Pretty much on a daily basis I find myself talking to families who are planning a Sanibel or Captiva Island vacation and are considering having a family beach portrait taken while they are in Southwest Florida. This time of year is especially busy for family pictures. Yes, winter is definitely our "season" when the traffic is nuts and we all know not to go near the Costco parking lot, however summer is actually a pretty popular family vacation time here. With kids out of school for the summer and our perfect warm water and no shortage of sunshine, Sanibel and Captiva Islands definitely draw families. And I find myself busy with families who want a professional photographer to capture their photographs while on the islands. I do find that I get a lot of the same questions when I'm helping a family plan for their family portrait though. So in honor of family portrait season here in Southwest Florida, I thought it would be helpful to offer a few Sanibel and Captiva Island beach portrait tips.
6 things to know when having a family portrait on Sanibel and Captiva Islands
1. Location. I always get asked "where is the best beach on the island for pictures". The short answer is, there isn't a bad beach on the island, you can't go wrong. The long answer is each one is a little different and offers something unique. I always start by asking my clients where they are staying. Resorts like South Seas Island Resort, The Sundial, Tween Waters and Casa Ybel all have stunning beaches right on property. They also offer fabulous landscaping and manicured areas that can give you a variety of images. Tween Waters and South Seas Island Resort also have a marina area that can be a nice starting point for the nautical lover who wants a real island feel to their pictures. The public beaches are also great. The iconic Lighthouse Beach has some amazing nature filled paths, mangroves, driftwood and the lighthouse itself that are all great for pictures. I love meeting my clients at Lighthouse Beach however since it sits on the far end of the island the sunset is not going to be directly over the water. It is still a stunning time of day with beautiful colors in the sky, but not that direct shot of the sunset. For the sunset lover, I would definitely suggest either of the public beaches on Captiva Island. Turner Beach is the first beach that you come to when you venture onto Captiva Island. It not only gets a great sunset, it also has a rock jetty that makes for some neat pictures too. Overall though, every island family shoot I've done has been a win and there isn't a single location that I would say to rule out.
2. Time of day. I always suggest sunset, but that isn't just for the pretty colors in the sky. This time of year sunset is late and that can be difficult for little ones with early bed times but it's totally worth pushing that schedule a little bit if you can. It actually doesn't matter what time of year it is, here in Florida the sun is pretty bright. Midday is for sunglasses or squinting. It's just not a good look. The sun also brings harsh shadows that aren't nearly as flattering as that late day light that every professional photographer loves. And a Florida summer issue is the huge temperature difference (or at least feels like one) from mid afternoon till those moments nearing sunset. I say stay in your swimsuit with an ice cold drink in hand till that sun gets lower in the sky. I will always encourage the sunset time, but anytime within 2 hours of the sun setting is going to offer some stunning backdrops, soft light and tolerable temperatures for family pictures.
3. What to wear. I have photographed more families in matching outfits than I can remember. However some of my favorites didn't give it nearly that much thought. Going with a color scheme is usually the easiest way to get a cohesive look without completely matching. Even if a few people are in a pattern and others are in varying shades everyone will still blend together well. I like to ask my clients where they envision the photograph going and select a color to wear that will work for the placement of the photo. Are you picturing a large canvas print of the entire family hanging in the room that you have all decorated in specific colors or is this the holiday card photo? Perhaps considering that final destination of the portrait will help in making the wardrobe choices easier.
Wardrobe side note... Once you've decided on a look, also keep in mind that beach pictures on Sanibel and Captiva are nice when you sit in the sand and put your feet in the water. I love the Louis Vuitton's as much as the next, but you might want to leave behind any shoes that go in their own special bags. Also keep tan lines in mind when you arrive on the islands. Sunscreen up those areas that will show in your picture outfit. That Florida sun will sneak up on ya, definitely stay ahead of that!
5. What to bring. Bug spray, bug spray, bug spray. They might not be bad at first, but sometimes as the sun is setting those no-see-ums will come out in droves. It's best to be prepared. You may also want to bring along a few waters to keep hydrated during these hot summer months. And if you are like me and have lots of hair to contend with you may want to toss a hair tie, sun hat or clip in your bag. If we are working with a breeze you might want to have the option of pulling your hair back for a few pictures.
6. What not to bring. If you can part with them for a little bit, the sunglasses should stay behind. The best pictures are when they are off (as in not on top of your head or in your back pocket either). Plus your eyes will adjust easier to the light if you aren't wearing them up to the portrait time.
There you have it. Everything you need to know to make the most of your family pictures. If you are still reading along and thinking that a professional family portrait on Sanibel or Captiva (or anywhere in SWFL!) needs to be on your agenda, don't hesitate to reach out. I would love the opportunity to get to know you and your family and capture those family memories for you. My sunset times do fill up, sometimes months in advance, so it's never too soon to get in touch and reserve your time to get those important family pictures!!
A lot of my Sanibel and Captiva Island family picture clients reference this post, so I thought it would be the best place add a little extra information. So, it's a bonus 7th thing to know for family portraits!
7. Plan for a weather/rain backup day. If you are coming to Southwest Florida on vacation you might be considering doing your pictures later in your trip after you get a little sun glow from your time on the beach. I hear this a lot from families who are vacationing from up north, especially during the winter months. My suggestion is to make sure that you have left at least a day or two as a possible rain back up day. It is rare, especially in the winter months, that we get weather that would prevent family beach pictures from happening, however it's always a good idea to play it safe and make sure you have a little wiggle room in the schedule. My opinion is there is nowhere as stunning Sanibel and Captiva for a professional family portrait, so you just shouldn't risk missing out on the beautiful pictures backdrops with a chance rain shower!!
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