How to Find Good Locations for Family Portraits

When you’re shooting a family portrait, about nine out of 10 times the client will ask, “Do you have a place you typically like to shoot?”

We all do, of course, but if you take every portrait client to the same location, your portfolio will develop an undesirable, repetitive consistency. So, it’s important to thoroughly scout the area where you live and work, to build a list of go-to spots for any scenario, circumstance, and style.

Think about your city, and build a list of these places where you can shoot:

  • A field or shoreline with broad vistas to capture the aura and glow of twilight
  • A similar outdoor venue with features like tall grass or trees to provide backdrop
  • An outdoor area with full shade, appropriate for shooting midday
  • A covered outdoor space like a gazebo or covered porch, for shoots in inclement weather
  • An indoor space with high ceilings and lots of windows for natural light

Because most family portrait sessions will include a variety of backdrops and poses, the perfect shooting location contains all of these elements. But that’s rare to find.

Finally, make sure that you have the required permits, permissions, and licenses to shoot in your desired locations, whether they’re public or private (many municipalities require a business license to shoot in public places like parks and beaches).

Once you’ve built your list of go-to locations, you’re ready to schedule a session with a client. Here are the two scenarios that could play out:

1 – The client has already chosen a location

It’s surprisingly rare for a client to be dead set on a location, but sometimes there’s a family home, or a special place with memories where they’d like to be photographed. Or perhaps there’s extended family gathered together already, and they’d like to keep the photo shoot as easy as possible by having you come to them. If you’re shooting for next year’s holiday portrait or another special event, they may also choose a place that fits the theme, such as an evergreen forest or a snowy landscape.

If you’re not familiar with the location, ask questions about it while confirming the shoot. You may discover that you need to bring extra equipment like lighting to fill in shadows, if they’re hoping for a family portrait underneath a moss-strewn oak tree at two o’clock in the afternoon.

Likewise, indoor shots — such as people gathered around the fireplace or the Christmas tree, for example — may present difficulties with lighting that you’ll want to work out and be prepared for, prior to the actual shoot. When feasible, visit the site of any shoot before arriving for the actual job.

2 – The client is open to your location suggestions

This is the more common scenario, where you pull out that list of locations you’ve already scouted.

Start by getting a sense of the feeling the family wants to capture in their photos. If it’s a holiday family portrait, they may prefer a warm and rustic theme over something bright and urban, for example. Or they may want a look that’s relevant throughout the year.

Timing will also have a lot of influence over your decision on where to shoot. When possible, schedule sessions for an hour, to an hour-and-a-half before sunset, giving you time to arrive and chat, get the family comfortable with your presence and style, and then be fully ready to capture beautiful, stunning portraits just when the changing light is at its peak.

Read the full article in Digital Photography School

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