There are a variety of situations in which a background may look perfect in person but isn’t ideal for photos. If you haven’t read my blog on lighting over location, head over there first to get a better grasp on the content of this post. Knowing what makes a good location will help tremendously when scouting out spots for your next session.
Sometimes, we see such beauty and assume it will translate just the same in photos, unfortunately that’s not always the case.
Light: Lighting over location, again. So important. Simply put- Bad lighting = bad location. If your location is directly in the bright sun- you are going to look blown out with squinty eyes, and hot spots all over your clothes. No Bueno
Clutter- Even if its beautiful clutter! A busy garden, a barn with farm equipment scattered, man made fountains with blooms, or a yard with lots of detailed landscaping touches, can sometimes be too much. Why does this make a background not ideal? Our brains get overwhelmed when looking at images without the right amount of white space. Our brains need a clear focal point. If there are multiple items in the photo our eyes don’t always know where to focus, this is especially true when those items don’t have enough separation from the main subject. It can create visual chaos when there are multiple textures, colors, or items that aren’t cohesive. (My style of photography is to make my subjects pop off the background, separating them from what is behind them. If they are blended with multiple items and textures, they are competing for that focal point).
Dark Holes: Meaning anything that is really heavy in color. This can be a thick area of dense trees, a dark colored wall or building, or a heavy populated industrial area. It is difficult to create a light and airy look when the backgrounds is intense, dark, and heavy.
Residential areas: Sometimes backyards are ideal and make the perfect spot for photos! However, if you can see other houses, yard items, an unsightly fence, or there isn’t enough space, etc . . . the photos become very closed and busy, distracting from your main subjects.
No Shade: This falls under lighting, but it is worth noting individually here as well. Depending on where the sun is, having nothing to block it at all could be a problem. In order to get that glow, sometimes I need to block the sun so it doesn’t blow out all of the highlights in the photo. Open fields with no trees are an example of this type of location.
Rooms with no natural light: If I am shooting an indoor lifestyle session, newborn, or otherwise- the best place for that is the room with the most natural light coming in. I prefer to use my flash as infrequent as possible. Limiting my use of flash helps keeps the light flattering when it hits my client.
•Sun: Pay attention to where the sun sets. That is the direction I will be shooting into, make sure that this backdrop you are wanting.
•Variety: Does this location have a couple different options for photos or are we limited to just one area and one scene?
•Public: Is this area open to the public? Will there be lots of people walking by or standing around? Will there be anything else around that can cause frequent disruptions?
•Immovable items: Are there any large immovable items that will be hard to crop out of the background? (I.e dump trucks, construction, playground equipment, dirt mounds, etc . . .)
•Neutral tones: Is there tall wheat around or short green grass? (hint: tall wheat for win) Is there a sidewalk or grey gravel that can serve as a reflector (double win).
•Typography: Rolling hills and mountains are epic, you just want to make sure that the typography makes sense for the type of session you are having. Check that there is plenty of room, having subjects downhill from your photographer is rarely a good thing.
•Space: Look around and make sure there is enough space for your photographer to backup and capture the whole scene for a variety of shots. If you have a group, double check there is also adequate room for everyone in your crew.
If you are my client and are working on choosing a location, here are some of my favorite things to look for to get the images you’ve been swooning over:
•Trees: Willow trees, trees in bloom especially in the spring or loaded with color in the fall. Trees where the leaves are a little translucent so the sun can shine through are what we want. I’m also a sucker for low hanging branches.
•Tall Wheat: I can shoot in tall wheat all day! It photographs golden and gorgeous.
•Cobblestone: If you are lucky enough to have access to a cobblestone path or driveway, please . . . let’s go there!
•Pretty Fences: Wooden or white fences, extra points if it curves and we can get that lead line in some shots for some dimension.
•Steps/Pillars: Know a place with some neutral steps and pillars we can go? Yes, please! I’m a sucker for these types of locations and wish there were more where I live!
•Mountains/Beach: Both of these places are just gorgeous and lovely and I will never tire of shooting there. If possible -bring me all the beaches, all the beautiful sand, and the ocean sunsets! In Colorado, I’m more than happy to ‘settle’ for the snow capped rockies and beautiful peaks.
Knowing what makes a good location for your photo session, will help you achieve the outcome you are dreaming of. I have photographed the most perfect venues and the not so perfect. But, honestly- as long as you are there, are excited for your session, and trust my judgement, I promise you are will have beautiful photos to look back on for years to come.
Leave a comment and share your most favorite locations, and check out some of my favorites throughout the past 7 years.
Cherry Blossoms in the mid spring here only last for a short while, but they are gorgeous while they are here!