{Beach Vacation Photography Tips}

All of this HOT Virginia weather has me counting down days until our annual trip down the the OBX! And, of course, I love taking 9000 photos every time we go. Let’s be honest… a good beach sunset never gets old!

I’ve got some tips for getting GREAT beach photos on your next trip to the beach too! Every single photo in the post was taken with my iPhone. I do love taking my “real” camera down in the evenings and getting some nice photos of the kids on our trips but a “real” camera is not required for great family vacation photos! The quickest way to make a photographer a little crazy is to say “that’s a nice camera!” You’d never tell a baker they have a great oven! All of that to say, don’t think you can’t get some good shots if you’ve “only” got your phone. It just takes a little practice and a willingness to see the world around you with a different eye.

Let’s dive in!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Most folks spend their time on the beach during the middle part of the day which can be great for cooling off in the water and flying kites but a little tricky for photos. It gets bright on the beach! If you’re shooting in the brightest part of the day, try to keep the sun from shining right in your subject’s eyes. Try to get your light to come off to one side so you don’t get squinty faces or super hazy photos when shooting into the sun. Also, get creative and make your own shade! Have your kiddos stand in the shadow created by an umbrella or tent. Use your own body as a shade if your kiddos are crouched down building sandcastles.

Once in awhile you’ll get lucky and a unicorn moment will come along and you’ll have a brief moment of cloud cover. Take advantage of that!! The photos of the boys were on a super bright day but a cloud moved in for just a minute so I hopped up and snapped a few photos quickly. You can even see in the photo of both of them the sun starting to move back across the sand.

Bonus Beach Tip: Always fill your holes back in at the beach and never dig too deep! Holes are extremely dangerous to people AND sea turtles!

Can you tell we love a good kite day?

My favorite beach light is evening beach light. These two of Cam and Granddaddy were taken just moments apart but have totally different looks. The sun sets over the dunes and right after Golden Hour, lovely blue light is everywhere! In the photo on the left, the sun is behind me and evenly lights them with a soft light. The photo on the right has the sun in front of me and off to the right. You get the awesome clouds, warmer light, and a less busy background with a little bit more shadow on their faces.

My must have app

Lightroom is my favorite app on my phone so I’d highly encourage you to download it! It’s FREE! If you’ve edited any photos with the built in editor on your phone, you’ll be able to figure out the basics of LR too with a little practice. For me, I like increasing exposure and shadows, boosting contrast just a tad, decreasing highlights and blacks just a smidge, and warming up the colors if needed. The best part? Once you get a look you love, you can save it as a preset and apply it all of your photos! Saving time and getting consistently gorgeous photos? Yes please!

Get Creative!

Vacations are about having fun (right?!) so have some fun with your photos too! Here are three fun things to try on your next beach trip!

Flip it!

I’m all about seeing things from a new perspective so try flipping your camera upside down and getting low! I have so many fun shots like this of shells and wet sand and that beautiful warm beach light. Fair warning, it might be good to have someone watching the waves for you so you don’t get a surprise wet behind. Works best if that someone isn’t your super curious pup!


Who said panoramas had to be horizontal!? If you’ve been here for more than five minutes you know my favorite four words: The sky is pretty. Flip your camera to the side and start your panorama towards the sand and pan UP! You can see these two photos were taken of the same sky and the one on the right is slightly skinnier but shows more of the pretty purple and blue sky.


This is one of my favorite, most epic beach photos EVER. It was taken on an ancient iPhone 7 roughly 150 million years ago and look how awesome it is! I had the kids stand higher than me up on a dune (we were at Jockey’s Ridge here) and then I exposed for the sky so they’d be dark and the sky would be the right color. To do that with your iPhone, just touch on the screen on the brightest part of the sky. The subjects will get dark and the sky will be just right! You can also bring down your blacks and shadows in Lightroom too to really make it pop. Bonus points if Granddaddy photobombs your picture with his kite!

Get out there and have fun with your beach photos this summer! Take a million photos and practice practice practice! And never pass up the opportunity to take a picture of a pretty sky.

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