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How to choose the best photo shoot location

photo session location ideas

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Choosing the perfect photo shoot location might be one of your tougher tasks as a photographer.

I say this coming from being an experienced photographer and business owner for nearly a decade.

Sure, I have my fair share of locations tucked away for my clients to choose from. But, taking photos at the same location all of the time can get tiresome and, well, kinda boring.

That’s why I like to go photo shoot location scouting.

I do this a few times a year (or as often as the kids in the car allow it) to discover new places for photo shoots.

Location scouting allows me to discover new places that fill my appetite as an artist while giving my clients even more selection to choose from.

And you can do the same!

While there might be many beautiful places in your area,  they don’t always make for the best photo shoot locations.

Even the most scenic areas have their flaws, so it’s essential to be mindful of how to choose a great photo session spot.

Why locations matter

When you take photos in a studio, you don’t have to worry about the location. You can change the backdrop, the lighting, and the overall scene at your whim.

Photographing outdoors requires a lot more thought into where you should to taking photos – and there’s many factors to consider before choosing a location.

While you should love the location that you choose, some locations are better than others.

Let’s uncover a few ways to help you select and decide the best photo shoot location.

Time of day

When taking photos outdoors and choosing a new location, the time of day should be your biggest consideration.

Your favorite spot for photos might look amazing during sunset, but will it have the same effect during midday when the sun is at it’s peak?

Knowing what a location will look like during any time of day is essential, especially if you aim to utilize natural light.

Some of my favorite locations look great either during the first few hours of the day, or the last, but rarely ever all day long. This is why knowing what time of day you’ll be taking photos is essential.

For instance, this location looks amazing the first few hours of the day as you can see the warm light in the background.

If I took this photo during the middle of the day, it would not have the same look. Most likely, my subject would have harsh light falling on her face and it would degrade the quality of the photo.

When I go location scouting, I always aim to go at the time of day when I know I will be out taking photos.

This helps me pick the best spots for that time frame and also allows me to take a close look at the most important factor: light.

Light

Camera settings, gear, and locations. All of these things don’t really matter if you are working with bad light.

What constitutes as bad light?

Well, pretty much anything that doesn’t compliment your subject and make them look their best. While lighting can be manipulated, having a good starting point is more important (and it will make your job a lot easier).

When selecting a photo shoot location, the light must take precedence. If you have a pretty location, but the light is lacking, then your photos won’t look their best.

This is why your locations matter. If you have a bad location with poor lighting, then your photos won’t look perfect – and isn’t that the goal?

photo session location ideas

Take this location for example. A rundown building at the edge of a beat up parking lot might not scream “optimal photo session location”. But, what makes this work is the LIGHT.

With enough low light in the background, this particular location made for a great spot for photos.

There was more flexibility for my subject to move around without any harsh, unflattering light.

The golden sun (known as golden hour) made for a prettier background, which would have been completely different if this was taken during a different time of day.

Just keep in mind the lighting situation when choosing your photo shoot location and you will be golden – pun intended.

Accessibility

Being able to get to your location easily is also a key factor – especially if you’re like me and work with a lot of families with small kids.

It might be a killer location, but if it takes a 20 minute hike through the woods to get there, then it might not be optimal.

Some of my favorite locations I can’t always use for this reason.

outdoor location for photo session in creek waterfall

Take this location for instance. It’s a great place to visit in the middle of the day or late afternoon because of the amount of shade.

However, it’s not so great for little kids or anyone that has trouble with muddy trails. Because there’s a steep walk down to the creek, this makes it a dangerous trek for certain people.

A great location will always boil down to how accessible it is for the need. If it’s not easy to get to, then it’s out.

When you consider all of the options before choosing a photo session location, you will be well on your way to taking better photos.

And if you’re ready to take your natural light skills to the next level, check out my natural lighting guide.

In this instant download, you will learn:

  •  How to master various indoor lighting conditions and learn the ways to make the light work for you to be a more consistent shooter.
  • The best ways to make back lighting work for you.
  • How to take photos in full sun and get BEAUTIFUL results.
  • Finally become confident in your lighting skills, no matter what time of the day it is!

Grab your copy now and start becoming the portrait photographer you’ve been dreaming of.

If you found this blog helpful, you might also like:

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Learn how to get blurry backgrounds in your images.

How to interact & photograph shy kids + download the FREE posing guide.

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Hey, i'm heather!

I help aspiring photographers learn the ropes of portrait photography & hone their editing skills so that they can become confident, creative artists. Learn how to edit in Lightroom with these FREE resources or come join my Photography community on Facebook.

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