planning for your beach family portaits

Planning For Your Beach Family Portraits

For a portrait session on the beach, light colored clothing looks good, so that the bodies will blend with the light-colored sand. In this situation pastel earth tones work well, such as beige or khaki.

Another great color combination is beige or khaki pants or skirts with a light blue shirt such as an oxford cloth. The earth tones blend with the sand while the light blue blends well with the sky and Gulf water. For an example click here. The purpose is to blend the bodies of everyone together, so that the faces stand out.

For off the beach, especially where foliage forms a background, or for sunset sessions, darker colors work better, like jeans and matching denim shirts.

Avoid short sleeves and shorts. Even for casual portraits it is better to wear long pants instead of shorts. The main thing to remember to dress everyone in the portrait similarly and in colors that blend with the background so your faces become the center of attention in the portrait.

On the beach, the wind usually blows -- and that wonderfully refreshing "sea breeze" can play havoc with long hair! So, prepare for a breeze with extra hair spray, mousse or gel. Or, those with long hair may prefer a ponytail or other "off the face" style to avoid the problem.

Children and Portraits

Please do not tell young children wer're going to "take" their picture. Young children don't like to have anything "taken" from them! Tell them we're going to "create a picture story of our family." And if you promise to reward them only if they are good, it puts a lot of pressure on them, causing them to fear they cannot get the reward. When you first arrive at the portrait session location, spend a few moments with them to make them feel comfortable. Let them ask questions. For an outdoor session at the beach, ask them to look for pelicans or porpoises or pirate ships. Make it a fun experience for them!

For more formal portraits, the following suggestions are offered:

Formal Portraits
Clothing for group portraits must be carefully selected to blend the bodies together.  Decide whether the basic tone of the clothing will be warm-toned (browns, etc.) or cool-toned (blues/grays/blacks, etc.)

Dark Clothing Tends to Slenderize

Darker clothing helps to blend the bodies with the background, so that the faces are the most important part of the photograph.  Dark colors definitely tend to slenderize the subject.  Light colors seem to add weight to the bodies. Bright colors attract attention away from the face. Prints and any kind of pattern - no matter how small - become a distraction.

Avoid Short Sleeve Clothing and Short Pants

Even for casual portraits it is important to wear long pants instead of shorts.  When arms and legs are exposed to the camera there will be more flesh in the photograph in those areas than on the face, itself.  This is a major distraction. White shirts and/or blouses under a dark jacket are perfect.  A scarf loosely tied around the neck also helps to frame a face beautifully when a collarless blouse or sweater is worn.  Neckties should definitely be toned-down in color and with a minimum of pattern. Clothing should not be too tight or too loose.  Clothing below the waistline should be darker than above.  Otherwise, even light jeans worn below a darker top could easily attract attention to the lower part of the body and away from the face.

Proper Necklines for a Portrait
The most flattering neckline for anyone is something that comes up close to the neck.   A wide-open neckline tends to thicken the neck in a photograph.  On the other hand, a neckline that comes up to the base of the neck - a turtleneck or a v-neck top - is the most flattering. It tends to slim, and frames the face beautifully.

Hair Style and Makeup

Hairstyle should be simple and off the face.  Hair falling down onto the sides of the face creates distracting shadows.  Bangs that come down too low onto the face will keep light from getting into your eyes - the very most important part of the face.  Makeup is an essential ingredient of a good portrait. Foundation makeup should be blended at the jaw line, so that there is no sudden tonal change between the face and the neck. Lipstick should be freshly applied just prior to the portrait session. Eye makeup should be blended - no sharp tonal changes between colors.  Avoid white above or below the eyes.  It does not photograph well.  Too much color above and below the eyes attracts attention to itself, rather than attracting the viewer to the eyes.

Eyeglasses may or may not be worn.  Non-reflective lenses, of course, are a big help.  Better yet, sometimes it's possible to obtain a matching set of frames without any lenses. Raising the ear pieces just slightly off your ears will help avoid glare by tilting the glasses downward slightly. This is particularly helpful, if your lenses sometimes distort the outline of your face. Transition lenses that turn dark in sunlight are a particular problem with outdoor portraits.

Your portraits are meant to be enjoyed for generations to come.  A little pre-planning will make you feel very rewarded when you view your photographs.  All of your efforts will be worthwhile.  Please feel free to consult with your photographer if you have any questions about wardrobe, makeup or hair styling.