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Memories change each time we remember them, capture the moment.

Family Portrait Planning Guide

30A Photographer capturing your vacation memories.



Are you excited? Nervous? Or maybe even a little of both. As a professional photographer with over 20 years of experience in photographing families (both large and small), I promise that your session will be an adventure.

Like any parent, you have been capturing your kids’ biggest moments since the day they were born. Children who grow up in homes with their images proudly displayed on the walls have more self confidence and faith.


Whether you’re a new family of three, recently added a new member, vacationing with the extended family, or are simply savoring this amazing time in your families lives, any time is a perfect one for a portrait session.


Sessions take place on location, either at your home, vacation rental, public beach or even a local garden/park.  Families will be comfortable and have fun!  Plan for adventure and family connection. We will guide you the entire process, from the perfect wardrobe to what looks best displayed in your home. Not only will you and your family look fabulous, you will have amazing wall art that you will cherish for a lifetime.

For any questions or concerns about your 30A Photographer

please contact us at (850) 460-4437

Beach Locations

Beach sessions are done at sunrise and sunset only. All of the beaches along Floridas Emerald Coast are beautiful and have that gorgeous white sugary sand. If your home or vacation property has beach access within walking distance, we can meet you right in your driveway, no need to pack up the family and drive.

Important Note:  Please be sure that there is extra parking for my vehicle. Many rentals have limited parking space or require a gate code for entry.  Please verify parking/entry requirements at least 14 days before your session.

If you don't have beach access within walking distance, no worries, contact us at (850) 460-4437, and we can suggest a location.

30A Beaches:

Dune Allen Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach, Watercolor, Seaside, Seagrove Beach, WaterSound Beach, Seacrest Beach, Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach, and Inlet Beach, Some also consider Carillon Beach, which is technically just off U.S. 98 an honorary member of 30A.

Other popular beach locations include:

Destin, Miramar Beach, Sandestin, Navarre and Panama City Beach. As your 30A Photographer, my favorite is Santa Clara!

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Garden Locations

Why are our garden locations so popular?  Because they are absolutely gorgeous. Garden sessions are done mid-morning or late afternoon.


Many of our clients will book both the beach and garden sessions so that they can capture the beauty of both.  This is also a great way to capture a second outfit with your family. If you book a sunrise session, your garden session will be done after the beach.  If you book sunset, your garden session will be done 30-45 minutes before your sunset time slot.


Garden locations are a great idea for families that may have young children that are normally sleeping during sunrise or sunset. These also work perfect for families that have family members that cannot be mobile on the sand.

Some of my favorite garden locations include:

Watercolor, Rosemary, and Eden Gardens

Tip: Garden locations listed all have public restrooms.  This makes it easy for you to change clothes and freshen up either after your sunrise beach session or before your sunset beach session.

Note: Garden locations do require a short drive to the beach (between 1/2 mile up to 7 miles depending on location).

When you book me as your 30A Photographer, you can add on a garden session.

Prepare young children...

Prepare your kids with laid-back, low-key references to let them know what’s happening. Tell them you will be “hanging out with our friend Melonie on Saturday!” or “going to the beach to play!” and keep things fun, lighthearted, and casual. Families have shared that this tip is especially helpful if they have a particularly shy child.  We have a lots of tricks to help get the giggles out, and making sure everyone feels friendly and comfortable is at the top of that list.

Please bring "bribery" items along - but DO NOT tell them about it (until we need too) LOL. We have discovered that if a child is promised a treat or toy for doing their pictures, then they will want that treat or toy after just ONE picture - they have no concept of time. This goes for the dads too... no beer till after we are done. JK

Some great items to motivate kids include:

  • favorite toy

  • blankie

  • treats (nothing that will stain wardrobe, hands or lips)

  • Seashells (we have a supply plus conch shells)

Most importantly - FEED them just before the photo session. Even feed the big kids, including the hubby.  Hangry people do not like having their photos taken.

More Toddler Tips from top 30A Photographer > read more

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Tips for the Ladies

It is ALWAYS windy at the beach... always! This is one of my top 30A Photographer tips... it's Chicago windy out there!

Because of this, I highly suggest having professional hair and makeup done for your portrait session and request a style that will hold up against the wind.

Please bring along bobby pins, hair clips etc in case we need to use them at some point. Many moms opt to put their daughters hair in a pony tail, a side swoop or use bows.  Hats are another great option, and floppy hats are a favorite at the beach.

Please be sure roots are touched up and that the men/boys have a fresh haircut about 2 weeks before the session.

Remind the guys to shave JUST before the photo session, and ladies, if you have on a dress/skirt or shirt that shows your underarms, please make sure you are shaved as well.

Fresh and clean nails are also important.  Please make nails do not have chipped nail polish on them. Both your fingernails and them toes - they will all show. Tip: make sure polish is a neutral color or matches wardrobe (especially on teens, tweens and toddlers).

Wardrobe tip: Because of the wind at the beach, stay away from loose clothing (ie: open sweaters, floppy collars, etc) that will blow in the wind.  Wear medium to long dresses so the wind doesn't blow dress up.


Do you have a teen or tween daughter that is struggling with confidence?

Many times this is because they are unsure on how to shop for wardrobe pieces that flatter their body shape. The "skinny" person wishes they had curves... and vice versa.    What many forget is that size does not matter!  A Rectangle body shape can be a size 0 and a size XXX.  And an hour glass body shape can also be a size and a size XXX.  The key is learning to make the right choices in wardrobe pieces that flatter your body shape, not your size!  If you feel your daughter, or even yourself, needs more information on how to dress for their body shape, please take a peek at our FASHION FOR A POSTIVE BODY IMAGE information. This 30A Photographer is also a fashionista.

What to Wear

Choosing the perfect color for your family beach photo session will set the mood for the style and feel you want to portray in your family portraits.

For a timeless look, choose outfits with a neutral color tone to them. Chose one main color and accent with 2 or even 3 complimentary, earth tone colors. Some of my favorite combinations include colors such as ivory, cream, beige, tan, khaki, and olive. Add a small pop of color to this look with either a light pink, peach, pale blue or pale green.  Tip: Moms, wear a flutter dress and put the girls in lace or flutter dresses to create a magical image to treasure for a lifetime.

For a more casual look, yet still timeless, simply add denim!  Keep with the same color tones, except put some family members in jeans or capri jeans.

Some other very popular colors from this 30A Photographer, for the beach, are Navy Blue, Tan, and White. Tip: ladies wear bold yellow jewelry to make this look pop!

Note: When choosing wardrobe pieces, try to stay away from the "match-matchy" look. Choose different styles but in same color tones and don't be afraid to mix textures.

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Style Closet

One of the most frequently asked questions is about wardrobe is...


Where do you get the flutter dresses? Both 30A photographers and vacationers ask me this.

If you this is on your mind, please contact me at (850) 460-4437 so we can chat about which dress you like.  We have a Style Closet and carry several colors and sizes in the flutter dresses.  We also a supply of girls (newborn-6yrs) of pettiskirts and rompers.

If we don't have what you need, or are interested in purchasing a dress for yourself I can send you direct links to some fabulous dress boutiques so you can shop online. Note: some dresses may take up to 3-4 weeks for delivery.

In addition to flutter dresses and pettiskirts, we also carry a wide array of other womens, mens, teens, tweens and toddler/newborn pieces. Feel free to contact us about any ideas you may have or need (because sometimes we forget them at home).

Bowties, suspenders and newsboy hats are favorite for the little guys on the beach and we also have a few select sizes/colors available in the style closet.  Tip: These items are easy to find on Amazon.

Note: The pink ruffle dress featured in this maternity photo is available in both cream and teal in the style closet.  

Wardrobe Tips

Dress for the weather! During the summer months, it is hot. Keep this in mind when choosing fabrics and textures. On the flip side, if you have a late fall, winter or early spring session, those temperatures will drop and you will be chilly on the beach if you don't have a sweater.  Check the average temp for the time of year you will be on the beach, and remember is always windy on the beach, when planning your wardrobe fabrics.

Just a reminder, bare feet look best in family beach photos.  No shoes/socks. But you will want a cheap pair of flops to walk in.

Undergarments, for both females and males, must not be visible or show through your wardrobe.  If you are wearing light colored clothing, be sure to wear nude undergarments (not white, as this will show through). Choose wardrobe pieces that fit correctly and cover bra straps, panty lines, etc.

Keep dresses and skirts medium to full length.  The beach is windy and short skirts will blow up in the wind.  Stay away from miniskirts and short shorts as they limit your posing options.

Wear clothes you can move in. You will be sitting, standing, squatting, kneeling on the beach. Wear Clothing that is comfortable for you to move in.

I'm honored to be your 30A Photographer.



This includes phones, car keys, wallets, hair brush, chips, dip and beer!

Bring a large beach bag to hold all of these items for all your family members, or leave these items securely locked up.


What to bring

A beach bag!

The size depends on how many items you need to store in it. Here's a list of the most frequent items we have to throw in a bag:

  • Wallet, keys, phones, purse

  • Makeup, chapstick, lipgloss

  • Hairspray, bobby pins, hairties 

  • Snack foods (nothing that will stain)

  • Baby/toddler needs (water, diapers, etc)

  • Favorite toy/blankie

Here's a list of some other items to consider:

  • Towels,  and maybe even a change of clothes for the kids.  As a photographer, I love when kids (and parents) interact with their surroundings, and I’m thrilled to photograph them playing in the water, or buidling castles.  As a parent, you might not want to walk, or drive home, covered in sand (or wet). 

  • Baby Powder.  Baby powder works fabulous to take sand off of dry skin.  The sand is so fine that it will stick to dry skin. Toss a little baby power on legs at end of session to get it off.

  • A Beer!  Just kidding (kind of)  But seriously, if a beer will loosen up the hubby or the grumpy ones, I totally support it!  Just keep in mind that they must be 21 and no glass is allowed on beach or at gardens/parks.

How to Pose

Sometimes families get nervous about how to pose or what to do with their hands.  Don't stress, before we begin our session, I will spend about 5 minutes showing both the males, and the females, how to pose like a model (and look fabulous doing it).

During our session we will capture both posed and lifestyle images. Many times with young children, we will start capturing a lifestyle moment and will quickly transition into a pose while the kiddos are happy and interacting.

On that note, there's no need to say "cheese". I am chasing after natural giggles that come from interacting with your family. I strive to capture the connection and encourage authentic expressions.

In our experience, children between the ages of 4-10 will sometimes try to "cheese it up" because that's what they have been conditioned to do.  If this is your child, the best way for us to capture those smiles is for you to have candid moments interacting playing with them.

Laugh, play, tickle, snuggle and love!  Don't be afraid to create memories with your family.  Share the love and connect!

When in doubt, search Pinterest for super cute pose ideas we can recreate for you and your family!

When you meet me, your 30A Photographer, I will show you more posing tips before we head to the beach.

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Posing Tips

Relax, slow down, and don’t force anything. Don’t feel pressured to make everything perfect! Just be present with your family and I’ll do the rest. And don’t stress if any of the kids get fussy! As a family photographer (and mother of 5) I am thoroughly experienced at this, I’ve seen it all before, trust me. Just snuggle your kiddos and we can still capture beautiful images :) 

Session Process

Be ready about 10 minutes before your session begins so we can be on time and have ALL members of family ready.  Sometimes we arrive early due to traffic (we allow ourselves extra time). If you see us early, don't feel rushed - we will start at the scheduled time so we get the perfect light.

We will always begin our sessions with ALL members.  For large groups, please make sure that each individual family is grouped together so we know who belongs with who.  LOL

After we capture the large group photo, we will move to smaller groups and then move our way to just kids and children.  Expect to move around (standing, siting, dancing). The more variety we can capture, the bigger your gallery and more great images you have together.

What's next?

I will be honest, as your 30A photographer, it's usually a nap or bedtime for me :-) JK

After your session, your work is almost done! You can let your hair down, put your feet up and relax a little. This is a great time for you to leave us Google Review, 5 Star google reviews help us reach more clients just like you and we appreciate your great reviews and fun comments.

In the meantime, I will be working hard behind the scenes to cull the best images; eliminating duplicates, blurs, and blinks. We will be getting your images ready for you online gallery by getting rid of any small imperfections and ensure that the color looks amazing. If you have any specific editing request, please let us know in advance so we can discuss.


Approximately three (3) weeks after your session, you will be sent an email to view your online gallery. ALL ORDERS MUST BE PLACED WITHIN 10 DAYS.

It's a wonderful feeling to see your families smiles and adventures hanging in your home.  It brings warmth to your heart every time you see the images. What will be best for your home? Fine Art Prints, Gallery Wraps, Modern Metals?  How about one of our most popular products; a Family Heirloom Album. Purchase $2000+ in Home decor and get complimentary digital downloads (of all images), which includes both full size files, print release and social media files.

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There are no perfect parents and there are no perfect children, but there are plenty of PERFECT MOMENTS along the way.

Melonie Marie Photography (850) 460-4437

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