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::Photography Tips: Location Scouting:: Oregon Senior Portrait Photographer

Location scouting is something all photographers should take the time to do- especially if you don’t want to fall into the trap of shooting in the same three locations all of the time.  As a portrait photographer, it is so important to have a variety of locations at your disposal- who wants to shoot in the same tired and used location time after time?  Not your clients and most definitely, not you.  To keep it fresh, new and inspiring, don’t limit yourself to only a few options, broaden the scope and challenge yourself to try new places!  You can definitely re-use these locations, however if you have 15-20 options, it won’t look like you are shooting in the same places time and time again.

Here are some tips on what to do when you are out scouting locations:

  • Devote a few hours one day to drive around your city/town in search of new areas.  I suggest doing this at the time of day you like to shoot.
  • Challenge yourself to drive around in areas you aren’t familiar with- you’ll be amazed by all of the great locations you’ve been missing!
  • Take along a camera or phone to snap a few pictures of the location so you will have a visual reference.
  • Jot down a few notes about the location- the exact location and time of day you were there- heavy traffic, blazing sun, busy sidewalks, etc.  Knowing when to avoid locations is huge!
  • If it is a park check out the calendar of events to ensure you don’t schedule a shoot when a festival or celebration is happening.  Trust me, I’ve made the mistake before and it is extremely stressful!

How big does the location need to be?

Not big at all!  You might be surprised to know that you can do a lot with a little- especially if you take the time to move around your client and not have your client only moving around you.  I often shoot 3 or 4 different crops and angles off of one pose, only having my subject make small adjustments as I move around her.  Every new angle changes what is the background, resulting in several different scenes without having her move from the place we started.

Here are a few pictures from a session I did over the summer with Sierra- the entire shoot took places is a small 20×20 area.  Would you know that if I didn’t tell you?  Probably not.  We don’t typically shoot in this small of an area, however this location offered several different textures and open areas that it didn’t require us to move around too much.  I would rather spend my time capturing the gorgeous light and interacting with my client than walking from one place to another constantly.  If the area is working- why move?  :)

Do you choose the locations or do your clients?

This really depends on the client.  One of the first conversations we have with our girls is what type of setting they want to do their session in: urban/city, natural, rustic…  Our next question is if they have an exact location in mind- more often than not, they don’t.  Our clients tend to be familiar with our work and often refer to past sessions we have done, wanting to shoot in a similar location.  Because I have a handful of location options for each type of setting, I help them narrow down the perfect location by taking into consideration what they will be wearing, the time of day we will be shooting and the current weather conditions.  Of course, I want to deliver the best images possible to them, as the professional, I have to take into consideration all of the different elements we are working with.

If a client has location ideas, this is always very exciting for me.  Of course, there is the added surprise of not knowing what type of location I will be working with, but I welcome the challenge, as it forces me to be creative.  If a client has taken the time to go location scouting on her own, I am thrilled to be able to take her vision and put my own spin on it.  The new locations only give us more options for the future.

Here is session we recently did where our client, Amanda, actually chose all of the locations on her own- and she rocked it!  :)

What do you look for in a location?

  • Variety of backgrounds & textures within a small radius, easily walkable from one place to another.
  • Shade- this is a must!  We typically shoot in the afternoon and evening, often when the sun is still a little intense to be shooting in.
  • I look for 3 different shooting options in one space: a solid foundation to lean on (brick wall, fence, doors, etc), open space (sidewalks, street, field, etc), posing aids (stairs, old truck, train tracks, etc)

I hope that you find these tips to be helpful!  If you have additional questions, please feel free to post them here in the comment box or on our Facebook wall- lets have a conversation!  :)  Happy scouting!!

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  • Angie MartinNovember 14, 2011 - 3:20 pm

    This post is awesome! I just stumbled onto your blog from Blog Lovin’ and I can’t tell you how excited I am that I did! Your tips are awesome! Thank you for sharing!!!!!

  • LacyNovember 14, 2011 - 3:28 pm

    Thanks for posting this! I really need to start scouting new locations. Even though I am just starting out, I find that am already falling into a creative rut with locations. This post is the kick in the rear that I needed! Great info!

  • Beth T.November 14, 2011 - 3:28 pm

    Awesome post Holli! Makes me want to go driving :) Thanks for sharing!!

  • Maya LaurentNovember 15, 2011 - 8:33 am

    Love this post. So many photographers just go to the same locations all of the time. Way to talk about variety!

  • Nancy MitchellNovember 16, 2011 - 8:53 am

    Thanks for sharing Holli! Great tips! I hope to use some in the future:)

  • MariaNovember 28, 2011 - 8:05 am

    So I am curious if you would travel to Iowa to do my seniors pictures? you do an amazing job and i dont think any Iowa photographers do as good as you..I’d be honored to have you take my pictures this next year.

  • PavelJanuary 19, 2012 - 12:17 pm

    Great article and pictures. A lot of photographers could improve their craft with better locations for their shoots.

    BTW, I wish you would mention the tools people can use for location scouting. In particular, smartphone apps like Map-A-Pic (which I’ve built) can really streamline the process of recording and organizing your locations. You can learn more about the app at http://mapapic.com.

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