We can already see it… Dad’s eyes are rolling and the kids are an inch away from a meltdown. You just uttered those famous Mom-words that send chills up the rest of the family’s spine: “beach photography” Yep, that’s right. You understand the importance of capturing these magical moments, but no one else seems to care. You’ll never regret seeing those smiles, and even better, the in-the-moment fun and sparkle in their eyes when you look back at that gorgeous beach photo. We’re here to de-bunk some myths that beach photography is all straight-laced and perfect by interviewing our dear friend Ashley, who owns and operates her own local photography company (she also is the one that took our gorgeous wedding photographs). She gave us the insider’s scoop on beach photography. This is a must-read that you won’t find anywhere else!
Beach photography– a way to stop time, to freeze a moment in its raw perfection; a way to look back and smile; a way to remember those whom we love most
First, let's learn a little about Ashley... How did you get into beach photography and choose your style?
As a young girl I was always so creative, but I never found that one niche that made me happy and fulfilled. I just knew from a young age that I liked creativity more than left-brain kind of things. When I went off to college, I discovered that a Major in photography was an actual path available. I decided to take the elementary level course, and I was instantly hooked. I didn’t know yet what direction it was going to take me, but it was amazing to find something that held my attention long enough and guided my creativity. I went on to graduate with a Degree in Photography and still had no idea what to do with the foundation. It wasn’t until 10 years later that I would start my own business inspired by moving to the beach, where I knew families always wanted their family portraits taken while on vacation. When I moved here, I spent so much of my time watching sunsets on the beach, and I just kept thinking how gorgeous the white sand, the emerald water and the sunsets were all together in one beautiful sight. I knew I needed the scenery to translate over into my family portraits. So, I decided to go against the grain of what “trends” are happening and I developed my own style. Now, 8 years later, this is what clients love about my work the most. When at all possible, I do everything I can to capture all the colors around us, while families laugh, snuggle, and play in front of my camera lens.
HOW COOL! First off, I’m super proud of you for following your dreams. Secondly, you know I’m a sucker for your beautiful work. I love the colors, the vibes, and the authenticity. You’re a true natural in my book!
Dads all agree that family portraits are painful. You say, "they don't have to be". So....what's your secret?
More than likely, when families do family portraits in their hometown, they are in a park and they move around to several picturesque spots in that park and do the same poses over and over again and it can take a couple of hours. Kids aren’t cooperating and parents get stressed. That really isn’t the case on the beach! We have such a small window of great sunlight on the beach that right away it limits the time we have together. Then, just by it being the beach, this brings on its own entertainment, of sorts, for the kids to stay happy and more cooperative. The beaches most simple features bring on some of the most memorable images of your family and kids. Like water just barely touching their toes, or brother and sister splashing water on each other. When all the fancy images are taken, I always encourage a little water fight or playing in the water as a family to get some great candid smiles and laughs. By the end, the thing I hear most from dad is “that wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be”.
WHEW! Good to know. Sorry, Dads, we just de-bunked that beach photography was oh-so-terrifying!
It's the beach.... the weather changes hour by hour. How do you plan for a weather-proof photo session (as much as possible)?
I tease that I am a part-time meteorologist. When bad weather is in the forecast, I keep a careful eye on it. However, a few days before a session, I have already told my client that should weather become an issue, I will do the stressing and for them to continue enjoying their vacation. The morning of every session, I call and speak with my clients. Weather is always talked about at this time, too. And if needed, I remind them that a little rain can actually make for an amazing sunset, so don’t get discouraged too early. In the summer it is usual for us to see late afternoon showers pop up. But I LOVE when these happen. People leave the beach, making it a little less crowded for us, and it means there are usually some clouds in the sky, helping to soften the sun to give us beautiful light, and sunset colors can become very vibrant. Most of my absolute favorite sessions have come from a day that had rain. Now on the extreme, if it looks like a downpour all day long with no break in sight, and if the wind is too strong, then we absolutely have conversations about alternative options to take. The more flexible you are, the easier it will be to make sure you get some beautiful portraits created.
MAKES SENSE! You’re probably more accurate than the meteorologists on TV half the time! But great tip here….don’t just check for rain, check out the wind! If you’re planning to have your hair down and a short beachy dress on, you may want to re-think things just a little.
What would you want to let families know who have someone with special needs?
Every family is unique! And, sometimes, that involves a family member who, because of their special needs, makes the idea of a portrait session even more stressful. I get it. The most important thing I always want to tell mommas who put off portraits because of any special needs is…it’s not about capturing what society views as “perfect”. Capturing your family dynamic, whatever that may be, is what is valuable and what makes your family perfect to you. These ages and stages won’t last forever, and it is important to have the memories. For instance, if a child is autistic and won’t look at the camera, then guess what? We don’t make it so that he/she must look at the camera. I adapt. We play more, instead of being formally posed. I won’t ever push beyond what is capable and comfortable for you or your kids. When clients reserve a session with me, one of the first things they do is fill out a questionnaire to tell me about their family. In this, I ask if anyone has any disabilities or special needs. I find that writing it down before we ever meet is a comfortable way for clients to tell me, and then I can be sure to plan accordingly for the session or ask any questions I need to better accommodate and understand. Even if this just means your 3-year-old is super shy to strangers, grandma has a bad knee and can’t walk on the sand very well, or dad has some facial paralysis so telling him to “smile more” isn’t the right thing to do…I want to know! But most of all, despite any special needs, I just want you to get the portraits taken to always have! This is your family legacy in the making.
GREAT FEEDBACK! Being open and honest up front can certainly help so everyone is better prepared. I really liked your intro to this…every family is different, and at the end of the day, these families just want to find someone who makes them feel comfortable and at ease. Ashley, you’ve got this girl!
Last question, and it's one of my favorites: Picking your perfect photographer can be hard. What tips do you have to make selecting a beach photographer a little easier?
There are a million choices of photographers out there (and people, she is not lying!!) I know families weigh options between what they can afford and what photographic style they like most. For starters, selecting the least expensive photographer carries a set of risks sometimes. It is very expensive to run a photography business when done legally. Often, an extremely inexpensive photographer isn’t checking all the boxes of running a legal business. That carries over some risk to you when someone is portraying to be a business, but maybe it really is just their side hustle or hobby to make some extra cash. The less invested they are into the business, they less invested they may be to their clients, too. My clients invest a good chunk of hard-earned money into the service I provide. I know that, and I am extremely grateful. Therefore, I invest everything into them, too. Aside from taking beautiful portraits, I still run a business to be able to provide those portraits. And that involves having top-notch customer service to be worth what you paid for. Aside from the overall investment, really look at their work and determining if they have a specific and consistent style shown in their portfolio of work. If they are all over the place in quality of images, editing, and poses, then you really don’t know what to expect from your own session with them. If a photographer you love has a clear sense of their own style of portraits and is consistent with that, and you love what you see, then you have a much higher chance of being very happy with your beach portraits.
YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! I would have never thought to check out poses and consistency in their online albums, but this makes perfect sense. You get what you pay for, I know that for a FACT!
“When I moved to the beach 8 years ago, I had no idea just how many families I would meet along the way. Now over 700 families have allowed me to capture their family memories, and some return to me year after year, and I get to see them all grow! I truly love what I do, and I am so grateful to those who vacation here who allow me the opportunity to live out my dreams of being a photographer and living at the beach. I enjoy the sunsets right along with you, even though I am hard at work to capture the moments happening. I often smile while I am editing sessions because I can still feel the moment of love or hear a giggle or hear the “chheeeeeeeeeeeessssssssssse” that the two-year-old says repeatedly. My clients bring me so much joy, it’s hard to put into words. So, until I find the perfect words, I will just keep capturing beautiful portraits. ”
— Ashley Nichole Photography
To see Ashley’s work, visit: www.ashleynicholephoto.com
Email Ashley: email@example.com
So, there you have it! I think the biggest lesson I gleaned from this interview was, just be you! Maybe don’t shove the kids in a stiff shirt or an outfit they can’t move in. Relax. Unwind. Let the camera catch your normal! And, do your research. Beach photography isn’t (and shouldn’t) be cheap. Choose your style, and find that professional who will capture the very best of your family. Now, it’s time you get your vacation booked and begin planning your beach photography session! Photographers in the 30A | Destin | Miramar Beach areas fill up quickly, so we’d suggest booking as soon as you make your lodging reservation! Need a place to stay? We have you covered! Check out our properties.
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