One of the most talked about subjects between photographers, aside from weather, is locations for outdoor family photo sessions. To the average person, it may seem like no big deal to find a good photo location. In actuality, it’s very difficult. The logistics of finding a spot that is open to the public, without an entry fee, and without a necessary permit are tough. Once you narrow that down, there’s the actual photography related aspects.
When a client looks at my family portfolio, they notice the beautiful families. They might notice the composition, the color, and maybe the posing. What they don’t notice is the exact positioning of the families in relation to the sun. Or where the sun sets in relation to that building/hill/big tree. It’s not apparent that the photograph is taken at the exact angle to avoid that distracting crowd of people. Finding a good photo location is about so much more than what looks pretty and it can make or break a photography session!
It’s easy (ish) to find a spot that has a good sunset. Any wide open field or elevation will do! But the reality is that wide open fields are amazing right at golden hour and too bright at every other time. While every photographer would love to shoot only at golden hour, this isn’t realistic. In the Spring and Summer in Boston, this would mean starting as late as 7:30pm. Parents with young children usually have qualms about starting at 6/6:30, never mind 7:30! But, with the right location, you can *cheat* golden hour a bit. The ideal location has something very tall (building, tree) to filter the bright light before golden hour. That way, you can begin the session in this spot at 6:30pm using the filtered area and then transition into the wide open area by the end of the session when you’re actually in golden hour.
Little kids do best with wide open spaces. So do parents! While I love a good urban shoot, there are a lot of things that make parents with young kids nervous. Cars, ponds, other people, streets. These “dangers” are also what little kids find fascinating. The best way to relax everyone at your family session is to just eliminate all of that! Not to mention that uncluttered backdrops bring the focus back to where it should be- on your family.
Family photo sessions can sometimes be tense for the parents, especially Mom. Imagine putting so much time and effort into finding a photographer, dressing your whole family, going out past/at bedtime…and then having everything ride on the shoulders of your unpredictable tiny humans. Having something at the location to get the whole family playing is ideal. That something could be: wildflowers to pick, water (like at the ocean), a hill to run up and down, something to climb.
Yes, we want to make sure locations have a good filtering object to cheat golden hour. Buuuuuttttt we still prefer golden hour, so the ideal photo spot has a fantastic sunset too. What makes a good sunset? Wide open space in front of where the sun sets. Unobstructed skyline where the sun sets.
What does this mean exactly? You want it to feel like you are the only ones there even if you’re actually not. Let’s face it, you’ll never get a sunset beach session from May-October around here where the beach is actually empty. What a photographer looks for in a good photo location is one where the people present can be obscured, avoided, or easily removed in photoshop. If you’re in the city of Boston, this is almost nowhere at sunset, which is why I recommend a sunrise city session.
Out here in the ‘burbs we are teeming with babies and kids with early bedtimes so its a little easier to find quiet options. On this night at the farm, we had the whole place to ourselves. Or did we? You’ll never know… 😉
What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to finding an ideal photo location? Tell me in the comments below!
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Figuring out where the sun is going to set so that it’s filtered in the beginning, then not obstructed during golden hour. I do a lot at the beach and that is so hard!
Figuring out a place with filters light + open field. I often have clients wanting to shoot at the beach and that is so tricky!!
It’s very hard! The beach is one of those locations where I know going in that there is ZERO opportunity for filtered light so I am very strict with shooting AT golden hour, not at all before.