Do Locations Matter?
The truth is: locations don't matter. Light matters. Connections matter. But location? I can get great portraits in front of a patch of weeds if the light is right.
Case in point: photo bottom, right. This photo was taken in front of a patch of ornamental grass, left, that somehow sprouted out of a patch of weeds on an empty building lot. To the left of the grass was a for sale sign and to the right and behind was an unsightly patch of tangled weeds. This tiny area, no bigger than two feet wide, created a beautiful background for the photo on the right.
Here's another example. You can't really tell where these portraits were taken since so little of the background is showing. I love portrait photography for the connections that are made and captured between the people in the photographs and also between you, the viewer, and the subject. That's why so many of my portraits are cropped so tightly. And also another reason locations don't matter.
SO what makes a good session location?
When clients ask about session locations, I tell them to choose a general location based on their style—causal session at home, romantic session in a pretty field, etc.—and then I choose a specific location based on the light. Below are some examples of photos taken in various locations and things to consider about each one.
If you happen to be in Cape May when I'm there and want a family portrait session, or if you hire a beach photographer while you're on your vacation this summer, your photos might look like these. The following photos were taken mid-day, which is often off limits for good portrait photography. The light is little harsher but that doesn't mean it can't be beautiful. In the photos below, the sand acted like a reflector and bounced light back up into the subjects' faces, making the light softer. The photos were also shot in October when the beach season was over and the light is generally not as strong.
Most beach sessions are done in evening. Light is softer at this time of the day and almost creates a glow around the subjects. Most of the beach-goers are off the beach in the evening, which means you won't have strange people in the background of your family photos—another reason not to have beach photos taken mid-day.
Don't forget the great possibilities on the pier and boardwalk. They are perfect for a storytelling-style portrait session and are a great way to document the fun of your family vacation.
City Streets or neighborhoods
The photos below appear to be in a country setting, but they aren't. These were taken in alley behind my house. This area gets beautiful light in the evening and there is a tall holly bush along a fence that gives the illusion of a country setting These photos show you that you don't need an expansive view to create beautiful portraits with beautiful backgrounds.
The following session was shot at the Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg. This location has gorgeous limestone walls all around us that, like the sand on the beach, acted like reflectors and bounced light all over. In some of the photos from this session, we were able to incorporate some nature from the trees in the courtyard. Locations that offer a natural environment within the urban environment allow for enough variety in a session that it's almost like having two small sessions in one.
If you prefer an urban location, we'll look for light colored buildings or interesting architecture that can be incorporated into your portraits; however, the lines and color of red brick buildings can be distracting and take away from your faces and the connection we are trying to capture, so we'll avoid shooting near them.
Barns, Farms and Fields
Barns, farms and fields are some of the most common locations for portrait sessions in Central PA since we have so many of them. Both of the sessions below were taken on different parts of the same farm.
If you want your session at a farm or in a pretty field, it's best to do it early in the morning or in the evening so the green from the grass doesn't reflect up into your faces and clothes. Keep in mind that mosquitos and ticks are more of concern in these areas, so you'll want to be prepared with repellent and do a thorough check after your session.
In-home sessions can be tricky because of limited natural light, tight quarters and normal, everyday clutter. I may have to search the rooms of your home or move furniture to position you in the best light. The photographs below were taken mid-day in a bright, north-facing room that had lots of big windows. If your rooms are bright during the day, you probably have enough light for an in-home session.
Locations to Avoid
There aren't many locations I would outright avoid, except for places that are dangerous and illegal to shoot, like train tracks. For me, train tracks are completely off limits. Besides, they're cliche. And we don't want cliche for your family photos.
Thinking about your own family portrait session? Get in touch. I'd love to work with you.