By Maggie Hood
Choosing a location for a portrait shoot can set the tone and dictate the whole outcome of a shoot. The right location will fit the desired mood, have great light, and create an environment where clients can relax. Few things are more frustrating than shooting in terrible light in a busy spot where subjects are distracted or feeling like they are being watched by bystanders. Discovering locations in your area that fit your style, have great light, and provide a relaxed environment is important for portrait photographers. In my experience, clients generally are open to the photographer’s suggestions on where to shoot and sometimes only give a location style preference (i.e rustic vs modern). Having a small bank of location ideas to share with clients makes it easier and allows you to produce solid, consistent results for your clients.
While one can make special excursions to find portrait locations by searching places in your area you haven’t explored, I recommend just being a little more conscious while navigating your usual routes while walking or driving. Some of my favourite places to shoot have been places that I drove by time and again before I realized their potential. They are places I hadn’t seen other photographers use, which made me feel like I was Christopher Columbus discovering these unknown, magical lands of beautiful light and mood. Over the years, I have added more spots to my repertoire and I feel confident in my work when I get to shoot at these locations. I’ve also been able to use these locations as a backup in case we arrive somewhere for a session and find the location isn’t working due to poor light or other unforeseen circumstances. Some of my favourite places include a ditch approximately one minute from where I used to live that gets the best light, a copse of trees next to an automotive shop, and a parking garage across from one of my favourite restaurants.
The parking garage is a gem of a spot that I have used on multiple occasions. I had shot in the lower levels after parking there on multiple occasions and loved the moody grey tones of the concrete. I shot fashion, fitness, engagement, and wedding photos in that same area. One day, I was with my associate photographer Krista, and we decided to head up to the top of the parking garage to see what it looked like and attempt to shoot some portraits of each other in the bright mid-day sun. We ended up really enjoying the location and in turn, I kept it in the back of my mind. Even in bright sun, I liked the mood and tones I was getting in the location.
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to photograph a beautiful, intimate wedding in my area. The wedding took place at a gorgeous backyard of a Bed & Breakfast close to downtown. It was a perfect location for photos, as just across the road were some willow trees and an old train bridge, which is likely the most popular location for photos in our town. We did lots of photos with the couple in amongst the willow trees, as well as on and around the train bridge and adjacent green space. I always try, if possible, to add a little bit of variety to a set of wedding images and I knew we were a short 2-minute drive from the parking garage. We had a few minutes left before the couple needed to be back at the reception, so I pitched the idea of heading to the parking garage. The couple and wedding planner were all game, so we made our way there. What I didn’t realize was that the sun set nicely between two buildings, giving us some gorgeous backlight while shooting this more modern “city” vibe from the roof. We were able to create some of my favourite shots of the day and add a contrasting style to the images we had already created.
All of this is to say that the spots we frequent every day (parking garages, streets, side roads, alleys, etc.) can be hidden gems and in opening our eyes while going about our normal, everyday tasks, we can stumble upon some pretty amazing locations.
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