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By Jennifer Werner McCarren on | No Comments
Finding great photography locations near you will take some investigative work on your part, but along with that, you can also use some new tools that I will share with you later on in this post.
But first, let's go over WHY USING A GREAT PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATION IS IMPORTANT, and after, I will go over THE ATTRIBUTES THAT MAKE A PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATION GREAT!
Some days it feels like everyone with a fancy camera is hanging up a shingle and trying to start a professional photography business. So, how do you differentiate yourself from the competition? Especially if that competition is priced significantly lower?
Your talent and experience are worth more, of course, but let’s face it, for families just looking for a cute Christmas card photo, the lower price point is likely to win every time -- unless you can offer them something truly different!
When you can’t compete on price point (and I really urge you not to try), you need to find something else that distinguishes you from the rest. Something that makes potential clients say, "Yes, I have to use her (or him) as my photographer."
One way to do this is by scouting unique, outdoor photography locations that will give your clients images they can’t get elsewhere - at least, not until other photographers discover your favorite spots.
This is why it’s essential to always be scouting for new places to take photos!
Besides using good old-fashioned physical location scouting, there are some wonderful new tools available for photographers to use that will help give you a head start and narrow your search.
One of my favorites is ShotHotSpot - a great search engine that uses location data automatically pulled from images on Flickr and Panoramio to locate favorite photography locations. Just type in the location you want to search, and the website will quickly compile the results.
Pixeo is a website and app created by a husband and wife photography team that became frustrated with the amount of time and effort it took to find good photo spots. They have built and curated an extensive list of beautiful locations to take photos.
Another nice one is LocationScout, which is constantly growing via a network of passionate photographers and travelers who discover and share beautiful photography locations they find around the world. Try it out!
For me, as a natural light photographer, the lighting at a location is the thing I look for first. I try to find and visit potential spots during the golden hour when the light is the most magical. I usually have my favorite subjects in tow (my three boys), so I can take a few test shots and experiment with different settings. Some locations may be beautiful, but they don’t get much magical light, so I have to pass. For me, light is the #1 most important factor.
With that in mind, I tend to avoid heavily wooded areas and those that sit down in a valley - they are less likely to have the lighting I’m looking for. A location with a treeline that also sits higher up or on a hill is usually ideal for both image composition and lighting.
I also target areas with a lot of foliage - wildflowers, wheat, and even weeds. And then, I’m always looking for something unique about the location - an old barn, a pond or creek, or a specific flower or tree that you don’t see that often.
I use one farm location that has a gorgeous old truck, painted teal blue, onsite. It’s not an obvious backdrop for professional photography, but it’s a favorite among my clients. I also love shooting at farms with animals on site. Whether it’s a horse in the background or a child holding a bunny, photography with animals can be a strong differentiator.
Another favorite of mine is a local greenhouse specializing in orchids. This provides the perfect setting for my styled child photography (another way I differentiate myself). The orchid location is not immediately apparent as a photography location, and yet, there is something truly magical in the images I’ve been able to capture there.
The greenhouse is filled with gorgeous orchids, but there is also a barn on site that provides a different look - all at one accessible location.
When I find a nice location, I’m always very respectful to the owners and offer to pay a per-day or per-session fee. This makes it more of a collaborative effort, and I genuinely prefer when there is something in it for them. If it’s a public spot, like a park or historical site, be sure to find out if the city requires a permit to shoot there. Make sure you do this BEFORE taking photos!
I try to be somewhat secretive about my favorite locations. In a perfect world, I’m the only photographer shooting there, but even if this is the case initially, it rarely stays that way for long. Your clients will share their images online and on social networks, and if other photographers admire what you are doing (which you hope they will!), they may come looking for your location or something similar.
This is expected, but you don’t have to make it easy for them! I avoid specifying locations on my website, and even when selling mini-sessions online, I only give a general description of the place but never include the address. I message it to clients individually.
These are small steps to prolong the exclusivity of the location, but if it’s a truly magical spot, it won’t remain a secret for long.
This is why it’s ESSENTIAL to constantly be scouting for new spots!
Fortunately, my little tribe loves to explore, so family outings often double as scouting trips. I admit that looking for photography locations is one of the things I enjoy most about being a professional photographer.
These are the foundations I use for finding great spots to take photos. What about you?
Do you have any questions, comments, or other tips for Finding Great Photography Locations? Leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
I am a North Atlanta photographer living in Roswell, GA with my husband and our three sweet and high-energy boys. My husband and sons are first and foremost the loves of my life and the inspiration for my family and child photography.