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.
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
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
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
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.
Pleasure House Point
Like the Narrows, it’s not really a beach, but there’s water, some sand and grass. So by the same token it qualifies just as much. While its beautiful with great light, it’s tight. There is no room to play or goof around. It’d work for a family of 3, maternity or couples, but no more for my shoot style.I (Alison) am the circus ring leader of four boys. We're a half-homeschooling USMC family, currently in Virginia. I love loud, messy, families, especially those with littles. I like dancing, loud music, and people! I'm passionate about education and the beach. Born and raised in Charleston, SC I'm a cornbread purist. Skillet only! Find me on Insta @alisonbellphotog!