collage of headshots

How to Choose Locations for Your Photography Sessions

Guest post by Tamara Lackey Photography

Where you choose to shoot a photography session can have a strong impact on the look and feel of the portrait shoot, as well as the entire experience, altogether.

Every once in a while my clients know exactly where they want the shoot to take place. Maybe they just moved into a new house and absolutely want the shoot there. Or perhaps they are returning to the place where they had been married ten years ago, and they now want to do a family photo shoot there.

I’ve done portrait shoots in birthing recovery rooms, on a lot where a home was to be built, at the base of a waterfall two miles down a trail, on top of dunes in a desert, in penthouse suites rented just for the occasion, on a yacht in the middle of a lake, and at a vet’s office where the whole family was saying goodbye to their beloved dog together. In nearly all of those cases, the location was a meaningful aspect of the shoot.

But, most of the time, they are asking me for my opinion of where the shoot should be. I have a shooting space in my studio, which is all set up with lighting, multiple backdrop options on an electronic roller, hardwood floors and lots of chairs, stool, and sofa options. An entire wall is just window, and we can close the door to block out distractions and enhance privacy. In so many ways, it's an ideal location because everything can be controlled quite well.

I tend to only do roughly 10% of my shoots in the studio. Why? Because I absolutely love shooting on location, finding new areas, and picking up the energy that various environments will offer. I know that if I select a location that is fresh, different and untried, I will be eager to figure out how I can use these new surrounding to my advantage. That said, I also like to return to places that I have worked at time and time again, especially when I challenge myself to find something new in each tried and true location. But if a client is worried about her toddler potty training, and she doesn’t want to do a shoot in their home, our studio is a fantastic option for that.

I once photographed two teenage daughters who had recently been adopted from foster care. It became pretty clear, through their mom’s observations, that they might feel extraordinarily self- conscious of people watching them being photographed. In general, I try to stay away from any sort of audience when I am photographing my clients, but this was even more of a delicate situation. Being able to shoot in a private indoor space helped everyone to relax more, which led to significantly more authentic portraits than we would have gotten at any other location.

Just a few questions to ask when determining the best location for the client:

Will they want their pet(s) to be in the portrait? If so, try for a home shoot. If they want to do the shoot at an outdoor location, things can get a bit tricky if there’s not a plan for the pets when we are not photographing them. Ideally, there is someone available to bring them to the shoot and then back, so there is no concern about leaving them in a car, especially during warmer months.

Will they be up for a small hike, if necessary? If so, that opens up a lot of options for more adventurous shooting.

Would a more urban setting better fit their individual or family aesthetic? If so, look for areas where you can easily move about on foot. Look for great graffiti on walls or in alleyways. Make sure that there are no permits for shooting required first, though.

Do they have children that will just need room to move as needed? Try a park or open field location. I try to never photograph rambunctious children, especially multiple children, in my studio space. It starts to feel like 90% of the shoot is just trying to get them back in that same small space, and it limits their ability to just feel free.

Regardless of what location you choose, it helps to prepare your clients accordingly when it comes to things like restroom access, options for changing clothing, proximity to anything they may need, distance from where they may have parked their car, and a multitude of other things you might think of as it relates to your specific subjects! The more you are all prepared, regardless of where the shoot actually happens, the more likely it is that the shoot will be enjoyable for all.

How do you decide the location of your photography sessions?

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