No matter what your job is, it's easy to fall into a pattern -find safe bets and stick with them. You figure out what works and you stay with it; if it's not broke, don't fix it, right? I'm reminded of something a wise friend once told me, "I always try to get to a location by a slightly different route. It expands your brain." Basically, she was saying, "Think outside the box. Always." The lesson most definitely applies to the creative arts, particularly if you want to be competitive.
A fellow photographer emailed me last week for location suggestions for engagement portraits. That made me think about the first few months after I started my business, how I learned about my favorite (semi-secret) spots and what it takes to make a great location for portraits. As I've been at the business for a bit now, I've learned that it's necessary for me to constantly be looking for new ways and locations to shoot. I have a few beloved haunts, but if I just bring clients to those same spots, recreating poses with the same backgrounds with different people, my pictures are going to look repetitive. I have to keep thinking outside the box in order to please clients and keep myself from stagnating as an artist.
Tips for Selecting Portrait Locations:
1) Variety. Choose a location that has several different kinds of backdrops within easy walking distance. The best places I've found have different textures and colors within five minutes walk of each other.
2) Lighting. If you're shooting with natural light, find a place that has ample shade to use indirect sunlight. Eaves, overhangs, tall buildings can all cast great shadowed areas while still allowing enough light to capture your subjects well.
3) Time of day. Shoot either in the morning or mid/late afternoon for the best indirect sunlight. Or, pray for cloud cover. Cloudy days create some of the best even lighting conditions! Trees can be pesky to shoot around when you've got that lovely sunshine out. Your subjects are usually speckled with light and shadow; it just don't look good, folks. But cloud coverage changes all that. Oh, lovely clouds...
Don't underestimate the power of your editing software. If you're not able to get that perfect glow straight out of the camera, there are easy ways to illuminate your subject(s.) It's always easiest to capture it correctly, but thank goodness for photoshop, yeah?
I shot this in the early afternoon with rather heavy sunlight. Though the other side of the building had great doors with fabulous color and texture, the sun was blazing and created harsh shadows on Sarah. Thankfully I had chosen a golden location that had lots of backdrops to choose from, regardless of what angle the sun was at. Here we shot the back of the building with an equally interesting wall.
Keep your eyes open, find new spots, look for the unexpected and keep thinking outside the box!