Learning to Shoot Within Your Environment

I think it’s important to know how to shoot on location and also in the studio. As you progress with your photography you will most likely prefer one or the other.

I use to always want to shoot on location. Why? Because I enjoy being visually pushed to find something interesting to frame my subject with or use as a back drop.

I also work quickly while doing this. I like to keep my clients moving and not let them get bored. If you are just starting out, take your time. Find someone like a friend or family member whom you can work slowly with. Also, your time is money. If you work slowly with you client your hourly rate becomes less and less. Be efficient with your time.

I will ask my client where they would like to shoot. This will help them feel comfortable, if you do not have comfortable subject it will show in the photos. If they do not have any ideas I will give two suggestions. I’m not one to “scout” the site before hand. I know many photographers do this but I don’t feel the need. I can see right away what will or won’t work. If you do then be sure that extra time is added into your pricing or package.

Ok, let’s get to the fun part, shooting! Look for texture. Worn out walls with old paint, garage doors, and stairs work well. I like to have my model stand and sit against different backdrops. We were able to find a lot of our backdrops in an alley way behind the models house. It was like striking gold back there! Below are two of these examples. The first is an old garage door with paint peeling off of it. The second is the side of a garage in the alley way with a broken out window and untrimmed grass along the base of it. Both work well as black and white images where where the texture stands out.



Then while walking down the alley I found a bright yellow garage door. I knew we had to shoot against it. Of course I’m shooting from a distance and not going onto anyones property. Always be respectful of where you are shooting.

Below a simple set of stone stairs give you a nice angle above your subject. No need to carry a stool with you, work within your environment and get your model below your lens to give you a flattering angle.

Nature. Interesting leaves on bushes, a tree that has a split in it, a garden with a wall or bench to sit on. Something as everyday as a tree with a low branch hanging down so the model’s face is framed can take an image from boring to striking. There were large, old trees on the model’s street. We did a quick walk around the block until I found the one with a split in the middle of it. We also found a lovely stone wall for her sit on with a thriving garden behind it.


The image below was really an experiment at the time. The neighborhood we were in was filled with old growth trees. This one just happened to have a few low trunks that I thought would frame her nicely. I was pleasantly surprised with how the image turned out. That’s really what photography is about, trial and error. You have to try something new to know if it will work. Once it does than book mark that in your mind so you can go to it again if needed.


This is one of my favorite ways to shoot a portrait. If I’m lucky enough to find a tree with low branches then I try to take advantage of the depth it creates. Why do I like this look so much? It frames your model so you are drawn to their eyes and look at how blue hers are! Wow!




Blur out your background and almost anything will look good! Yes, a shallow depth of field can save you in almost any bad situation. Don’t be afraid to move your position or change your lens to get the shot. Sometimes all it takes is framing your model or subject slightly different to get the shot!

Part of being a good photographer is being able to “see” what is around you. You are a visual artist. Train your eye to see what will work during a shoot. You can do this when you are out on a walk or driving around your town/city. Bookmark locations in your head to come back to and shoot at. Once you have shot at a location and love the results be sure to put it on your top five list for on location portraits. That way when a client asks you will have an answer ready.

Have fun & shoot, shoot and shoot more!

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