Kids + water + cameras = great family pictures. Or, at least it can, if you remember a few simple tips:
• Unless you have a camera specifically designed to be used around water, don't let your camera get wet. Most digital cameras are not sealed against water and can be ruined if water, especially saltwater, gets inside.
• Ditto for sand. The only difference between sand at the beach and sand at the hardware store is the glue that holds the hardware store sand to the paper backing.
• If your camera has a "beach" setting, or something similar, use it if it is a bright sunny day. Sand at the beach, or the concrete deck at the pool will reflect a lot of light and can result in underexposure. The "beach" setting will compensate somewhat.
• Avoid shooting toward the sun. This will result in a backlit situation and a lack of detail in your kids' faces, unless you use a flash.
• Use a flash. Using a flash outdoors in bright sunlight might seem strange, but it will lighten up the shadows caused by harsh sunlight. However, the range of a flash used outdoors is very small so you must be very close to your subject, say, around 10 feet.
• Kids are short. So, for more interesting photos of them, get down on their level. Photos taken at kid-level will be more interesting than if you shoot down on them from adult level.
• Concentrate on your kids' faces. That is where they show their personalities. This is true in most photos of people.
• If you have a landlubber in the group, consider giving him or her the camera to be the designated photographer. Everybody else can get wet and not worry about getting the camera wet.
Care and feeding of your equipment
Water, sand and cameras don't get along well with each other. You can add greasy sunblock and other beach lotions to that list.
Sunblock and lotions should be applied well in advance of handling a camera. Then, be sure to wash your hands with a good grease-cutting soap so you don't transfer the sunblock to your camera. The camera doesn't need it.
However, if you are out in the sun all day, make sure the camera stays in the shade when you're not using it. Exteme heat can damage a camera too.
The best thing to keep it in is a bag that doesn't look like a camera bag. A light color is best. Unless you are by yourselves at the beach or pool, security can be a concern. Don't keep an expensive camera in an expensive camera bag.
If your camera's lens can be fitted with a filter, consider purchasing a UV filter; put it on your lens and leave it there. A filter is cheap insurance against lens damage. It is much better to be removing saltwater, sand or greasy sunblock from a filter than from the front element of your lens. If you can't put a filter on your lens, or if you have a small pocket-sized camera, consider keeping it in a zippered plastic bag when you are around sand or water unless you are actually using it.
Finally, if you are planning to spend a lot of time around the beach or pool, consider purchasing a digital camera designed specifically to be used around -- or even in -- the water. Check out Digital Photography Review at dpreview.com and enter "waterproof" in the search box. A Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5, or a camera like it, would be a good choice: dpreview.com/news/2013/01/07/Panasonic-lumix-dmc-ts5-ts25.