With August already steamrolling ahead, it seems like we can maybe, kinda, sort of start preparing for fall in the Lowcountry! Fall means lower temperatures, and lower temperatures makes the idea of scheduling a photo session much more appealing. And that goes for all involved — trust me when I say: I really don’t want to apologize for being a hot, sweaty mess while hugging clients goodbye! Eek. So if you are thinking about a photo session, I’ve decided to put a guide together about some of the available Charleston locations. I’m including the good, some of the bad, and things you ought to consider when scheduling!
There are two things I always try to include in my forms to clients: parking & bathroom access & availability. This is important. This is part of the experience I like to deliver.
First, I think everyone can relate to frustrations with traffic and parking in crowded areas. My aim is to avoid increasing anyone’s irritation, particularly people – ahem, like my husband – who are reluctant to take photos in the first place. Does parking cost? Are there laws about tires off the road? Does it get crazy busy? Are there multiple lots in one area? Can traffic get backed up 15 minutes over a bridge? (Yes, Folly, I’m looking at you!) It is important to know all those details beforehand! If your photographer doesn’t share those details with you, you might just want to ask.
And bathrooms – well. I assume a lot of my readers are parents, or soon to be parents, in which case…you know. If you are a pregnant woman, or in the midst of potty training, or a parent of girls, bathroom availability is important. If you’ve traveled a long way to the location, or need a wardrobe change that could be difficult to finagle in a car, make sure you know! I have absolutely told clients before that they need to stop somewhere before making it out to the beach!
So now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk a bit about what makes the Charleston area awesome: all the locations.
1. The Beach. Whether it’s Folly or the Isle of Palms, the beach is a favorite. The vastness of ocean, beach, & sky are beautiful. As we are on the east coast, the sunset won’t be at the ocean horizon, but there are plenty of spots that make for gorgeous beach photos.
Things to consider: Traffic (particularly in tourist season), the tidal calendar (high tide means less beach to use), wind (if the idea of hair you spent $$$ on blowing around wildly horrifies you), and the increased likelihood of clothes getting wet. Which, I love light and water in my photos, so I love it when my clients will wade in the water.
2. Downtown Charleston. We live in a beautiful city, with old, colorful architecture. It is a photographer’s dream when it comes to coordinating colors and backdrops. I can guarantee there is a home somewhere in Charleston that will complement the colors of your wardrobe perfectly. Not to mention cool doors, walls, and window boxes to frame your family and give you a colorful, urban look. Also, within walking distance are the waterfront parks, with cobblestone roads, big oaks, and iron gates galore.
Things to consider: You may need to start a little earlier than evening’s golden hour, since again, the sun sets opposite of the water and buildings can block those last few minutes of rich light. There are a lot of people…and cars. And carriages. You may need to put things on pause as people pass, etc. Also, your kids can’t run around without being monitored for that reason.
3. Our local parks. There is Hampton, Riverfront, Azalea, and Charles Towne landing, to name a few. Each one offers a variety of environmental elements, from live oaks, to blooming gardens, to great architecture and winding paths. If you love flowers and greenery but don’t want to wade/walk through tall grass, these are great choices! (Plus parking & bathroom access is usually very close.)
Things to consider: Mosquitoes. I always give my clients warning when we are going to go anywhere potentially shady – the bugs can be bad. Also worth considering is the occurrence of any local events and the size of the park. (Sometimes they get crowded with photographers.) Also, be mindful of their public hours, especially off season!
4. Rural fields, preserves, forests, & private farmland. This is the ultimate rural look. Long grass, wilderness, blooming fields, and tree farms. They are timeless, and usually a bit more empty than some of the other areas listed. You will have room to roam, lake and/or river views (in some cases), and lots of what makes the Lowcountry special.
Things to consider: The yucky things you don’t want to think about. Mosquitoes, ticks & other things lurking in grass and/or water. I always tell my clients that if they feel uncomfortable somewhere, they can tell me, and we’ll move. No matter what speaks to me creatively, I want my clients safe and happy! Long periods of rain often delays mowing in field areas. Mud. Nature stuff. If you are an avid outdoors person, this might not deter you at all, but if you are the least bit faint of heart – ask your photographer about this, too! Also, if you’re going somewhere on private land, permission to be there is important. Nothing would spoil a session like getting kicked out early.
And of course, there are plantations, walls of street art, private areas in local neighborhoods, waterfronts near the creeks, and much more. We are so lucky to live in a diverse area like Charleston. Not only is it a gorgeous place to visit, it’s an awesome place to call home. The opportunity to make beautiful family heirlooms is worth dealing with thunderstorms, bugs, and traffic every once in awhile. Don’t forget, you can always inquire to schedule your session this fall!
In the midst of daily rain and thunderstorms here in the Charleston area, I had a family in my neighborhood schedule a beach maternity session. I’m sure other photographers (and their clients) can sympathize with me here: this weather has been BOGUS for sessions. It’s especially difficult when you are working with vacation days, or the tide calendar, and even traffic. The day before this session, I sent out a hesitant email — there was a 70% chance of storms for the next evening, but that often — and by often I mean nearly always — changes, so I’d message with updates day of session.
And, predictably, it did change! Each time I checked my phone the chance of rain the percentage dropped, and by late afternoon I was getting ready to go. Better yet, the temperature was LOVELY. I couldn’t ask for more when dragging a pregnant mom to the beach in JULY. Both my boys were born at times of the year where I wasn’t hugely pregnant in the summer (and boy am I grateful for that), but I can imagine… Doesn’t she look beautiful, though? So happy – and soaking up every last minute of their family of three before their baby boy arrives! I so remember those days – being anxious about how everything would change, and then once it did, realizing that your family’s opportunity to share more love with another tiny human is just the best.
At this point of the summer, I am truly missing golden hour and good golden light — it has been sparse. BUT! I always tell people, awesome clouds and a stormy-ish sky is a good trade-off. The reflections in the waves/water here are amazing– and it totally gave me a beach bug. I ended up taking my boys out (on another stormy day) later, to scratch the itch.
If you look at the photos below, I think you’ll see why, too. And if it makes you want to go to the beach, I’m not going to feel guilty about it. Grab your towel and a blanket!
As the Charleston area prepares to float away and my kids are wrestling on what was a nicely made bed, I suddenly felt inspired to write a blog post about our summer. It’s important for me to seize these fleeting whimsies, because if I don’t, they will be replaced by something like dishes, or dusting, or picking up the abandoned pairs of underwear around my home. (I don’t know if it’s great that the boys’ bathroom is also our guest bathroom.)
Our summer began with Young Naturalist Camp, which was hosted by Coastal Expeditions. If you’re local to the area and haven’t utilized everything they offer before, I highly recommend them. We’ve done the Bull’s Island Ferry before, and they are great tour guides! (I plan on booking a reservation to a sunrise shoot at Boneyard Beach this fall.) My son, who is 8, adored their camp. He swam in the marsh, he shrimped, he crabbed, he learned all about the local ecosystem and was introduced to kayaking and paddleboarding. He has already told me he wants to return next summer, and I’d love for him to do that, too.
The only sad part (for me) was that I couldn’t document every moment. My youngest son and I took the time to really explore Mount Pleasant — Old Town, Shem Creek, Patriot’s Point. So quite a few of these photos are of that time together.
Other than that, we’ve been doing a lot of swimming in the pool, playing in the mud, and exploring some of the local beach/nature areas here in Moncks Corner. My hope is that they can look through these photos one day and be brought back to the summer, whether they can remember a lot about it or not.
The very first time I photographed this family was last year. Kim and Patrick were taking a family trip in the Charleston area and had wanted beach portraits to remember the occasion. The images from that first session are some of my favorite photos, which is why you can find them on various pages of my website. Also, they totally grace the front page of my website now.
When they returned to the area this year for another summer vacation, we got together for a beach session redux. It was a blue evening; storm clouds had sort of steamrolled the colors of the sunset – but that hardly mattered because the light was pretty, the temps weren’t killer, and their little guy was in a GREAT mood.
I really like to stress to my clients that I want our sessions together to be relaxed and fun. I know you don’t want to look back at photos of yourself and think how stiff you appear, so I try my best to gently guide everyone into activities or games (or reactions with prompts) that get them laughing and relaxed. And sometimes, I just shoot candid photos and let the kids be kids. There is nothing wrong with that – that’s their personalities.
We fell into that easy shooting pretty quickly, and you can tell from the photos. It’s just a lot of love, a little guy with THE BEST curls (aah, this lady with the straightest hair ever is envious), and a fistful of flowers. These flowers, by the way, are apparently edible. My eight-year-old recently had a camp where they were taught edible native plants, and the Sea Oxeye — the yellow beach flowers here – is edible. You can eat the leaves, although my son has warned me that they are not particularly tasty. Admittedly, I have not eaten any leaves, though I did smell one — repeatedly and a little too deeply — to get some giggles. Can you tell?
So here is a LLP business truth for you: I don’t offer individual mini sessions at the beach very often. Living in Moncks Corner, a trip out to the beach is typically an hour drive, and for a 20 minute session it just isn’t lucrative. However, I LOVE beach sessions. I know my clients like beach sessions, too, so every once in a while, I offer an evening of mini sessions at the beach.
This sweet family took advantage of that offer. If you’ve followed me for a while, you may recognize them on my site and blog. They have been clients for a couple of years now – since the youngest was just a baby – and they are the best. The kids are so fun, and Mom & Dad approach photo sessions in the best way – relaxed and ready to go with the flow. And very shortly they will be adding one more beautiful baby to the mix! Mama makes baby #4 look so easy, even in hot, South Carolina summer!
If you’d like to schedule a relaxed, fun family session today — one that truly captures your season of life — send me a message and I’ll email you my family portrait guide!