Best Virginia Beaches for Family Photos
The beach is my favorite shooting location for sure. Here’s why:
- Open space. We can scream, run, laugh all we care to without disturbing anyone.
- Colors. The sand is neutral and bright, complimenting all wardrobes and reflecting the sun to make the final images cheerful and light. Virginia Beach water can also have a beautiful shade of dark teal.
- Getting wet! I LOVE ending a session splashing in the water! It creates the best expressions on everyone.
- Piers. Shooting right next to the pilings makes for unique composition.
North End, Virginia Beach
The North End as a lot going for it: convenient, sometimes easy parking, fewer people, wide dunes.
Not all streets are created equal, but I have a few favorites!
- Some have storybook oak trees over the board walk
- Some have taller dunes than others
- Some have more beautiful grass than other
- Some have easy parking
- None have public bathrooms
Pleasure House Point, Virginia Beach
I avoided this place for over a year. The trails are just too tight for families, especially with more than 2 kids.
But the photographers – there’s a dozen at a time!
What I didn’t know was how dynamic, versatile and on point this place was. Yes, there were a dozen photogs every evening in the fall… but we’re so not in each others way! I was shocked!
Sandbridge Beach, Virginia Beach
This is my go-to. Its a bit of a drive if you want the pier, but its worth it to get away from crowds. Just about any other public beach is chock full of people to work around. The dunes are huge in some areas, so big they block the buildings. The water here is a dark teal in the summer!
If you’re visiting Virginia beach from out of town, its definitely worth the drive to get away from crowds. I wouldn’t even try a family session in the summer at Oceanfront.
Parking at Little Island Park is $2 (for all day!) for residents in the high season, $5 for non-residents. The park has a playground, tennis courts, showers, restrooms, and a fishing pier.
Ft. Story Beach, JEB Ft. Story Virginia Beach
Fort Story Beach is located on Joint Expeditionary Base Ft. Story (Army). Its command is combined with JEB Little Creek (Navy).
If you’re military, this is your place. There is no one here! I mean, no one other than photographers. From what I hear, anyone can get on the base to see the lighthouse, but you’ll have to go through the main gate and get checked out. Just plan accordingly.
It’s Cape Henry, the very opening of the Chesapeake Bay. Photographically, the light is magical because you can get *almost* direct sunset light. There’s also Cape Henry lighthouse and plenty of dune grass.
Like most bases, there’s tons of wildlife. We’ve seen crabs has big as my palm, skate egg sacks, dozens of horseshoe crab shells, and upwards of 20 dolphins feeding offshore at one time. Bonus: we saw a submarine being escorted out of the bay!
Warning: No showers, no toilets. There’s an Express across the street but the hours are spotty.
East Beach, Norfolk
East Beach is on the Chesapeake bay making the light much different than the other beaches. The access paths can be longer with dune grass taller than me (I’m 5’3″, not super hard). But it just those paths are magical!
Perk: Less wind on the bay! If you want beach without hair issues, this is a good bet.
There’s periodic runoff pipes that open into the water. So while there’s no obstructive pipes on the beach itself, they’re quite apparent from the waterline on. There’s lots of rocky jetties and the water color as nice as the ocean.
In some spaces the dunes and grass completely block the houses behind them.
Fewer people too. But, that’s relative to VB.
The Narrows | First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach
Technically, this isn’t a beach. Its inland on a lake, but there’s water and sand so I’m including it!
The Narrows has a beach feel, but has trails and downed trees to give it more variety than other beaches – pines, trails, marsh grass. There are houses across the water that tend to get in the background. Boats and jet skies are a nuisance too, but I edit them out.
*This is not located on the main side of First Landing State park! Its the complete opposite side of Cape Henry on 64th Street, so Google the directions it before you go!
The downside? So. Many. People. Maybe I was just spoiled in Okinawa? The Japanese are sun averse and the beaches were empty everywhere! Even in October there were crowds.
I would think very hard about shooting sunset here May-September. Sunrise would be much better to avoid the crowds. Even weekdays were crowded!
Being a state park, there is and entry fee: $7 weekdays/$10 weekends.
What I Didn’t Include & Why
Chicks Beach, Virginia beach
The Chesapeake Bay bridge runs right in front of the skylight, and the other direction has tall condos. Neither is good. If you want a pier, Sandbridge is better, if you want the bay, East Beach is it.
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia Beach
Don’t get me wrong, Back Bay is beautiful! But it doesn’t look a ton different than the North end as far as grass & dunes go. It is a long haul – 45 minutes or more – for most people and despite the drive, there can be so many fishermen at dusk. That means you might get more people at Back Bay than you would North End.
Unless its close to you, its not entirely worth the drive unless there’s some meaning for you.HEY! I'm Alison, Your Fun And Hilarious Family & Newborn Photographer!
I'm a South Carolina native, USMC spouse, and recovering homeschool mama of a four boy circus. Bring me your crazy!
After 11 years of photographing families all over the world, I've realized my clients aren't printing their images. We go through all this work to get dressed, coordinated and then let those photos die on the hard drive.
There's nothing easy about family photos but I'm here to help you with every step from what to wear to printed in your hands whether thats an album or wall art. I want you to Make your people the rock star of your house!
You'll be reminded of what really matters every day when you see the giant prints of your crew laughing on your walls every. single. day.
Currently stationed in Virginia Beach, Virginia photographing families all over the Hampton Roads area from Suffolk, Norfolk, Chesapeake and the Eastern Shore all the way to Portsmouth and Elizabeth City!
Follow along on the Gram at @alisonbellphotog or reach out today!
I find joy in chaos. The louder, the better! I'm a USMC spouse, South Carolina native, recovering homeschool mama of a 4 boy circus. They've taught me the most important facet of family photography: KEEP IT FUN!