Posted by: Michelle Stella Riordan | May 1, 2012

Do you have cabin fever? Summer is calling…

Do you have cabin fever?  Summer is calling…

Do you? I know I do. 

Mother Nature has a great sense of humor.  We were teased with those nice warm sunny days.  It’s now May and I’m waiting for snow.  Snow way?   Summer is calling…maybe collect this year.  It makes me crave the beach even more.  I’m ready to buy new beach chairs and blow up the beach balls. 

For those of you thinking about having some fabulous family photos taken, here are some tips:

(Excerpts from my blog post 2011)

So, while many of you are packing up the kids and leaving your worries behind, many of us are still working sometimes 7 days a week. The business of the beach photographer has changed greatly in the past 15 years. There are some summer evenings when you’ll find 10 other photogs on the beach. Many of us are seasoned pros. Many are weekend warriors and newbies. They’re the ones who don’t seem to consult with their clients about their clothing choices and about the session. So, with that said, here are a few pointers when searching for a professional photographer or if you decide to take the digital camera matters into you’re own hands.

The Elements of a great family beach photo session.

We’re going to be outdoors.  Not just outdoors but on the beach.  There is sun, wind, sand & humidity.  This is not a studio session.  There will be bugs.  They need to earn a living too.  Use common sense; bug spray, hair brush, hair ties, sunglasses and water.  If it’s windy, use a head band for long hair.  If there is no breeze, there will be bugs.  Be thankful you’re not in Brigantine with the green heads.  (a close cousin of the pterodactyl)

To rise with the sun or to dance with the sunset

We choose those times and hours carefully for the best light. It’s nicer if you’re not squinting, don’t you think? Not many families choose a sunrise session because it’s too early for coherent speech without a pot of coffee much less some crazy photog in your face. But, I offer it for those brave souls and the sessions are always well worth the time. Plus, there are fewer people on the beach to deal with.  It’s also perfect for Senior Portraits. 

 Senior Portraits

Sunrise beach session: Ocean City, New Jersey

Clothing choices:

It’s not about the clothes. It’s about the fact that you and your family are together. I recommend staying away from white shirts and jeans. EVERYONE has done that. Plus for you fair-skinned people out there, white only enhances your freckles and sunburned skin. Think about what colors you look good in…what your kids look good in. Stay away from stripes, polka dots and fad items. Keep it timeless. And ladies…no short tight skirts that make it difficult to sit on the sand. Men…you will be barefoot. Deal with it and try not to get sandal sunburn lines on your feet. We will make fun of you! But in a nice way.

Sunset beach portrait session

Sunset beach session: Ocean City, New Jersey

We welcome the two-legged and four-legged beach goers.


Dealing with kids 5 and under is a challenge for us. They’re not ours and we can’t threaten them with time out. (My favorite with my son) Give the little guys a nap though. If you don’t, they will either be really, really, really cranky or asleep on the ride to the beach. We teach them to stay away from strangers yet we want them to smile for this stranger with a camera and a squeaky crab. I love my squeaky crab. Please talk to them about going to the beach for photos but do not bribe them nor threaten them. Kids feel your stress and reflect it. This should be a fun amazing experience. That’s my theory behind this.


No other word strikes fear in the heart of many adults. They can be more difficult than the three-year old. I can bribe a three-year old with pretzels. I try to chat with the teenagers about what they would like to do. I give them an opportunity to have their 15 minutes of fame in front of the lens.

The 20-something know it all…

They have places to be…dates…and would rather be on Facebook than with their family. I tell them there’s a beer in their future if they just get through this and that they’ll have great stories to tell their friends. I actually let them be themselves. They will usually ask me to photograph something off the wall…like jumping off the rocks.

sunset beach session

Goofing off photos are the best. This is one of my favorite photos from 2011.


I also recommend giving them a nap! They will be less feisty for me. Older men love to give me a hard time. It must be a right of passage or revenge for being made to go to the beach with 19 screaming grandkids! Please let your photographer know if  anyone has knee or foot problems or if someone has physical restrictions that make it hard to sit on a rock or the sand.

 Beach portrait session                                                                                                                                                         

Not all photos have to be facing the camera


Many of us are dog people.  We take our babies every where we can and that includes the beach.  Include them in your family portrait.  It makes a great Christmas card.  Please make sure they are used to being on the beach otherwise it will be a very RUFF session.  Some dogs are afraid of the water and don’t even know it yet.  It’s a great idea to bring plenty of water for them and their favorite dog treats along with poopy clean up bags.  I stock some bandanas for the dogs to wear but encourage parents to bring something special from home. 

Family Beach Portrait, Dog Portrait

Puppy love.

There’s so much more to the session. I double-check the weather. If it looks as if a storm is coming in, I ask my clients if they would like to schedule the session earlier or move it to another day. While I’d like to think I am the Queen, I cannot control the elements. I keep a schedule of sunrise & sunset times as well as high & low tide chart to make sure I have all the elements I need for a great session. Last, but far from being least, I ask the parents of small children if I may give them pretzels as a reward for hanging in there with me plus I ask if there’s a special song or cartoon character that may make a kid smile. I am partial to singing ‘Happy Birthday’.

I draw the line at dancing though!

What is your greatest summer beach memory?

Michelle ‘Toes in the Sand’ Stella Riordan

Photography By Exposure & The Event Photo Booth

Anyone can take a picture.  I leave an impression.

Special Events Photographer

Corporate, Aerials, Portfolios & Family Photography

Studio and Location: New Jersey to Virginia

Family Beach Portrait Sessions

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 Summer is Calling...


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