Most families contacting me about beach portraits have the same question: where do we shoot?
You may be thinking, come on — it’s Daytona Beach, there are quite literally tons of beach there! Why does it matter exactly where you do your portraits? Well, here are a few things I consider:
- Will there be a lot of beach traffic — from cars, ice cream trucks, and sunbathers?
- Will high rise hotels cast long shadows over the beach during evening sessions?
- Will the beach become too narrow for our group’s size if we’re shooting at high tide?
Keeping those things in mind, these have become my favorite places to shoot sunset portrait sessions along the beach in Volusia and Flagler Counties.
Quieter than the beaches to the south, Ormond-by-the-Sea offers a car-free beach, and it’s also building-free along several stretches. A perfect example of the quintessential Central Florida beach, it’s plenty wide even at high tide, has some small sand dunes and scrubby vegetation in places, is quite flat (though not as flat as it is when you continue south), and has far fewer beach-goers than the more built-up, touristy beaches to the south. This location works well for groups of any size.
It costs $10/car to enter Lighthouse Point Park, right on the inlet itself, but it can be well worthwhile to access both the wide, powder-white Atlantic beach, and the small crescent beach inside the inlet. There’s the jetty, the dunes, the boardwalks, the emerald inlet waters, and the lighthouse for our backdrops. Bonus for families who want to bring their dogs along for photographs: the inlet beach is dog-friendly. And if you’re interested in the powdery beach but don’t care about the inlet itself, we can stay outside of Lighthouse Point Park and park for free about half a mile north, right by several beach access boardwalks. Cars are allowed on this beach, however, and it’s usually packed on warm, sunny days — for good reason. This locations works well for groups of any size.
Smyrna Dunes Park in New Smyrna Beach
Like Lighthouse Point Park just across the inlet (which you can see from Smyrna Dunes, and vise versa), this one costs $10/car to enter. It features a long loop of boardwalk through the beachy scrub, a white sand beach on the Atlantic, and a dog-friendly stretch of inlet beach that offers the best sunset views over the water that Volusia County has to offer. Cars are allowed on the Atlantic side of the beach. There aren’t cars to contend with on the inlet side, but, just a head’s up — it can be quite buggy, can get crowded, and the strip of inlet beach all but disappears at high tide. It’s also a much longer walk from the Atlantic to the inlet than at Ponce. But when you catch a sunset at Smyrna Dunes, nothing else matters. This location works well for individuals, couples, and small nuclear families on the narrow inlet beach, or for groups of any size on the wider beach of the Atlantic side or at the northern tip of the park, where the inlet opens into the ocean.
The beaches at Washington Oaks and Marineland in Palm Coast
At Washington Oaks it costs $5/car to park, while parking is free a couple miles north, near Marineland. These wide, flat beaches are unlike any others along Central Florida’s coast, thanks to coquina rocks that shake up the landscape. The rocks become partially submerged with the tide, creating miniature waterfalls and tidal pools. There are no buildings in sight, and it can be a popular destination — particularly for photo shoots; there may be four different photo shoots happening along this stretch of beach at once, or the beach may be entirely empty. These beaches work well for groups of any size.
And now, one last question to answer: why didn’t I list any beaches that are my favorites for sunrise sessions?
Because we can shoot on any beach at sunrise, since we don’t have to worry about buildings casting shadows, or beach traffic. Early in the day, we’ll only be shooting toward the east, where the sun is, so it doesn’t matter if we have sand dunes or high rises flanking the western edge of the sand. For sunrise sessions, my preferences are to either shoot at one of my most familiar beach accesses in Ormond Beach, or for out of town families, to meet them at their hotel or condo and shoot right there. Sunrise — before most of the tourists are out — is one time that I’m perfectly happy to shoot on the beach right in the heart of busy Daytona, because at sunrise, even popular Daytona Beach isn’t busy.I hope to see you for your beach session soon!