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Let’s not look so awkward this year, okay?

We all know the struggle is real when it comes to taking a good family portrait. You know, one that looks normal, not awkward. As in: no squinty eyes, smiles all around, everyone looking at the camera. Throw in the glaring summer sun, gusting beach winds, and sand that’ll get in any crevice given the chance—and the odds are firmly stacked against you before even stepping your bare feet onto the beach.

Southern family portraits have been a painstaking to-do dating back as long as those classic painted canvas family portraits graced the walls of family homes throughout the Old South. Now, with the added pressure of annual holiday cards, social media, and the ever-nosy neighbors, it’s even more stressful to pull off the perfect quintessential beach family portrait. But there are certainly a few fail-safe tips to consider before heading to the beach with the family in tow for that annual photo.

Timing is everything.

The best time to take pictures on the beach is in the morning or at dusk—nothing in between. Those two times have the best lighting, and might be a little less crowded if you’re at a busy beach. Plus, it's often a little cooler (so you can avoid those unfortunate sweat marks). Either time period works well, but definitely pick the one that your crew will be happiest, especially if young children are involved.

Coordinate your ensembles...tastefully. 

We know that white looks good on your fresh tan, and it’s a shirt color everyone already has…etc, etc. But the white shirt, khaki bottoms era is over. It’s expected, it’s over-used, and it’s a bit boring. Instead, mix whites and neutrals in with pops of color, while still coordinating enough to look cohesive. Coral, navy, and pastels look nice against a beachy backdrop.

Pick your spot strategically.

If you’re at a crowded beach, the last thing you want is some unsuspecting sunbather encroaching on your innocent family vacation snapshot. While taking photos at morning or dusk will certainly help at busier beaches, it would probably be smart to scope out potential areas beforehand. Do a drive-by. Visit your intended spot at the same time you're planning to bring everyone together, and see what the beach traffic is like. 

Forget the poses.

This isn’t a Little League team picture, or elementary school picture-day, or a funeral. Try and look alive—and natural. No stiff, barely touching, awkward poses. In fact, the more candid, the better. Although the pyramids aren't really necessary. Some of our favorite family portraits feature everyone laughing at some bad joke. It’s more inviting. Or just congregate more casually and comfortably with each other. The key here is that every person does not need to be doing the same thing.

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Have fun. 

If you make taking family portraits a stressful endeavor, chances are everyone in the family will catch on. If the wind is making everyone’s hair blow or if sand is being shot up into everyone’s eyes due to the same darn wind, just laugh it off and don’t take it too seriously. Those funny moments are what your family will remember later on. So just have fun with it!