What makes a great location

Location, location, loooooocaaaaation!  Your outdoor door photo session is all about location. :)

Spring and summer are coming up - THANK GOD!.  They are my favorite seasons here in the PNW (Pacific Northwest) because after spending the late fall and winter months getting creative in my studio or other indoor locations for my shoots I finally get to step outside into some warm sunshine and get those magical shots that make your photos glow.  With that being said, I'm excited for all of my engagements/weddings, family, and senior portrait sessions coming up.  -And since we live in such a beautiful state that offers so much variety in scenery and terrain, I thought I would take a moment to go over the 5 key elements that should be considered for your portrait session location with me.

But before I dive into the 5 key elements, you may find this a bit of a surprise, but I like to let my clients determine the location.  While I do have an extensive list of places I could recommend, I actually prefer to have my clients try to coming up with a location or at least a type of location first.  Your photos are a reflection of who you are and the surrounding environment in your photos helps to highlight this.  If you are a city person, then your session should take place in an urban setting.  If you love open air and fields, then let's retreat to the countryside.  You get the picture. (Pun-intended).  And I've found over the years that when my clients choose the location, they seem to be more comfortable from the get-go.  Unless you are an A-lister celeb, you probably don't have someone with their big 'ole lens following you around taking your picture every day, so being in a place you feel comfortable can really help to calm any nerves from the start of the session.

Your location not only sets the tone for the overall look and feel of your photos, but it will steer all other decisions about the shoot, including how you should dress, if you should bring props, what the start time of the session should be based on the natural light and what the most suitable poses are.

So whether you have a session with me or another talented photographer coming up, here's my 5-step formula for the perfect location:

1. Choose a meaningful place

Just because you live next to a pretty city park doesn’t mean that it's the best option.  You need to remember that you are a unique individual with your own personality.  This is what makes you so interesting!  If you don't have a meaningful location, then take a moment to think about your favorite places, things you do, or maybe even how you spend a Saturday morning.  The more meaningful your location is to you the more comfortable and relaxed you are for me and it will result in more natural looking shots.


2. Choose somewhere quiet

Crowded places are among the least ideal places to shoot portrait sessions at.  Ask yourself if the location you are considering is popular, such as a busy public park or beach.  The more popular the location is, the more people besides just us will be there, which could result in you becoming a little camera shy or random people constantly being in the background of your photos.  Finding a quiet or deserted location is not as difficult you think.  Often times these places are near the popular locations, maybe just a few hundred yards or miles away.


3. Don't let the location distract

While the location is a key element to your session, it's important to remember that it's not the main subject.  You are!  So don't worry about the backdrop of the location having all of these bells and whistles such as fancy fountains or landmarks to pose next to. Less is more.  Portraits are first and foremost about the people and the story in the photo, not the landscape.


4. Make sure your location has plenty of natural light

I am a natural photographer and this means I prefer and depend on daylight hours and brightly lit locations whether our session is outdoors or indoors.  It's best that we shoot your session either in the morning or evening and avoid the direct midday sun.  Midday sun can produce harsh shadow which can be very unflattering in photos.  It's also nice if the location offers some light shade, such as an overhanging tree or covered seating, where the sunlight is softer and more flattering.  If we are shooting indoors, a large window without any trees or building blocking is perfect and also very flattering.


5. Consider a location that also has shelter

Let's face it, we live is the Pacific Northwest and there is always a chance that the weather could take a turn and spoil our fun, but having a location with shelter can be equally as great on a bright and sunny day where the harsh lighting could affect the outcome of your photos. It's always great to have options...after all options are far better to have than not having any at all! :)


Shoot details:

  • Location:  Snohomish, Washington
  • Models:  Calli and Maddie, Glacier Peak High School Class of 2017

Happy location planning!