Location is everything in photography, especially outdoor portrait photography. Unfortunately, it can be ridiculously hard to find a reliably decent spot that isn’t already overcrowded. Here are some things to consider when scouting for your next special spot.
It’s important to choose a spot that you love so you can have more confidence in front of the camera!
To have adventurous photoshoots, you have to be willing to be an adventurous person! Intentionally take a wrong turn, scout out places you’ve never been to before, look for inspiration online and ask around among people you know. Sometimes the best spots are happy accidents.
When you do find something that you love, drop a pin and save the coordinates so you can revisit it later. Wandering is always preferable compared to those in town locations.
Respect the property owners.
I get it. You’re driving around town when all of a sudden, you do a Paul Rudd double-take at this gorgeous, wide-open field. The clouds part, the angels sing, and you can visualize magic unfolding right there.
That’s all well and good, but you can’t just start unloading your equipment. There are a few extra steps to consider, lest you want to be kicked out mid-session, confiscate your gear, or worse.
The goal is to keep yourself 100% legal. This means asking for permission, not forgiveness. But who, exactly do you ask, and how?
Start by figuring out if a property is public (usually government-owned) or private. Both should have a contact person and contact number, although it may require some digging to find. State and city municipalities may even have a website or online form (gasp!).
There may be fees or permits associated with using a location for photography. You may also be required to show proof of insurance (for example a certificate of insurance or COI). Permits may be available per day, or per year (great for if you plan to return multiple times!).
I know it stinks to think of one more expense, but it’s better to know and include this in your CODB calculations, than be taken by surprise and not have accounted for it.
When dealing with private property, simply introduce yourself and why you are there, and bring a location release form along. Communicate how you can market or compensate the location owner using your photography, if you are willing to do that.
Whatever route you take, be sure to start well in advance. Getting permissions and permits takes time. No one wants to drag the profession down or end up in hot water over a photograph. Always ask.
It’s hard to get an adventure vibe going when sandwiched between a McDonald’s and a Walgreen’s. There are simply too few spots in a big city that are expansive enough to do outdoor photography. Be on the lookout for at least 2 acres, preferably more.
More space means more freedom to take photos from different angles- including horizons with nothing on them but gorgeous views.
Everyone loves a good adventure, but not everyone is Bear Grylls. Accessibility is important. If the location takes a 10 mile one way uphill hike, it is probably not going to work for everyone.
Consider how the location works for different types of adults and kids. Even the car needs some consideration!
Is there adequate parking around nearby, or is the lot usually full? What about walkability- is the path completely overgrown, or is it paved and suitable for a stroller? Is there a bathroom around, or are there zero structures on the premises? How level or steep is it?
While it’s not always “the more accessible, the better,” it DOES help to know exactly what session goers can expect.
Find points of interest.
Some locations are fine, and others are incredible! The difference is usually in the details. How people interact with the scene can make it a lot more interesting to look at! Are there rocks to climb, wildflowers to sniff, a tiny creek to dip toes into?
The more points of interest a scene has, the more options a photographer has to direct a session, and the easier it is for subjects to feel at ease. This is especially the case for little kids, who do best when there’s plenty of opportunities for nature play.
Tall poles, telephone wires, radio towers. Sometimes they’re unavoidable. Sometimes they can even be photoshopped out fairly easily.
However, if you can find a location that has very few obstructions (or none!), it will enhance the adventurous feel of outdoor photography. And not to mention, that’s one less post-processing step.
If you’re interested in adventure photography, let’s talk. I’m a professional photographer located in Phoenix, Arizona. You can book a session here!