Tips on Choosing a Portrait Location



There are so many things to take in to consideration when choosing a location for your clients. The first thing I ask them is if they have something in mind already – somewhere that means something to them. If they can connect with the location, then you already have established chemistry for your shoot. If it’s an engagement shoot, and the couple wants to go to the place of the proposal, you already have a story in line before the actual shoot even begins. Say it’s a senior photo shoot, and your client plays football. Take him out to a football field, and I can almost guarantee he will be more comfortable in front of the camera, giving you better results.  I always try to find ways to personalize the location to the client from the very beginning.

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If my clients don’t have a location in mind, the next thing I think about is the light. What time of day will it be? What’s the weather like? Will we need a shaded area, direct sun, or indoor/diffused light? Personally, I prefer natural light as opposed to artificial lighting, so this part is important to me.  However, sometimes I have to adapt to the clients needs or other outside factors. I think of all the nicely shaded areas in town – whether it’s a porch, bridge, forest, overhang, or even the side of a building.


Now that I have all these ideas of where the good lighting is, I look for variety. I like to find locations that will offer different backgrounds that have the following: depth, color, texture, pattern, and personality. This way I know that the client will have plenty of options to choose from. You can almost always count on big cities to offer that type of variety in backgrounds. The structure and texture of buildings, whether they be tall, sleek, glass windows, or old, weathered, moss-infested brick walls, are always reliable. One of my favorite places I shot at was at the MARTA station in Atlanta(as shown). This one location offered so many different choices of backgrounds for us to use, utilizing so many of the artistic elements. I’ve seen really great photo shoots located in places like laundromats, local fairs, libraries, etc.


If you don’t live close to a big city, there are other reliable locations to choose from.  Old, abandoned barns/buildings offer color, pattern, and personality. You can even find plenty of color, texture, and patterns in leaves, flowers, and tall grass. I find that the less interesting the background, the more creative I get with the composition. It’s always a good thing when you find yourself in those challenging situations, because it is only then you discover new ideas.


While the elements I have mentioned are the basic ones I always look for, don’t ever stop looking for new ones. I have discovered others along the way such as movement and reflection.  Feel free to share any others you may have discovered!

When all else fails…

When the weather turns bad, you get kicked out of a building for trespassing, or you get attacked by chiggers in an open field….there is one more thing you can always do. Pull your client(s) away from any background, shoot with a wide aperture, and get close. Focus on the client and the composition, and don’t worry about the background… because if your aperture is wide enough, the bokeh is now your background… and bokeh happens to be one of my best friends.

About the Author:

As co-editor of Fuel Your Photography, Stacy is determined to provide inspiration for all photographers; from beginners to professionals. You can follow her on twitter.


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