If you’ve ever looked at other photographers’ work and thought that it’s alright for them, they live in a beautiful place, you’re not alone. BUT that doesn’t mean that you can’t get great photos outdoors. Besides, how do you know that they weren’t taken in an ugly photography location?
Every single one of us has access to fantastic looking photography locations!
Notice I say fantastic looking. That’s in the photo of course, even if in real life it’s uninspiring at best or down right ugly at worst. You just need to work a little harder if you don’t have easy access to the ultimate outdoor photoshoot locations.
Is location important in photography?
Yes, I’d say it’s really important if you want to photograph outdoors. Actually, it’s really important for indoor photography too, but that’s a discussion for another time, because it involves a different set of criteria.
The background, or foreground for that matter, of a photo sets the mood and can take up most of the photo. So you need to make it look good, even if the location doesn’t.
How can I find a photography location near me?
I’m always on the lookout for potential photography locations. Even when I don’t think I’m looking, I actually am. If I see something that I think could work for a photoshoot location I grab a few shots on my phone.
Top tip – when photographing a potential urban location, make sure to take a photo of the road name as well, if possible, to help you find it again.
I think the best way to find a good photography location near me is to head out on foot. Or at least park up somewhere and then walk. You see so much more when you’re on foot.
- Take photos with your phone of everything that strikes you as having potential.
- Get a broad shot of the area and then if there are pockets that could work, go in close and grab those shots too.
- Make sure you also photograph it from different angles, but don’t get stuck for too long in one place. You can scroll through all your photos when you get home rather than waste time taking the perfect shot of a doorway or shrub.
Later on you can figure out if it is indeed a good photography location and if so, how you’ll use it in your photoshoot.
How do you take good pictures in bad places?
This is the key to a good photoshoot anywhere – in a studio or on location.
I found this location a few months before I set up the shoot. Some might consider is a bad photoshoot location, but when I walked past it I got excited that it would make a great location!
So, the plan was to find a model with dark hair, wearing red and black to stand out against the light gray of the bars.
I planned to shoot on the outside of the wall of bars, as well as the inside and use the large window to play with reflections.
The opening hours were advertised outside, so I set up the shoot for a day when they’d be closed. I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded, but it was just easier to avoid a confrontation.
Further reading: 7 essential elements to preparing for a photoshoot on location
2. Knowing what you want
Particularly important if you’re “running and gunning”. So, the opposite of planning, but not everything can be planned. Either way, you’ll save yourself time and stress if you have a clear vision of the shoot when looking for a location.
You’ll see a great example of this further down, including behind the scenes images.
Further reading: 14 tips for choosing good places for a photoshoot outdoors
3. Depth of field
If you have no other option, just blur the background with a shallow depth of field.
Further reading: Capture a blurry background the easy way – no Photoshop
In the behind the scenes image above you can see that the location is a bit run down, complete with a broken bit of fence lying on the ground.
Looking at the photo below, you wouldn’t have guessed that, or noticed it, if you hadn’t seen the photo above.
How do I find photo shoot locations?
Okay, so you’re all set to head out with your phone to photograph possible photoshoot locations near you.
But what makes a good location? This is what I look for…
1. Texture in possible photoshoot locations
I love different textures in backgrounds so when I come across a slightly rundown building or something with interesting texture, it’s a winner in my book.
Studio photographers (myself included) often spend hundreds of dollars on backdrops for the studio that look like old brick walls, peeling paint on worn out wood, fading concrete or rusty metal.
If you’re lucky and look hard enough I bet you can find something like that in your area to use as a background. For free!
The added advantage of looking for buildings with interesting texture is that if you plan the shoot for when the building is casting a shadow where you want to shoot you’ll have open shade to photograph in. Great for both off camera flash photography or a natural light photoshoot.
2. Color in the environment
If we want a colorful background in the studio we need to:
- Paint a wall
- Use seamless paper
- Fit gels to lights aimed at the background
Outdoor photography locations offer us all the colors of the rainbow for free. It’s just a matter of choosing the one you want.
I knew that I needed a black background and a purple background.
We were in the center of London, so I also knew that it was just a matter of time before we found the right urban photoshoot location. As it turned out, we found both within 30 seconds of stepping out of the door… and they were almost next to each other!
If you hadn’t seen the behind the scenes photos, you wouldn’t believe that the next two photos were taken in a busy, narrow London street.
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If you have any questions about photography locations, let us know in the comments.
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6 thoughts on “How to turn ugly or boring location into a great photography location”
Such lovely photos. An inspiration to use more varied outdoor backgrounds. Thank you.
Thanks, Sue! Great to hear you feel inspired!
Jane you are a genius!
😀 Thanks Lucia! Your comment made me chuckle.
I always appreciate your insight and the easy way you present information. You help open my eyes to possibilities and those are endless with photography.
Thanks, Ellen. Great to hear you find the information helpful – you’re so right about endless possibilities in photography!