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Location Scouting: What Makes a GREAT Portrait Session Location?

February 12, 2015

Filed in: Uncategorized

So it’s my off season for sessions.  The days are wet and cold, and I’ve just seen most of my regular clients for family portraits in the crazy crush of November and December.  January and February are months for me to regroup, reorganize, and take care of the million little business tasks that fell by the wayside in the fall.  One of my favorite ways that I serve my clients in these months is by scouting new locations for our sessions.  I love when I stumble across a new spot, one with the perfect light and perfect backdrop, and I get that feeling like I can’t wait to photography a family in that exact spot!  In January and February, I do my research and visit these locations to plan some ideas for the coming year’s shoots.

What does location scouting entail?  First, it’s about ALWAYS looking for great light, wherever I am.  You never know when that field along the roadside is going to turn out to be THE place.  I am a big fan of country drives.  I also do a TON of research online.  I think I know every single park in a 50 mile radius 🙂  On a day with good (read: not raining) weather, I pack up the kiddo and we visit some of the top locations on my list, camera in hand.  We wander around these new places the same way I would right before a client arrives for a session: looking for the best light and taking tons of test shots.  It doesn’t hurt that I have the world’s most adorable model.  

What am I looking for?  One thing that surprises some people when I talk about a GREAT location, is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be the most picturesque spot.  I’m not doing landscape photography, I’m photographing families, engaged couples, rambunctious kids.  What I’m looking for is a good space for LIFE to happen.  So maybe that dock on the river is super pretty, but it is NOT where I would do a session for a family with small children.  But that field getting great glowy light?  Well, that’s perfect for the toddler who loves to run.  

I also feel like convenience is a huge service that I offer to my clients.  If they are not hikers, I don’t want to make them hike a half mile to get to the perfect spot.  I have plenty of locations where the parking lot is very near where we’ll shoot (and some that aren’t, for my more adventure-loving families).  This is something I’m checking out while I scout a new location, too.  I also have a variety of types of location all over the Portland area so that clients don’t have to drive too far.  That’s a huge reason that I love to continue location scouting.  It’s never something that is done for me.  I like to be able to offer new and exciting spots that have the type of feel you’re looking for, without having to make an hour-long trek from your home.  I check out spots in Vernonia all the way out to Oregon City.  Location with a relaxed farm vibe in Tualatin?  GOT IT.  Perfect spot for an urban style shoot in Wilsonville?  YEP!  And I am ALWAYS excited to hear ideas for locations from clients, especially if they have access to property they’d like to do their session on.  Grandma’s farm always results in a great portrait session!

I’ll be featuring a few of my favorite locations over the next few months–from some of their features to some of my favorite sessions held there.  Keep an eye out for posts tagged Location Series, and be sure to make note of any that speak to your family’s style for your next session!

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