El Matador Beach Photoshoot | Hothi Family

 One of the best places to shoot in southern California is El Matador Beach in Malibu. The rock formations on the beach, the foamy waves, and the magical light at golden hour are always worth the trip. Last April, I trekked down there with the Hothis (including their two lovely dogs) to take their family photos.

And I really mean it when I say we TREKKED down! If you’ve never been to El Matador Beach and are planning to have a shoot there, please come prepared. It’s a little difficult to walk down the steep stairs (and dirt parts with no steps) to the beach, so wear comfortable shoes. Also, make sure to have all the stuff that you’ll need for the shoot (i.e. change of clothes, shoes you want to wear for the photos, makeup for touching up, etc.) before you head down because trust me, it will be a pain to have to go back up to the parking lot and down again to the beach.

I love working with families with small children. The Hothis have two, aged 5 years old and 18 months. When working with kids, my goal is to capture genuine moments of innocence. I want the parents to have something to remember this sweet period of their lives by.

This shoot was also extra fun because they had their dogs in tow -- Sheru and Bhalu.

Some General Tips for Family Photoshoots

Family photoshoots are incredibly fun to do but they can also be quite stressful, especially for the parents. If you’re planning to hire a photographer to have your family photos taken outside of your home, here are some things you can do to make the day go smoothly so that everyone has beautiful memories to bring home from the shoot.

Consider bringing a friend.

If you have small children that need constant supervision but you also want to have photos of just you and your partner, then it’s best to bring a friend with you. Your friend can watch the kids while you and your partner enjoy a quick couple’s photoshoot.

Let the kids play.

With the clock ticking and good light running out, it can be tempting to force your kids to smile and pose for the camera. While posed photos can look cute too, they might not always come across as genuine. So what do you need to do instead? Trust your photographer.

If you hire an experienced family photographer, trust that they will know how to connect with your children. Don’t hover. Don’t force the kids to pose. A good photographer will know how to make your kids smile or at least feel comfortable in front of the camera.

Usually, I just let the kids play and explore the area and I follow them to get the shots that I want. Not all kids will want to smile for the camera but all kids laugh and smile when they enjoy themselves. 

Pick a color palette for your outfits.

This tip falls under preparation but it’s an important one. Having outfits that are in the same color scheme helps in creating visually pleasing images. Neutral colors are always great to work with but don’t feel bad about choosing bold colors if that’s your thing. Don’t wear one color either unless it’s white. The Hothi family really nailed this one with their outfits in shades of blue and green which also complimented the scenery.

Don’t overthink your poses.

In all my years taking family portraits, trust me, candid shots are the best. There’s nothing wrong with copying poses from a family photoshoot that you saw online but don’t obsess over getting those exactly right. Overthinking your poses will only get in the way of creating genuine moments.

Bring snacks. 

Or better yet, make sure everyone has eaten before the shoot. Hunger can make both kids and adults cranky and nobody wants that. Some nuts, gummy candies, chocolate, crackers, and juice boxes can tide everyone over for a couple of hours.

Pick a location that makes you happy.

When doing your family session outside the home, make sure to pick a location that makes you happy and where you know you’ll be comfortable with your family. Choosing a place that makes you smile not only ensures that you’ll end up with great photos but that you’ll also enjoy the day.

When taking photos at the beach…

The beach is always a great photoshoot location. The sea just makes everyone feel good and that translates beautifully into the photos! When having your photos taken at the beach, keep the following in mind:

  • Avoid sunblock that leaves a white cast. Although photos can be edited after the fact, a white cast on the skin can sometimes be difficult to correct and the results are not always perfect.

  • Bring lotion. The salty air at the beach can zap your skin dry. Add to that the sun. So bring some lotion to bring back that healthy glow to your skin.

  • Schedule your shoot 2 hours before the sunset. This time of day, two hours before sunset is the real golden hour. This time in the afternoon will give you that “rim light” which gives the photos a film-like effect.

  • Bring a jacket. Beach locations can get chilly even when perfect weather is in the forecast. Jackets or light cardigans will keep you and the kids warm as you move from one spot to another.

  • And a comb. All that wind by the sea can tangle everyone’s hair. A comb can be quite a lifesaver.

  • Go on a weekday. Beaches, El Matador especially, gets pretty crowded on Saturdays and Sundays so pick any day of the week but those. Parking is also pretty limited so you’re sure to have a hard time finding a spot during weekends. On weekdays, however, it’s no trouble at all. Parking is around $10 for the entire day (8 a.m until sunset).


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