Don't you just love that question, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" Some of us have an automatic answer and others really have to stop to think about it. Some of us know exactly what we want, while others are just trying to manage the events of today. I have found that the question of "Where do you see yourself for your senior portrait session?" often renders the same range of responses. Some have a clear vision for the setting they desire, and others have no idea. The purpose of today's blog is to offer some "direction" for choosing a location for your senior session.
While many may be automatically focused on the backdrops and landscapes that can be found in various locations, my first consideration is LIGHT. The amount of ambient light that is available and the opportunities for it to be reflected or absorbed are crucial to my ability to function as a portrait photographer. Soft variations in light with much access to shaded areas will allow for the variation in portraits that I intend to provide. This is another reason I work within the two hours before sunset. Wide open spaces are fine for some shots from a distance, if the sun is at a very low angle, or if it is overcast. Most of our work must be in shade with ambient light spilling in.
What does this mean for a location? It means that we need cover of some sort. Trees, buildings, or structures that are tall or with overhangs are going to offer those shaded spaces. Pavilions, gazebos, porches, breezeways, barns, sheds, parking decks, stacks of straw bales, and retaining walls can all offer refuge from direct sun. Once we find these areas, we can get creative in how we utilize them.
Now that we are looking for locations with shade and ambient light, we can think about variety. One of my goals in a portrait session is to offer you many different types of portraits. You are a multidimensional individual with many different sides and I intend to allow those to be expressed. Sure, we can do close-ups and distance shots, serious and smiling expressions, looking off into the distance and looking at the camera angles. But, if every one of those portraits includes the same tree, where is the fun in that? I like some variety in vegetation, variety in architecture, variety in elevations, variety in color. We want to have fun with this!
When thinking about location, it is imperative to consider the personality of the senior and determine what might be the best fit. The earthiness of a farm setting might be perfect for one individual, but the edginess of a metropolitan area is most fitting for another. The whimsy of a playground may bring out the playfulness of a lighthearted senior, but an upscale shopping complex may allow another to express his/her style. Since our seniors have many layers to their personalities, multiple locations can be used if carefully orchestrated.
The obvious consideration, and sometimes limiting, is access to desired locations. We may need to request permission to use specific areas. Busy times should be avoided so that other patrons or visitors are not impeding our progress. Always being respectful of the properties and other people is a must. I have experienced such gracious cooperation from people when they recognize that our intentions are sincere and that we understand their needs.
Having said that, let's think about the types of locations that we may want to consider. Again, we need to assess the ability to gain access, and times when our presence would be least disruptive, yet within the two hours before sunset. That is where it can get tricky.
Some locations where I have found success include local and state parks if they aren't too busy. Schools, stadiums, tracks, and high school fields can provide settings to highlight your high school career. Family farms are perfect because there are so many textures and structures to offer variety, and we typically have the whole place to ourselves. College campuses are usually well-maintained and offer much variety. Golf courses can be beautiful, but you should have knowledge of where you are permitted. Wineries and vineyards are a gorgeous setting, but may require permission. Metropolitan areas can be surprisingly effective, but be prepared to watch for traffic and pedestrians. For some seniors, there may be locations that have special significance and could provide portraits with deeper meaning and purpose. I am all about customizing the experience and making this portrait session truly yours!
You make the memories; I will help you cherish them.
Love and smiles,