Location, location, location. You hear it in real estate all the time but it’s just as important in photography. Whether you’re looking for the perfect place to take your portraits or somewhere to take great nature shots, picking your location is one of the most important decisions you make. There are five questions I consider when selecting a location.
Is It Visual?
Finding an eye-catching location adds so much to the quality and composition of your shots. Is your location in an interesting part of the city? Does your location have bright colors, with the greens of summer, fall foliage or spring flowers? Are there leading lines, textures, patterns, backgrounds and shapes?
Is There Natural Light?
There’s a reason that many photographers swear by natural light and refuse to shoot anything else. In my opinion, the quality of natural light adds something supremely organic that artificial light cannot match. I use lighting systems (on-camera flash, strobes, etc.) when I need to, but if I can avoid it, I will.
However, not all natural light is created equal. When shooting outdoors, I avoid direct sunlight because it produces harsh shadows and often makes peoples squint or look uncomfortable. I love to look for light and open shade, such as an overhanging tree or covered area where the sunlight filters through as softer and more flattering. You can also shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon or evening, when the sun is less strong.
Is It the Right Time of Day?
Although sunrise and sunset are my ideal times to shoot because of the quality of light, they might not be practical for a client. First, scout your location ahead of time to see what the light will be and where shadows fall. Although it might be the perfect spot for a shoot, the lighting will be better at some times and worse at others (morning vs afternoon). Second, factor in the time frame in which your location is the least busy and a good time of day for your clients.
Is It Accessible?
Some of the most beautiful locations require location permits to shoot there. Photo shoots at a beautiful local park or in front of a historic building are not always free. Sometimes it’s only a matter of calling ahead to get permission from the owners about photos. You have nothing to lose!
Then there’s the question of access. How far up a mountain do you need to hike to get the shot? How long will low tide last before your beach location is underwater? Doing a cost vs. benefit analysis is always important in deciding where to shoot.
Are You Somewhere Quiet?
While some people are good at tuning out background noises, crowded places can be the worst locations for portraits. Not only can other people distract your subjects, but you’re constantly waiting for people to move out of the frame. Also, people walking by tend to try to “help” or watch or even comment on the subjects. That’s not ideal.