{Mentor Monday} Finding Photo Locations

There's something I call the "Pinterest Myth" of photography settings. You know the one: over-grown fields of golden grass with beautifully rustic barn and patient, well-groomed horses standing idly by waiting to add the "wow" factor to your family photos. 

The good news: this setting DOES exist! The bad news: 99% of the time it requires trespassing. (100%, if you don't happen to own said farm or know the person who does). 

There's no master list of "perfect photo locations" that professional photographers are privileged to. We are just really good at creating the ILLUSION that we live in a distraction-less world. Take this photo, for example:

"Hi, I'm a photo, and I was taken mere feet from a dumpster." (True story!!)

"Hi, I'm a photo, and I was taken mere feet from a dumpster." (True story!!)

This is where this post gets FUN. (In a super-nerdy, photography kind of way..) ANYBODY can fudge the setting they're in to create gorgeous photos! 

"So how do I find photo locations like the pros?"

When you're learning the art of photography, it's so easy to focus yourself on the subject of your image. That's the most important part of a photograph, right?? Wrong! The most important part of your photo is the story you are telling!  This requires we first look past our subject, and explore the context of our photo. Observe: 

This is an example of "perspective" making all the difference. Both of these beach scenes are well-populated, yet only one includes distracting vacationers. There's no cropping out that Coppertone gal!

This is an example of "perspective" making all the difference. Both of these beach scenes are well-populated, yet only one includes distracting vacationers. There's no cropping out that Coppertone gal!

The beauty in acknowledging distractions in your setting is that you can find angles to minimize or remove them completely:

  • "There are ugly powerlines over my subject!" Yuck! Whenever there are distractions ABOVE your subject, use a downward angle to remove it from the frame.
  • "My subject is in a yard full of weeds and bald patches!" Bummer! An upward angle will limit the view of all that crabgrass.
  • "There's a parking lot full of cars behind my subject!" Unless you're at a tailgate, I'm betting you can rotate around your subject and find a more appealing backdrop! "I'm at a tailgate." Well then, wise guy, a parking lot is part of your photo's context! ;)

"What if there are distractions EVERYWHERE?" I'm so glad you asked! 

beforeafter.png

In the photo above, there are distractions UP, DOWN, and ALL AROUND. So what did I do?

  1. FIRST, I took inventory of all the distractions around me. Where ever possible, I positioned my subjects to obscure distractions. You can see evidence of this strategy on the far right of the image. One of the subjects is blocking 90% of an ugly street sign. 
  2. Then I viewed the same image in landscape and portrait orientations. I chose a portrait orientation to eliminate an unsightly Window AC Unit on the left, and trash cans on the right. This greatly reduced the distractions I would work around in editing.
  3. Once I was back at my computer, I cropped out the remaining distractions - a bright red truck, bags of mulch, and uuuuuugly powerlines. "Why didn't you just zoom in, and take a picture without these distractions in the first place?" I always leave a little room to correct the dreaded CAMERA TILT (dun, dun, dunnnnn!). Otherwise I risk the equally undesirable limb chop.

"What if there are STILL distractions in my images?" As my dad always says: Perfect is the enemy of Good. If you've employed all the tips above, and there are still background distractions, rest assured your friends and family aren't grading your photos. We're always our toughest critics, just don't let that stop you from documenting your story!

Yay!! Now you're ready to make the most of ANY setting for your photos! I can't wait to see how these tips impact your family's photos. Please share your practice shots on my facebook page, I love watching your photography skills grow! As always, feel free to comment or email any questions you may have. Happy snapping, fellow photogs!