Shooting Outside - Location, Location, Location: Part 1 - Understanding Simplicity and Universality

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Whenever aiming to shoot portraits anywhere outside the studio, finding the perfect location can be a significant issue. The environment has to fit your idea, it has to go well with the model, and it ultimately has to complement each aspect of your setting.

You might end up driving around for hours trying to find perfect locations for certain images, in remote areas. This might help if you want to find locations for future shootings, however, it’s important to know how to pick them and keep that selection in mind when creating a shooting session. For example, you might end up driving around town (or even walking) to find that perfect shot for street portraits.

You might want to drive around your city to find places even farmers forgot for wonderful wedding photography with a certain type of setting. Within this chapter we will go through some of the things that make a setting ideal for almost any photograph (and if you have something special in mind, you might want to combine these tips).

1. Aim for Simplicity

We have a natural tendency to look for the extraordinaire, to look for spots that have everything in them. The problem with these places is that they often look good by themselves, and with portrait photography this might become a problem – remember that we kept talking about one important rule in the book – keeping distractions away from the image.

Pulling the interest away from the model isn’t quite ideal since this is, after all portrait photography and not landscape photography. Therefore, simplicity is key. The areas in the great outdoors you should pick should have a little bit of pizazz, but again, the kind of pizazz that complements your model, not the one that creates further distraction.

2. Aim for Universality

Right there in tandem with simplicity is the universality principle. To explain – the majority of areas you will find should fit most types of portrait. There will be some places that are great for one type of photography though. Let’s take street portraits for a moment – while you can adjust the type of photography you’re aiming for to work on the street, it would be wiser to consider something more appropriate for that setting and not force a certain environment in the wrong category.

The perfect advice here is to find a couple of places that are sort of cliché for your photographs – that you can use in almost any circumstance, just in case that special place for your kind of photographs hasn’t been found just yet. For example, industrial areas, special alleys, train bridges are usually the kind of places that universally work with all sorts of portraits.

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