Finding Photography Locations

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Location is such an important aspect of photography and it’s something that I really struggled with in the beginning and still do sometimes as a photographer. So I am going to share some of my favorite advice when it comes to scouting locations for your photographs. 

Finding Photography locations

Where you shoot your photo session has a huge impact on the look and feel of your final images. It also has a huge impact on how you’re going to shoot and plan your session. From what your subjects wear, to how they interact, to how you shoot the session…location is truly a determining factor.

One of the first questions I ask myself when planning a session is where am I going to shoot? What kind of location is really going to enhance the story I am trying to tell with my photograph. If I have a specific prop or outfit I really want to use, then I have to determine what kind of location is going to be the best setting to bring it to life. 

On the other hand sometimes the location is the determining factor for how I plan my shoot. If I know I am shooting at the beach, for example, then that really narrows down the kind of outfits and props I am going to select.

photography locations

BEING AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS

Different locations present different challenges. If I am shooting in an urban environment I’m going to have to be really aware of cars , other people, and the environment around us. We are going to have to work with whatever shows up on that street. If, on the other hand, our photography location is in nature we have to be aware of a totally different set of challenges. For example, we need to watch out for snakes and bugs. We need to bring proper shoes if we’re walking through tall grass. If we’re going to do some shots on the ground do we need to bring a blanket to sit on?.

Wherever you decide to shoot it’s important to prep your client/subject for the situation. If I’m shooting in a field, for example, I’ll often have my client wear boots (or some kind of sturdy shoe). The tall grass is going to hide their shoes anyway…or they can at least bring boots to walk through the grass and change them when we get to the location. I once made the mistake of shooting in a cow field with a young couple from the city and they were horrified to see actual cow poop out in the field!! Clearly I should have prepped them better for what to expect ha ha!  

IS THERE A BATHROOM? 

This may sound silly, but bathrooms are important, even if it’s just a tree to hide behind! I can’t tell you how many times my kids interrupt a shoot because they have to pee…even though I just asked if anyone needed to use the bathroom 10 minutes ago lol! 

Same thing to consider if you are doing multiple outfit changes at your photography location. There have been plenty of times when my subjects have just jumped in the car and changed. Just make sure they have somewhere they feel comfortable changing.

FINDING PLACES TO SHOOT

I always really struggled with finding places to shoot in the beginning. Luckily for me, I live in the country so I can walk out in my yard and shoot in nature. But I can only shoot so many things in my yard, and I am definitely always on the look out for new locations. 

Public parks are usually my next best photography location, but these come with their own set of drawbacks. They are public, so I don’t have to worry about trespassing which is always a plus, but what I do have to worry about is all the other people!!! It’s always hard when I have my heart set on a spot and I show up to find there are already people there. Sometimes I can wait until they leave, but if the sun is setting and the light is slipping away that isn’t always an option.  

I have found that the best time to shoot in public locations is during the week when there are less people out and about. It’s easier to edit out a few people in the background than a large crowd. There have been several times when I have left a location in tears because I just couldn’t get my shot. 

If you read the situation and think you can ask the people to move, it is always worth a shot. I find that as long as people aren’t heavily invested in an area (like they have a whole picnic spread set up) then they are usually more than happy to accommodate.

SHOOTING BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD

Another place I really love to shoot is on the side of the road! Yes…you read that right! The prettiest wildflowers always seem to grow on the side of the road (I think it has something to do with the acidity of the soil?). Now this goes without saying, safety is a very important issue when shooting in a location like this. And depending on where you live, there are certain laws you need to abide by. For example, I don’t ever pull over and shoot in the median on a busy highway (no matter how pretty the flowers). I typically like to pull over on quiet side roads. And if I am photographing one of my children I make sure they are able to understand the safety issues. Ideally, I like to have another adult available to help keep an eye out for cars. 

Photography Locations

This was shot on the side of an old dirt road by our house.

WARDROBE

You also want to make sure that your clients dress location appropriate. And what I mean by that is…you want to make sure that your subject’s clothing compliments the photography location. A little girl in a white cotton dress and rustic boots is going to look much more in place in a beautiful field than she is on a busy city street. A woman in a cocktail dress and high heels is going to look out of place on the beach, or standing in a stream. So always make sure that you prepare your clients and that they are planning to dress appropriately for the location. I’ve written a whole post here about what to wear for your photo session.

ACCESSIBILTY

Accessibility. You need to consider how easily accessible your location is. If you’re going to be trekking through a field or hiking a mountain then you have to make sure that your clients are mentally and physically prepared. You don’t want to be hauling a large family with a bunch of small children on a mile trek just to get to your shooting location. Everyone is just going to be hot, sweaty, tired, and their outfits are going to take a beating. 

You may have a perfect location picked out but it’s just not easily accessible for a large family, but it may be great for a young couple that is willing to go the extra mile for some really great photographs! If you’re going to be shooting on a busy city street then you have to take into account that this might be more stressful for the parents of small children who may be running all over the place. You’re better off taking them to a quieter side street, and somewhere away from busy traffic.

TRESPASSING

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention trespassing. Obviously you never know who or what you are going to encounter if you choose to trespass. Look for “No Trespassing” signs and evaluate the situation. I’m not a lawyer so you have to make your own judgement here! When in doubt I always try to find out who owns the property and most of the time I am given permission! 

TIMING

I’m also going to mention timing when choosing your photography location. Of course timing plays into your lighting and how you’re going to shoot the scene, but there is more to consider. For example, your city street might be quieter at 8 AM that it would be at 6 or 7 in the evening. Or that pretty dock you wanted to shoot on might be less crowded in the early hours of the morning than at sunset. Scope out your location and access the situation. And as I mentioned earlier, I usually try to shoot at public locations during the week because they typically tend to be busier on the weekends.

RECAP

So let’s do a quick recap!

BEING AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS – Different locations present different challenges. Safety first!

IS THERE A BATHROOM? – Make sure they have somewhere to “go” especially when shooting small children.

FINDING PLACES TO SHOOT – Explore the public parks in your area. This is always a great starting point.

WARDROBE – Dress for your location! Don’t forget appropriate shoes!

ACCESSIBILTY – Make sure your location is easy to reach depending on your client/subject. A mountain climb might be more appropriate for a couples shoot than a family with small children.

TRESPASSING – Always try to get permission if you are unsure about a location

TIMING – Obviously the light and temperature is going to be affected by timing. If shooting in a public area try to pick days when it is less crowded.

So there you have it! Some of my favorite tips for finding locations for your photography! I hope these tips help the next time you are scouting a photography location!

XO,

Ruth

I’m participating in a super fun blog circle this month with some of my photographer friends. Check out my friend Ute, a passionate Lensbaby enthusiast and passionate teacher and her blog post all about how to nurture your creative flow.

Ruth Young is a professional, portrait photographer and photography educator located in Culpeper, Virginia. She photographs her daily life with her 5 small children and has a passion for teaching photography. For more about Ruth follow her on Instagram where she posts daily.

  1. Utew says:

    Wonderful tips. Ruth! I really love your dreamy style.

  2. Stunning images Ruth! Such great insight into finding photo locations, too!

  3. Your photos of these locations are stunning.

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Hi! I'm Ruth!

Welcome to my blog where I share all things photography related. I am a fine art photographer and photography instructor and mentor. I am also the mother to five wild little children who I homeschool. We love to explore nature while I take photographs along the way!

Fine art portrait photography

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