destin family photography

How to Prepare for Your Beach Portrait Session – All-in-One Guide

This San Destin beach photo epitomizes my love for family beach photography!

Many people ask me about what to do and how to prepare for their Destin beach portrait sessions.  

As a prospective client, preparation is key for you to maximize your experience.  Every Destin FL photographer will tell you the same thing!

So how do you prepare?  What do we do during the session?  

Let’s break it down:

  • Figuring out a location
  • What to wear
  • Hair and makeup
  • Practice posing
  • Bring a prop!
  • Arrive early
  • Tips during your session
  • All about kids


We are in the initial stages of preparing for our Destin beach picture session.  The first thing we need to discuss is the location.

There are MANY beaches along the stretch of Highway 98.  For example, you have Crystal Beach that is south of the Destin Commons.  There is a public beach access point there that we can use to get to the beach. 

Further west in Walton County, you have Miramar beach.  Miramar beach has a larger public beach access point but is much more congested.  Sunrise and sunset sessions (ideal anyway!) are the best times to capture photos there.  

Want to lessen the burden of beach congestion and parking hassles?  Henderson Beach State Park is a paid access beach park with exceptional amenities like trailer hook-up and a nature walk.  This location is one of my absolute favorites.

These are just some examples, check out 5 amazing locations to take pictures near Destin, FL for more awesome ideas!  In the end, make sure you choose a location that will allow you to realize your vision.

Sea Oats Motel Photography projectThis is a portion of the facebook promotion project for Sea Oats Motel and Management Company in Destin, Florida.

Crystal Beach is just one of many gorgeous beaches to photograph on in Destin, FL.

What to Wear

This is definitely a hot topic!  People ask me all the time what to wear for a beach portrait session.

So, what do you wear?

This is something that is very important for your session.  If you wear jeans and T-shirt’s it will look different than if you wear nice color-coordinated clothing.  You can wear any clothing you like but most clients prefer to look their best and coordinate clothing so that your images will be appealing to look at. 

  • Try to color coordinate as a family.  Earthy tones and blue colors like aqua, sapphire, and cerulean look great at the beach.  For reunion images, I like to have each family wear a different color variation so that each family stands out in their own way. 
  • You can dress casual or fancy, just make sure everyone is on the same page.  
  • Some families like to bring an outfit change. Outfit changes are not ideal on the beach because it is a long walk to get to a bathroom to change and walk back.  Keep in mind that we are limited on time due to lighting circumstances. 
  • Wear something unique!  Throw on some jewelry or accessories to compliment your look.
  • If you are getting maternity photos, long dresses or dresses with sashes or trains are gorgeous and exhibit exceptional character.
  • Wear something comfortable! We will be walking around and getting into position often. Avoid short skirts because those will limit our available poses.
  • Also if you have tan lines make sure to wear something to cover them up if you do not want them shown in pictures. 
  • Also, if you are unsure of what to where I would be happy to Skype call so that we can go over attire choices. 

Bonus Tip: This may be obvious, but avoid getting in the water before the shoot.  You don’t want to ruin your clothes!

Family at the beach | Destin photographer
close family portrait

This family did a wonderful job coordinating their colors.  They didn’t wear the same outfits, but showcasing similar styles and colors really makes it pop.  Blue is definitely one of my favorites colors to capture on the beach.

Hair and Make-up

Some of my absolute favorite photography clients got their hair and make-up done.  

You may not realize this, but it can get windy on the beach!  If you don’t at least have some hair product in, your hair could be all over the place.  Your best bet is to try to get your hair done before you head out for a photo shoot.  Plus, you will look absolutely stunning!  When you look at your pictures years later, you will be glad you took the extra time.

Make-up just adds to the stunning factor.  Put on some make-up! Dress like a celebrity!  You will be glad you did.

Who would you recommend for a hair and makeup artist?

Mary Lee is a fantastic hair and make-up artist and even travels to your location!  When you are on vacation, I know the last thing you want to do is travel somewhere to get your hair and make-up done.

Dune-Family-Beach-PortraitBeautiful Family Portrait

This family definitely prepared beforehand!  Guys’ hair fixed and girls’ hair protected from the wind with product.  The last thing you want is your hair flying in the wind during a shoot!

Practice Posing

“Wait, what?  But that’s YOUR job!”

Well yes, I will be pointing out poses and ideas for you when you arrive but feel free to practice ahead of time. Some clients have better “sides” or “angles” that they like better.  Let me know some poses you want to do- poses that reflect your identity as a person – and we will capture them.  

When you pose, act natural, have fun, and relax!  The more you practice posing beforehand, the less anxious you will be during our session.  Sometimes the best moments are when you are walking around, just being yourself.  Let me know and we can do that!

I want your picture session to be more than just capturing memories – I want you to enjoy the experience itself!

Stunning-Family-Beach-PortraitElegant family beach portrait in Dunes

Some of the best photos are when you and your family are just being yourselves.  Relax and have fun!

Bring a Prop!

There are so many amazing things we can do to enrich your beach portrait session.  One of those is to bring a prop!  I also have props I can bring, like sailboats, stools, and chairs.  Bring a blanket if you would prefer not to sit in the sand.

Doing a gender reveal?  Bring a prop or let me know some of your ideas.  Balloons are an example of something tried and true.

Have kids?  Props work especially well with them.  

High School Senior?  Props are very popular with this crowd! 

Pick something that tells me who you are and defines you.  An amazing prop isn’t really about the prop – it’s about what the prop means to you. It can be difficult to integrate a prop into a shoot sometimes without it being slightly unnatural so feeling helps sell it.  Heck, bring a couch!  Or a chalkboard, etc! 

If you do find something awesome, try doing something different with it.  For example, are you a high school senior and you want to wear a letter jacket?  Most people do that.  Try draping it over your shoulder instead.  Simple, but different!

baby sitting in boat on destin beach

The right prop can do wonders for your photos.  So cute!

Arrive Early

Arriving early is so important.  

If we are doing a sunset beach session, we have limited time to organize and take pictures before we start to run out of light.  This is especially true with a larger group.  We want to incorporate all members of the group to as many shots as possible and an early arrival will be the most reliable way to facilitate this.

Another consideration – bad traffic!  If you have ever been to Destin, then you know that traffic on Highway 98 can be absurd.  Especially during the summer around 5 PM.  

Personally, I try to arrive early so I can set up my gear, get a read for the weather and wind, and discover good angles to photograph at based on available light.

All About Kids

Children bring interesting challenges to a photo shoot.  But not to worry!  Here are some tips for preparing for a beach portrait session with kids:

  • Does your child wear diapers?  Throw some bloomers on!
  • Having children take a nap prior to the shoot will work wonders for their longevity through the shoot.
  • Avoid having the kids consume too much sugar prior to the shoot.  Most kids have enough energy already.
  • Clean, manicured children have the best pictures.  Make sure they are groomed and ready!
  • We will try to get pictures of the kids first before they become too disinterested.  Also, this includes posed shots, too.  It is much easier to capture poses towards the beginning of the session.  My favorite pictures of children are candid, however.  Once the posed shots are out of the way, candid shots are a breeze.
  • If you have an infant, we can arrange your session based on your baby’s nap time.
  • Some kids really like to play in the sand.  If you know your child has this infatuation, we can bring a basket or something for them to sit on.
  • Have fun with your kids!  Snuggle with them or tell jokes.  This helps them relax and open up for the picture.


Following the tips above improves our chances of getting excellent pictures of the children – like this one!

General Session Tips

Once the session begins, there are some things we can do to ensure that it goes smoothly and timely.

  • Communicate with me any poses or shots you are interested in either before or at the beginning of the shoot so we can make time for them.
  • If you want to get some shots in the water, awesome!  But avoid getting wet until the end when we get to that point.  
  • If you wear glasses, either remove them or remove the lens if possible.  Otherwise, the flash will introduce glare from the lens.
  • Relax, have fun, be real, and love each other.  Those four ingredients form the recipe to the perfect picture.
  • Try to book your session towards the beginning of your vacation so that you minimize the possibility of getting sunburned.  Ouch!
  • If it looks like it might rain, we can reschedule.  This is another great reason to book your session towards the start of your vacation.  If we cannot reschedule, you will receive a refund.
  • Avoid saying “Cheese!”  We can use other methods to draw out smiles.  Unfortunately, “Cheese!” can occasionally bring out artificial smiles.
  • You don’t always have to look at the camera.  There are many awesome possibilities by simply being yourself.  Look at your family, do something fun together (like an activity), or run off into the sunset.  There are endless options!


Families that have fun together, take GREAT pictures together!

I know there are quite a few tips to keep in mind.  But remember, these tips are to help you get the very best photography experience.  I want you to look back and treasure the time you spent together as a family and cherish your photos forever.

If you know of any other tips I didn’t mention, feel free to comment them below!

If you would like to learn more, feel free to contact me.  

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *