes to deciding which shoes to bring for a beach photoshoot, the secret to capturing that effortless, laid-back, beach vibe is quite simple: ditch the shoes! Picture the soft sand between your toes, the waves brushing against your feet - that's the quintessential beach look we're aiming for. Now, I get it, not everyone is keen on going barefoot, and that's perfectly okay!

    I've noticed that dads and granddads might be the ones who need a little extra nudge to part with their shoes. But from my experience behind the camera, families look their best and most cohesive when everyone's enjoying the beach as it's meant to be enjoyed - shoeless! The photos genuinely turn out better when everyone is barefoot.

    Casual beach footwear:

    • Flats
    • Sandals 
    • Slip-ons
    • Flip-flops

    If you're more comfortable keeping your feet covered, opt for something casual. Be sure the footwear is easy to kick off when it's photo time.

    Footwear to Avoid: 

    • High heels
    • Boots
    • Dress shoes

    This shoe style just doesn't flow at the beach. They can stick out like a sore thumb in what should be a relaxed and natural setting.

    couple wearing black standing on tide pools during dramatic sunset

    What To Bring for a Beach Photoshoot

    We've all been to the beach and overpacked. My suggestion for family photos at the beach is to keep it minimal. The less stuff you bring the more enjoyable your experience will be. Because many beach photoshoots involve walking and using various backgrounds I recommend not bringing valuables. 

    Bring a beach bag to put shoes in, keys, phones, sunglasses, etc. It's okay to bring a blanket or beach towel, however, it will most likely not be used in the photo. But rather as a place to sit and take shoes off. 

    Since there is usually nowhere to change while down at the beach, I don't recommend a change of clothes unless it's for small children as a backup. If you do want to bring a change of clothes for adults or teens, leave it in the car. One reason someone might want multiple outfits as a backup is if their clothes get wet from the waves. I steer families away from the water until the end of the session for this very reason. So if they get wet at the end it's okay and can even make for a fun photograph. 

    Pro Tip: Remove sunglasses before the photo session begins. This allows your eyes to adjust to the light as it's typically bright at the beach.

    couple standing on rocks at beach during engagement photos

    Benefits of Hiring a Professional Beach Photographer

    Opting for a professional photographer for your beach session isn’t just about getting high-quality photos—it’s about crafting an experience that turns into treasured memories. When you hire a pro, you're not just paying for someone who knows how to take good beach pictures, you also get:

    • An expert who brings a wealth of knowledge in posing and composition, ensuring everyone looks their best in the frame.
    • A guided experience from start to finish.
    • Facial expression experts and masters of posing techniques.
    • A great experience, making it enjoyable, stress-free, and memorable for everyone involved.

    A professional photographer knows how to capture those spontaneous smiles and authentic moments that really tell the story of your family. Whether it's coaxing a genuine grin from a shy toddler or capturing the perfect candid laugh, they've got the skills to make it happen.

    Moreover, a pro photographer knows the beach inside out. They have the scoop on the best spots and backdrops, away from the usual crowded areas, ensuring your photoshoot has a beautiful, serene setting. They're also great at handling the logistics, providing clear instructions on where to park, where to meet up, and how to get to the selected beach spot without any fuss. This inside knowledge means you spend less time worrying about the details and more time enjoying the moment.

    Mom and dad and young boy walking on beach holding hands for beach portraits

    A Simple Explanation Of A Color Wheel

    Use helpful tools like a color wheel, or an outfit planning app. Familiarizing with a color wheel or how a color scheme works will help make coordinating outfits easier. Let's start with the best colors for the beach neutral, pastels, and muted blues and greens.

    • It is a circular diagram of colors arranged by their chromatic relationship.
    • It is a visual tool that helps artists, designers, and anyone working with colors understand how different hues relate to one another.
    • The color wheel is based on color theory, which explores the relationships between colors and the visual effects of these relationships.
    Color Wheel Warm Cool Example
    Play Video


    Some of our most frequently asked questions about planning a beach photoshoot

    Have more questions? Get in touch with us to start planning your family portrait today.

    Meet Your Beach Photographer

    Call Me Chris

    I won't bore you with too many details, but I will say that I consider myself to be the luckiest guy in the world and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to merge my passion and career.

    A couple of quick things about me personally. I was born and raised in Orange County. I currently live with my family near Huntington Beach where I love to surf or be in the ocean with my boys.

    My passions include art, traveling, and of course photography.

    Male photographer holding camera.

    Meet Your Beach Photographer

    Male photographer holding camera.

    Call Me Chris

    I won't bore you with too many details, but I will say that I consider myself to be the luckiest guy in the world and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to merge my passion and career.

    A couple of quick things about me personally. I was born and raised in Orange County. I currently live with my family near Huntington Beach where I love to surf or be in the ocean with my boys.

    My passions include art, traveling, and of course photography.

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