This is the third in our current blog post series on summer photo tips. The first blog post was on my top 5 iPhone apps for Photosanity, and the second blog post was on what to think about when putting together photo-friendly outfits for your kids.

Today we're going to talk about perhaps one of the most obvious summer topics that comes up all the time - how to get the best beach photos.

I love the beach! It's one of the things I love most about summer, and it's no coincidence that pretty much every vacation my husband and I have been on has been to the beach also.

However, taking photos on the beach can be challenging - the sunlight is usually harsh, and sand and salt can damage your equipment. And certainly in NYC, the beaches you can visit on a day trip are also extremely crowded, which can make photo taking even more awkward.

Here are my top 5 tips for stress free beach photos:

1) Look for or create shade.

For those of you who have watched my free video lesson, you know that this is one of my top 5 tips for any photo - stay out of direct sunlight if possible. This can be hard on a beach that doesn't have beautiful shady coconut trees (ie all New York beaches!) but can be easily solved with a sun umbrella, which is very handy if you're on the beach with small children anyway for sun protection.

Taken in the harsh midday sun in the shade of an umbrella. The hat helps create shade too (and is just plain cute!)

If your kids are playing in the sun, try sun hats so their faces are in shade, or if all else fails, put the sun behind them so they are in their own shadow. Try to reduce the contrast between your subject and the background too - not always easy but avoid brightly lit backgrounds if you can.

Cloudy days are actually great for beach photos because everywhere is "shade"!

2) Protect your equipment.

You do NOT want your camera to get covered in sea or salt. Even one grain of sand can wreak havoc in the wrong place. Carry your camera and equipment in a separate bag that holds nothing else. You can always put that bag in a larger beach bag - in fact, that's a better bet than carrying a bag that screams "camera" and invites theft. You can even use a sturdy Ziplock freezer bag. Alumni have raved about Zing bags as a more stylish and protective version of this.

Make sure your hands are completely clean - sand AND salt free. This means that rinsing the sand off your hands in the ocean doesn't cut it. Use some of your drinking water for a final rinse, and/or use wet wipes.

And make sure your kids know the camera bag is off limits too!

Love this later afternoon cloudy day beach photo of my niece from a couple of years ago. All my photos that day were dreamy.

3) Don't use your DSLR

If you're worried about sand, salt and theft, don't ruin the opportunity for relaxation by getting stressed out about it. Consider leaving the DSLR at home and using your phone camera or point-and-shoot instead. You can capture the moment just as effectively without the worry.

iPhone beach photos can be really fun - with a little editing, you can really make the colors pop.

If you're on vacation and going to the beach daily, pick one or two DSLR days and leave it in the hotel safe for the other days. (Also, make sure your home/personal/travel insurance covers your equipment.)

Alternatively - consider getting a waterproof camera. I ended up purchasing cheap disposable waterproof cameras on our last beach vacation and having a blast! They would have been even cheaper had I not been buying them from the hotel store though, so plan ahead!

For me, it was not so much for taking underwater photos, but more for being able to take a camera in the water and capture up close all the moments of Liam having a blast in the ocean or pool.

Taken with a disposable waterproof camera. Yes, the quality kills me (waterproof cameras tend to be high ISO for underwater) but I would never have captured moments like this otherwise. Next time I'm getting a real waterproof camera!

If your kids love the water, a waterproof camera will give you shots you couldn't otherwise get - even with a zoom you don't get the same kind of interactions as you do when you're right in the midst of the action!

Of course, the quality of the disposable cameras is not great. Next major beach vacation I would consider getting a "real" waterproof camera such as the Lumix DMC-TS4 (I haven't tried it but it gets good reviews).

Another iPhone beach photo. It was crowded, but I found the right angle.

4) Go early or late

Early morning or late afternoon sun is always softer, more flattering and better for photos and this is especially true in comparison to the harsh midday summer sun and lack of shade you often find at the beach.

It's not always easy with kids, but if you can, head out early or stay late at the beach - it will be less crowded and the light will be much easier to work with.

5) Remember, the most important thing is the experience.

On the beach, as anywhere, more important than the shots you get is the experience you and your kids have. No moment is worth ruining for a photo - use your camera instead to bring you more into the moment and more connected to your kids. Let them play and have fun, and capture what naturally unfolds.

iPhone beach photos can be fun and casual.

Ready to take your photography to the next level so you can more fully experience the moments with your kids this summer?

Check out The Photosanity Workshop - there is an entire lesson with more summer, beach and vacation tips. We also cover everything from how to get your kids to cooperate for photos, getting out of auto on your DSLR, getting your photos organized and backed up, and ideas, tips and inspiration for sharing your photos. The workshop even includes wall gallery templates so you can get your beautiful summer photos and the memories they capture up on the walls of your home to enjoy and relive all winter long.