San Diego Beach Photography: 100 Tips for Perfect Family Portraits (Best Ideas Plus Checklist)


Whether you are using a smartphone, point-and-shoot or DSLR camera, beginner or professional photographer, these tips will work and will make your beach photography go much easier.

 San Diego Beach Photography Tips for Family Portraits Ideas

Advanced topics for professional photographers are marked as “PRO ADVICE”.

First, I’ll share tips to overcome the challenges with beach photography.

We will cover how to pick the right beach location, consider the right time (golden hour), cover ideas to get the perfect shot, equipment and safety on the beach.

Then, you can leverage my “Beach Photography Checklist” and you will never miss a perfect shot. I manage all my photography checklists in Checklist+ app, I’ll show you how to manage your checklist on your smartphone.

Selecting the Right San Diego Beach

San Diego has the most beautiful beaches for photography, just pack your camera and go … to any beach! Beaches have personalities, walk around and look for the right spot you like.

Scout the beach to find the perfect location for the photography session, walk up and down the beach and take a few sample shots so you can evaluate with your client, and decide on the location first.

Look for anything that gives you variety, avoids busy spots.

If you have someone with you, take sample shots so you can remember the composition.

Favorite Beach Locations in San Diego for Family Photography:

1. Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach has picture-perfect sandy beaches, just perfect for family, couples or kids to play along on a sandy beach and for you take photos.

2. Hotel Del Coronado

In front of Hotel Del Coronado, you can find some tide-pools for kids to play in next to the rocks. Sunsets are incredible – this beach just whispers … “come take pictures of me”.

 San Diego Beach Photographer Tips for Family Portraits Coronado Beach

Check Out: Coronado Family Photography: Timeless Children Styling

3. Del Mar Beach

Del Mar Beach is an amazing place for beach photography, with an added benefit of dog-friendly beach “Dog’s Beach” at the north end of Del Mar. This is a unique beach for many beach activities.

4. Solana Beach

Solana Beach has cliffs that can pose as an amazing backdrop. Lot’s of great secluded areas which you can use for your photography sessions.

 San Diego Beach Photography Del Mar Tips for Family Portraits Children Ideas

5. Cardiff By the Sea

Cardiff By The Sea has great long sandy beaches – great for beach photography on the low tide, with beautiful tide pools.

6. Encinitas

White sandy beaches, beautiful bluffs has a number of amazing spots to take beach photography. Moonlight beach has easy access from parking lot.

View Behind the Scenes: Encinitas Beach Photography at Swami’s State Beach

7. Carlsbad

Carlsbad beaches have easy access and for photography, it offers sections of small beaches, interesting bluffs, where you can find your own spot for a photography session.

8. Oceanside

Oceanside has one of the longest piers on the West Coast and it offers beautiful sandy beaches.

9. North Country San Diego

North County San Diego offers less crowded sandy beaches, with many state parks operating pristine beaches with access to restrooms. Few beaches have beautiful tide pools.

 San Diego Family Photography Tips for Beach Portraits Baby Ideas

10. Torrey Pines State Beach

Torrey Pines State Beach has a dramatic bluff and long sandy beaches. You will get some unforgettable scenes. Some picture perfect spots are harder to reach.

11. La Jolla Beach

La Jolla Beaches offers some incredible beaches with beautiful scenery. For photography, they offer amazing backgrounds with rock formations, tide pools, and waves. Consider Windandsea beach, La Jolla Children’s Pool, La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores – they are all beautiful, but during tourist season the best photography sites can get busy.

Session in La Jolla: Fun Session – Family Photography in La Jolla and Solana Beach

12. Pacific Beach

The North side of Pacific Beach offers great variety.

13. Mission Beach

Mission Beach beautiful sandy beaches, with bluffs and lots of fun in the sand.

14. Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach offers sandy beaches and a nice variety of bluffs and greens.

15. Point Loma

Point Loma you can pick any spot along the Sunset Drive. Some beaches are harder to access but you can get those perfect sunset shots from the top of the bluffs.

 San Diego Beach Photography Tips for Family Portraits  Ideas

17. Cabrillo National Park

Cabrillo National Park has limited access, so check the hours of operation before you go. Offers a spectacle of rock formations, and there are waves on the west side that offer a more raw feeling.

 San Diego Family Beach Photography Tips for Portraits Photos Ideas

18. Check the Tides

High tide may prevent access to the beach. It makes a world of difference if the tide is high or low on some beaches. Scout the beach before you decide on the session. Make sure you visit the beach on the high tide, and on the low tide.

 San Diego Family Beach Photography Tips for Portraits Photos

19. Get a tide watch

I use NIXON LODOWN – it’s waterproof and I always know my tides in San Diego.  It is also a great watch for any surfer out there!

What you are looking for is the contrast between the wet sand, dry sand, or having sand at all.

Some beaches on high tide fully cover the sandy part of the beach, not leaving you space to take photos.

On some beaches, you may time specifically low tide for exposed reefs, or tide height that enables families ankle high water to play in.

 San Diego Beach Photography Tips for Family Portraits Ideas

20. Sandy Beaches

Over time you will develop a preference for the style of photography, sandy beaches are just much easier and safer for family portraits.

21. Reefs offer variety

Reefs offer a dimension, great variety that can add drama to your photography, but they can be slippery walking over them. Check the tides before scheduling – reefs get more exposure on low tide.

22. Morning fog, evening fog .. any fog adds drama

I found that some of the morning fog rolling in (if caught right) can add gorgeous backdrop.

23. Sand Dunes are perfect

They are perfect to hide busy backdrops (cars, streets, other people on the beach), or just to add variety. They also offer protection from the wind, or shade during the bright sunny day.

24. Ice Plants can compliment clothing

Look for green patches to complement the clothing, or to add variety to your pictures.

Explore my portfolio: Family Photography Portfolio

 San Diego Beach Photographer Tips for Family Portraits Coronado Beach

25. San Diego Piers

They can be used as a shadow during bright days. An added option is a shoot right under the pier looking out to the sea.

26. Bluffs

Use bluffs for shadows where you can position your subject – and they give you wonderful warm colors and variety.

27. Directions and Driving

Load the address to the beach on your smartphone before you leave the house, and check if there is any traffic you can avoid.

I am in North County, which means if I have to go to any beach that is south of North County, I will have to leave before 3 PM to avoid traffic.

28. Arrival and setup time, you will underestimate it at first.

Allow ample time to get set up, walk to the beach, or park and have a memorable session.

In summer, our beaches get crowded, parking can be tough, and scouting can take longer than you thought. Or find beaches that are just less crowded.

29. Get an annual day use pass for California State Parks.

As of this writing, the California Explorer Annual Day Use Pass cost is $195, but it is a lot cheaper than buying a $10 pass each time you visit. After 20 visits to your favorite state park, it starts paying off AND you don’t need to deal with the hassle of buying a parking pass.

Remember to place it on your rear-view mirror, if you forget, you will get a ticket for $75 – I know, I forgot.

30. Walking to the beach …

Some of our beaches require for you to walk along some path, some access is straightforward.

Walking up to the beach can be just as interesting for portrait photography, add it to tell a story.

31. When you arrive, watch the waves for 5 minutes before you start shooting.

This is critical! The waves arrive in sets and if you immediately go to the beach the sea may be calm, but in few minutes a large set of waves can come and splash you, your equipment, or people in the picture.

 San Diego Family Photography Tips for Beach Portraits Ideas

32. Natural smiles are when people are doing natural things.

If you have an activity for family or children they love to do together, bring them and let them enjoy. Ask them to bring surfboards, beach balls, pulling a rope, kayaking anything they do on the beach.

When you catch people doing what they love, the photograph will be natural.

33. Message in the sand

Draw something in the sand .. heart, name. My boyfriend took a picture of a heart with my name in it on the beach during his surf trip in Fiji – and now he is my husband …

 San Diego Family Photography Tips for Beach Portraits Children Ideas

34. Beach pebbles are perfect for shapes.

My daughter loves to collect rocks, to form all kinds of shapes – heart.

35. Kids love to show you the things they find on the beach.

See if you find something interesting on the beach that kids find interesting and can hold. Sea-shells in the hands of the baby is a fun way to connect with them.

Pay close attention to them not to grab protected animals.

 San Diego Family Photography Tips for Beach Portraits Ideas La Jolla Reef

36. With or without shoes

It’s up to the people you photograph, but barefoot is just natural – and it feels good.

Direct contact of your feet with sand and sea can also be extremely relaxing.

37. Small hills are perfect …

Find a sandy hill on the beach and have someone jump off, slide off, run down.

38. Create a perfect mood with music.

Bring music to the beach, I use the Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker to create a mood or in some cases for dancing.

39. I get this question all the time: When is the best time to take pictures at the beach?

Golden Hour is known among photographers for its special warm light qualities. The effects of the golden light present on the subject, the landscape, the sky and over the sea enables myriad of creative possibilities.

The best time to take beach portraits is about an hour before the sunset.

We don’t have a name for the morning photography (Rising Hour is what I call it), but that first hour after the sunrise is equally amazing!

The color effects, with the sun rising over the San Diego beach bluffs offer some great opportunities for those who rise early.

 San Diego Family Photography Golden Hour La Jolla Tips for Beach Portraits

40. Bring a flash, but not just any flash!

First and foremost, you do not need a flash!

The best shots are “natural shots” .. but if you do … not all flashes are equal. Some create a very harsh light effect that isn’t flattering for the portraits.

A flash on its own can be very harsh lighting.

50. For beach portrait photography you want to improve the quality of the light coming from the flash by using a light modifier to soften and direct the light.

A good modifier is the MAGMOD flash lighting kit.  They turn the harsh lighting of a flash into a soft and flattering look.  They offer different tools that can help shape the light.

However my favorite flash system is GODOX Ving V860II-C (this model is for Canon) it’s an amazing flash that never misses, recharges in less than 1.5 seconds, and the battery lasts for 650 full power pops. The same flash is sold by Adorama with a different name “Flashpoint Zoom R2”. Want more power, get the GODOX Witstro AD360II-C this is a 360W light that comes with a PROPAC PB960 Battery. The battery pack can also be used with your GODOX Ving V860II.

PRO ADVICE: If you can, invest into a portable strobe setup, it will really improve the quality of light for your portrait beach photography.

Depending on your budget use my favorite setup from Profoto B1 500 AirTTL Location Kit or more budget-oriented but still well performing Paul Buff Einstein™ E640 Flash Unit. I add Profoto 3′ RFi Octa Softbox as a lighting diffusion, or Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octabox 39″.

51. When should you use a flash?

When the sun is behind the subject and there just isn’t enough light anymore.

PRO ADVICE: Depends on your camera, you need to decide based on the quality of image once you have hit ISO 800 or higher if you want to use the flash. In some cases, you may just use it for a light effect.

52. No flash, no problem!

You can also use a reflector to bounce light into the subject’s face.  This helps fill in any shadows and adds a pop of light to the subject’s eyes.

PRO ADVICE: Use bracketing! Some of the better cameras have this built in – it simply takes photos with multiple exposures you can later combine in photoshop.

 San Diego Family Beach Photography Tips for Maternity Portraits Photos

53. Bright Sun

When shooting during bright sun you will experience harsh shadows.

Use a flash to fill in the shadows.

If you don’t have a flash using a circular reflector.

If you don’t have a reflector, improvise, use a white towel to reflect the light.

Another option is to just zoom in to the subject to reduce the number of harsh shadows.

54. Light Reflectors

This is simply the easiest tool to help you direct the light where you need it.

Everywhere you look there is a bit of a bounced light – a reflector will help you bounce light in a direction and intensity you can control and if done right it will have the big impact on your final images.

I use reflectors a lot for all my shoots.

There are many manufacturers who make different size and colors of reflectors.

If you are just starting out buy a set with various colors and sizes. I use either Neewer or Lastolite. Here is an inexpensive set: Neewer 43-inch / 110cm 5-in-1 Collapsible Multi-Disc Light Reflector with Bag – Translucent, Silver, Gold, White and Black

PRO ADVICE: Lastolite is one of my favorite manufactures for reflectors and backgrounds, it’s a little more pricey, but has very good quality.

 San Diego Beach Photography Tips for Family Portraits Ideas

55. Types of Reflectors: Translucent, White, Silver, Gold and Black

Most of the reflectors come with a translucent reflector and two covers that you can zip on over the translucent reflector creating four other reflector combinations.

56. Translucent Reflector

You would use the translucent reflector to soften the harsh sunlight coming in on your subject.

57. White Reflector

Then you can add the white cover to help bounce light onto your subject. This gives a nice soft light that also helps fill in the shadows on your subjects face.

58. Silver Reflector

The silver reflector bounces in the most light.  The light from the silver reflector tends to be harsher and adds more contrast.

59. Gold Reflector

The gold reflector will add warm light being reflected in. This will add a nice warm tone to the skin and scene.

60. Black Reflector

The black reflector can be used to completely block out light or make the shadows darker.

61. Using Reflectors is Easy

When using your reflectors you will have to look at your situation with lighting and decide which reflector would work the best for you.

It is a good idea to practice moving the reflector in different angles to find the right angle that bounces the most light. You can actually see this happening in your subject’s face.

You will also see a nice pop in the eyes as the reflector shows up in the subject’s eyes. It is really a great tool to add a little drama.

 San Diego Beach Photography Tips for Family Portraits Ideas

62. Challenges Using a Reflector

It can be hard to take the photo and hold the reflector so there are a few options you can consider:

  • Lean the reflector against a wall (but this might not give you the best angle for the light).
  • Have an assistant at your shoot to help hold the reflector (the best idea so you can get the angle just perfect).
  • The subject can hold the reflector on their lap if you are doing a close headshot type photograph.
  • There are special stands that will hold the reflector: Manfrotto RH353 Reflector Holder With Mini Grip Head  

I like to have the extra hands of an assistant on a photoshoot but if I am in a bind I will use my special light stand that is made to hold the reflector.

63. Watch the wind

If you bring portable flash, make sure you bring weights with your or have someone holding the flash.

Position people in the portraits into the wind so their hair isn’t blown into their faces. Constantly adjusting the hair can get annoying by clients.

I always pack hair-spray with me, for those few loose hairs that can constantly misbehave.

 Beach Photography Tips Big-Sur-Ocean-Waves-Bridge

64. After the sunset take some long exposure photos on the tripod

Have you seen those beautiful night photos on the beach? Bring a tripod, and open up the exposure – the magical number is 1 second to get a milky effect. Less than a second gives you some motion.

It will complete the story of the day on the beach.

65. “What is THE effect” that photographers look for on the beach?

Reflections! Look for wet sand shortly after the wave recedes from the beach.

Position your subjects over the fresh wet sand and watch for those perfect reflections – possibilities are endless.

Add bluffs to those reflections and you’ve got an award-winning shot.

 Beach Photography Tips Point Lobos-Carmel-By-The-Sea

66. Black and White photos adds emotion and timelessness.

As photographers, we go out of our way to capture the rainbow of colors at the beach.

With black and white filters, polarizers or presets you can add a different dimension to beach photography.

Experiment, as not all beach photos, lend themselves to black and white effect. But when they do work they are incredible.

 San Diego Beach Photographer Tips for Family Maternity Portraits Torrey Pines

67. Developing your beach photos.

I use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to develop my final images.

I try to minimize the adjustments to the images – it’s more like fine-tuning to achieve the look I want for each image.

I love the look of some of the film photography and for a long time, I was looking to replicate that look in digital. Now I have a great collection of Lightroom Presets,

You can find an endless amount of Lightroom Presets – start your collection and experiment what works for your style … and don’t overdo it …

 San Diego Family Photography Tips for Beach Portraits Ideas Pictures Twins

68. No, some things just don’t matter.

Not everyone has to smile in the picture.

The horizon line does not have to be straight.

The subject doesn’t have to be in the middle.

You don’t need an expensive camera to take great photographs.

69. What matters is Composition!

There are many books written on this subject .. bottom line. Think before you shoot!

Frame your picture when you take it. One click, one portrait, think of each time you take a photo as if you would be forced to put it on your wall and have to stare at it all day.

 San Diego Beach Photography Carlsbad Tips for Family Portraits Children Ideas

70. “Clicking away” is a bad habit.

“Click with a purpose” is a good habit.

There are some exceptions, however, when you know for example you need to take a picture a certain way to crop to square, or for a panorama photo.

The composition is above all the single most important factor that takes years to refine, to create an intuition what works and what doesn’t. It also will lead you to see a certain way – to create your brand – representing how you see the world. Just like your hand signature is unique, so will be your photography.

71. Some items on the beach just don’t fit in ..

Like trash.

Our beaches are very clean, I would call them pristine clean .. but occasionally especially after the storms, some trash may appear. During my last photo shoot, I found shoes, clothes .. you name it, washed on the beach.

Train your eye to spot trash and avoid shooting in that direction.  If you see trash pick it up and take it off the beach.  I always bring a small trash bag for wet clothes, towels and trash.

72. Turn the beach around, huh?

Most photography is taken from the beach into the ocean …

Walk into the water, but do watch the waves when you do this, take pictures towards the beach from the water. It’s a nice effect worth trying.

 San Diego Family Beach Photography Tips for Portraits Photos

73. Tricky beaches can make your picture crooked.

You will know it when you see it.

Some beaches recede quickly into the water and the angle against the horizon contradicts the person standing on it.

Compose the photo by watching the person be standing straight up – this should correct the problem .. but then again if it doesn’t, move on …

 San Diego Family Photography Tips for Beach Portraits Ideas Pictures

74. Who gets tired first …

Kids will definitely get tired of posing first … so shoot them right when they arrive on the beach with and without the family .. then let them run around. I just follow them and take simple natural shots.

75. Barter with kids to pose for a toy.

It just works, candy, bubbles, toys … or a simple promise that the sooner they are picture perfect the sooner they can play. If you bring candy to make sure you check with the parents if it is okay to give the kids a treat.

76. Getting kids attention.

If you are getting help from the parents to get the kids attention make sure you tell them to stand behind you so you can get them looking into the camera (if that is what you are after).

 San Diego Family Photography Tips for Beach Portraits Ideas Pictures

77. Don’t forget your dog

Bring your dog with you. Dogs add to the fun. If you are planning a session, always ask the family if they are going to bring a pet, then make sure the beach allows pets on the beach.

78. Some beaches are extra dog-friendly – Del Mar has a beach specially called “Dog’s beach”.

You can get the cute group shot and also get the fun running with the dog shot.

I am sure the laughter will be easy to capture too.

79. After the sunset ideas

Silhouettes are a perfect way to outline your subjects, I love to use it for pregnancy photography to follow the line in the portrait.

The sky, depending on the arrangement of clouds, can take on some amazing color effects, that are signature pieces for San Diego beach photography.

80. Lens hood will cut down your haze

… it’s just a good practice.

81. PRO ADVICE: The right UV Filter will save your lens and will not degrade your photos.

It’s just a good practice to protect your lenses against damage. I only use B+W 77mm Clear UV Haze with Multi-Resistant Coating (010M) (choose the right size for your lens) and on some wide angle lenses I use Nano – B+W 72mm XS-Pro Clear UV Haze with Multi-Resistant Nano Coating (010M). On Nano the lens cap is slightly harder to attach. B+W cost slightly more but their quality and performance is among the best. Their rings are made out of brass.

Do not buy cheap UV filters!

Do not stack filters.

Some argue, and it’s a “never-ending debate among photographers” why would you add a UV Filter to an expensive lens, doesn’t it degrade the lens?

Scientifically – Yes! I am sure some of you with a physics PhD can explain the level of degradation on each UV filter.

Practically – No – you will not see any degradation if you are using the right UV filter.

I feel a lot more relaxed handling my lenses, because I know I can easily replace a $45 UV filter if I damage the cover.

Yes, I have done a side by side tests with and without a B+W UV Haze MRC Filter – this filter will NOT degrade your photos.

 San Diego Beach Photographer Solana Beach Tips for Family Portraits

82. PRO ADVICE: Fun Filters – I use them occasionally

Polarizing Filters – will add contrast and remove polarized light. Perfect for beach photography.

Gradual Neutral Density (ND) Filters – are perfect for sunrise and sunset. Place the darker side of the filter over the sky (brighter side of the picture).

Neutral Density Filters – will help you reduce the overall light. I use a 10-stop filter to enable a longer shutter speed to give you rich colors.

Black and White Filters – sure you can post process and get a similar effect and there are many beautiful presets I use to convert my photography into black and white. I still like to experiment.

83. PRO ADVICE: I use a light meter – ALWAYS

Measure the light on the subject to get the best results. I don’t care what exposure intelligence do camera manufacturers trying to promote in the camera (in mine it’s currently 63 metering zones and 61 AF points – I am sure each year the manufacturers will double these numbers) – and yes they help, but if you really want to get your portraits right – get a light meter.

I use Sekonic L-758DR-U DigitalMaster and L-478DR-U LIteMaster Pro (for PocketWizard) – both are extremely reliable and accurate.

Why? You are measuring the light on the subject! It’s just a good practice to get the light right.

 San Diego Family Photography Golden Hour La Jolla Tips for Beach Portraits

84. Beach Proof Lenses and Cameras can give you peace of mind.

This is not a must, just an advantage and peace of mind.

Check your manufacturer which cameras or lenses a more dust, moisture proof or in general weatherproof.

There are many after-market companies that sell protective gear.

85. Which camera should I use?

The one you brought with you to the beach.

86. Smartphone Camera can accomplish the job.

One of the biggest advantages of an integrated camera on your phone is that you will carry it with you anywhere and you will not miss that special moment. I hear a lot less from my friends and family “I wish I had my camera with me” … I just get their photos on Instagram.

87. Point and Shoot cameras are perfect for the beach.

There are many point and shoot, compact cameras that are available these days that can achieve great quality, and offer photographers quick manual adjustments, similar to what we are used to with DSLR cameras.

I am a big fan of Canon line of PowerShot G10, G11, G12 – I have owned all of them. The new line Canon PowerShot G16 is the latest version with WIFI. Great for travel, shoots RAW images and it has a great image quality. Step up from your smartphone camera – but not quite DSLR – even though some reviews would have you believe it they are close to DSLR.

If you have money to spend, try the Sony Cyber-shot RX1R II and Leica Q – are both amazing cameras they may be among the best compact point-and-shoot cameras. (I don’t own these – but I did try them at a trade show).

88. DSLR – worth taking a gamble taking to the beach

With mist, spray, sand, dust, water – the beach is the most dangerous place for your DSLR – I am always worried, but the shots are always worth it.

I use Canon Professional Services to service my gear, that gives me a peace of mind that my beach lenses and cameras are in perfect conditions.

PRO ADVICE: Choose a system – Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax – buy a full sensor (equivalent to 35mm camera) camera. I use  Canon 5D Mark IV.

However, I never upgrade my camera immediately, no matter how exciting the new product may be. Whenever a new model is redesigned, there are always some minor quality issues in the firmware that need to be resolved.

Once I feel that any possible issues are ironed out I purchase a new model and keep my older version as a backup camera. This approach reduces any potential for issues during photo shoot.

 San Diego Family Photography Golden Hour La Jolla Tips for Beach Portraits

89. PRO ADVICE: Medium format cameras are expensive but …

Hasselblad, Leica, Pentax, Mamiya or PhaseOne have great medium format digital cameras for you to consider.

90. Don’t save on lenses.

Once you choose a system to buy the best lenses. You will change cameras often, because manufacturers are relentlessly competing on sensors, chips, etc. so you will have to change them often (and in the process, you will lose a lot of money).

I love any prime lens – I learned my craft with fixed lenses, and that’s always a perfect choice.

One lens I never leave home without Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II USM. I always bring this lens for beach photography. It’s built tough. With all sand, moisture and dust in the air, this lens will hold up. It has a fast focus and portraits come out amazing.

Prime lenses such as Canon EF 85mm f1.2L IICanon EF 50mm f/1.2 L or Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II are absolutely amazing lenses.

Also, another standard zoom lens is the sweet Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L II lens.

For few shots it’s great to use a wide angle lens like Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L II lens or Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L lens, I do however prefer lenses under 2.8 for low light situations.

91. PRO ADVICE; Is your lens sharp? Calibrate your lenses.

Not all lenses are a perfect match to each camera body!

Professional DSLR cameras offer micro-adjustments to your lenses, where you can dial-in perfect match between your camera and lens to achieve sharp focus.

If you believe that some pictures are a bit out of focus, take your lens to a professional service for calibration.

Always verify your system with Datacolor SpyderLensCal SLC100. Learn how to use it and you will always have a perfect shot. When I purchase or borrow a lens I first check it’s focus using SpyderLensCal. If the lens needs calibration I take it to Canon Professional Services (they are only an hour away from me).

 Beach Photography Tips Big Sur Ocean Waves

92. Getting your gear to the beach.

If you have to bring a lot of gear, get the folding wagon from Costco and try to find a hard-packed sand to get a smooth ride.

I usually pack my gear in backpacks, and walk my gear to the beach, think essentials only.

93. Place your gear away from water …

If you bring extra equipment always look for a dry sand with an elevated spot to make sure the rising tide isn’t going to get it.

If the tide is “coming in” make sure you place your additional gear far from the beach – while you can still keep an eye on it.

It’s best, if you can to carry your gear on your back, so make it light and bring only what you really, really need. After an hour of shooting it can be pretty exhausting.


94. Camera Bag can save your equipment

I have been using for the last 10 years versions of Lowepro bags and the Lowepro Pro Runner RL 450 AW II. I have been extremely happy with it, an absolute dream bag for a photographer.

95. Use extreme care changing lenses on the beach.

I have had my fair share of coming close to dropping my lens, so I have searched for a long time for a perfect bag that would “catch” the lens before it falls to the ground.

I tried belts, I tried just about everything – they only portable bags that work for me are made by ThinkTank – they truly are making quality gear that is designed well – I highly recommend them.

96. Professional Lens Cleaning Kit.

You always want to bring a cleaning kit for your lenses (you always have some ocean spray in the air …)

At a minimum pack a lens cleaning pen, lens brush, microfiber cleaning cloths and air blower.

97. Towel

I always pack a few extra towels for me or my clients to use if they get wet.

 San Diego Beach Photography Tips for Family Portraits Ideas

98. Blanket

Since sand and equipment is not a good mixture, I always bring a blanket that I can put my props and equipment on when I am not using them.  This also offers a place for my clients to put their things.

99. Bring Water

Water is not only good for staying hydrated (bring water bottles to drink) but it is also a good idea to have a few gallon jugs of water in your car to rinse sandy feet and bodies.  With the water shortage in California, most of the shower stations in the State Beaches are turned off.

100. Portable Water Sprayer

If you want to get a little fancier than gallon water jugs check out this cool portable sprayer made by RinseKit.  Clients appreciate this little extra step to help with the sand cleanup after a shoot.  And you have towels for them to use too!

101. Batteries – only ENELOOP

I use in my light meter, flashes and all my gear these batteries – they are amazing, and I also use their chargers.

I have been using these batteries in everything and saved myself hundreds of dollars – they can be recharged over 2000 times and the company guarantees 70% of their charge after 10 years.

We replaced all batteries in our household with these batteries and saved us hundreds of dollars.

Buy a kit, which includes Batteries and Charger: Panasonic Eneloop PRO High Capacity Power Pack.

102. Servicing you camera

I mentioned this above – with mist, spray, sand, dust, water – the beach is the most dangerous place for your DSLR.

Maintain your camera – get it serviced, and professionally cleaned once a year to achieve the best beach photography for many years.

I use Canon Professional Services to maintain my gear.

103. Beachwear

Teva sandals are great for beach photography – I use these most of the time when I know I may be walking over rocks, reef and sand (or any rough terrain). This is my preference.

O’Neil offers boots with split toe, just perfect for the water – if they work for surfers, they work for me! They are harder to get on and off and on the bluffs when wet they can get slippery.

104. Sunscreen that does not burn your eyes.

Apply sunscreen – but make sure it’s a non-burning, just in case any sweat mixed with the sunscreen would get into your eyes. Wipe any excess off your hands to avoid getting grease on your equipment.

105. Hat’s help shade your eyes

Wear a hat to get a shadow over your eyes, make sure they don’t get in the way taking camera’s with straps on/off

106. Safety: Waves, reefs, currents and rip-tides in San Diego can be dangerous.

Especially in winter, beware of waves, they come in sets so even if the sea seems calm, watch the waves for a while to make sure it’s not a pause between the sets.

 San Diego Beach Photography Tips La Jolla Ocean Waves

107. Safety: Moss, dark rocks are extremely slippery.

Moss builds up on the reef and it can be extremely slippery!

108. Safety: Don’t step on stingrays.

When taking photos from the water, shuffle your feet instead of walking to avoid stepping on a stingray.

109. Safety: Don’t turn your back on the beach.

Remind everyone never to turn your back to the beach! For those special shots, when subjects have their back to the beach, make sure everyone is in the safe zone.

110. Managing Safety.

Remind everyone to watch for their family’s safety on the beach, and to supervise their children closely. 

Learn more about San Diego Beach Safety.

111. Finally – Relax and Have Fun – it’s a Beach!

Follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

 San Diego Beach Photographer Tips for Family Portraits Photo Ideas Hotel Del Coronado

Beach Photography Checklist:

Open this page on your iPhone.

Download Checklist+ app from the apple store.

Upgrade to the paid version – to get import feature.

Click on “i” icon and choose Import.

Come back to this page and copy the text below (exactly) and simply paste it to the import page and you are done.


Family Beach Photography

Check the tides
Check the sunset time
Golden Hour: Meet an hour before the sunset
Add directions to iPhone
Clean lenses
Gather props
Charge – camera
Charge – lightmeter
Charge – light triggers
Charge – portable flash
Load – Camera/Lights
Load – Portable Flash
Load – Stands
Load – Sandbags
Load – Beauty Dish – Softbox
Load – Reflectors
Load – Water
Load – Blanket
Load – Towel
Load – Cart


Making updates to my checklist

To keep my checklists organized I “export checklist to my email”.

I modify my checklist by simply replying back to myself with edits and then I copy the “new” checklist from my email to “import” it to my checklist.

 San Diego Family Photography Tips for Beach Portraits Ideas

Hope this list helps you take perfect portraits on the beach

Want to book your session? Explore the Unforgettable Beach Family Session

If you find this information useful ‘like’ my article and share it with your friends and photographers.

1 Comment

  1. This was so helpful and contained just the right details for me! I am preparing for a family shoot on the beach and this was just perfect. Thank you so much! 🙂


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Rancho Santa Fe Family  Photography

Rancho Santa Fe Family Photography

Rancho Santa Fe is one of the best places to live in California, with acres of orchards, rolling hills, covered with Eucalyptus trees perfect for family photography, located in North County San Diego.

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San Diego Portrait Photographer.

Servicing cities of Carlsbad, Oceanside, La Costa, Leucadia, Vista, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Cardiff By the Sea, Del Mar, La Jolla, Bird Rock, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, Point Loma, Coronado, Imperial Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Escondido, San Marcos, Poway, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Pensquitos, 4S Ranch, Olivenhain, Santaluz, La Mesa, Chula Vista, Escondido.

Siobhan Gazur Photography

153 South Sierra Ave #462
Solana Beach, CA 92075
Phone: (858) 876-8199