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Perfect Portrait Locations

Updated on June 27, 2013
Attribution 2.0 Germany (CC BY 2.0 DE)
Attribution 2.0 Germany (CC BY 2.0 DE) | Source

There are many things that you should do before you start a photo shoot. Anywhere from selecting subjects, after you have an idea in mind, to technical issues such as what lenses to use, use of flash or not, what format and what medium.

Portrait photography is one of the many photographic themes or styles that takes you one step further. Many portraits no matter how wonderful or technically aesthetic the subject is, a lot will be said about the image based on the location where this portrait is taken.

There are very few things that distract or can even ruin a photograph more, besides not being technically perfect, than a location that does nothing for the main subject and often distracts from it.

Your location can be exotic and will require considerable effort to find and get to it. But often there are many suitable places that are literary around the corner or "right in your backyard" as the saying goes.

If you are going to become a specialist in portraits then you should have some basic locations within easy traveling from your home base. The main points to look for are those that seem universal; those locations that fit a wide array of portrait scenes or themes.

Old buildings, empty parks and lots, empty industrial sites, railroad tracks, small wooded areas, paths within a heavily wooded area, farm steads, barns, street corners that lead into a empty area, an alley, an old fashioned bridge that also has interesting and appealing surrounding area, a nice flowering area, old architectural designs & structures or even tourists attractions that resemble old style architecture such as Vizcaya Palace & Gardens located in Miami, Florida.

Nice beaches with views to an ocean expanse or the same beach where by changing your perspective ie. moving your feet, instead of ocean you get surf splashed rocks, mountain scenery, a beautiful lake view and such. Consider places where both day and night photography can be done.

Lets take for example an area which I have used often when doing portrait photography. This area is located on South Beach in Miami Beach Florida. It has a rocky formation which was mostly man made and it crops about 100 yards into the ocean. It is sometimes very slippery due to the constant ocean water spray that it's dumped on it.

But this site has several uses. By pointing towards the ocean I can display a model with nothing more than the ocean behind her, often capturing the Sunset behind her. By changing my perspective I can then include a view of the beach with or without a wooden fishing pier in the distance. A little more movement on my part and I can only include the beach, some palm trees and maybe some hotel vistas. Or I can aim towards the city and include a vast array of hotel and building scenes.

These are very popular when I do night scenes as I mostly include their colorful lights. If I plan the shoot just right I can also include a cruise liner as it leaves the port of Miami. And depending on the time of day and the day of the week, I can add various samples of beach goers, and watercraft.

All of these views from just one main location and if I decide to move up to the parking lot, then I can now add even more views, not to mention that there are several park benches and restrooms nearby.

There are off course many more but these are on the average the ones which seem to have the more appeal, at least they do to me. You should also look for locations that appear to fit a variety of shoots. These are often locations where there are several little scenes within the main one. In other words a location that features several other smaller spaces inside the bigger space. Good mostly abandoned industrial sites and old building interiors and exteriors areas are always good scouting locations for such a space.

Safety is also paramount. You should not introduce models or specifically clients to any area no matter how great the location is without first having scouted it yourself to ensure that everyone will be safe in it.

Old buildings, decommissioned sites, run down structures have an excellent potential as backdrops for portraits and even on their own. But many were abandoned or decommissioned for a reason. It is up to you to make sure that they are safe to use. Also paramount, unless it is a totally public area, is that you should endeavor yourself to seek permission to use these sites.

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Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Worth thinking is if you have the available space in your own backyard planting some flowering bushes, bamboo and tall grasses will go a long towards making it a good location for portraits and they work rather well for other photo shoots too.

You can also build a stone brick motif wall, fake rock motif and building a wall or fence of weathered wood.

You can also adorn the location with some clay planters, small portable bird baths, decorative figurines, decorative patio furniture and benches, torches, a portable outdoor fireplace, cushions and many other props to enhance the location's atmosphere.

Since portrait photography is mainly done upon request for a client, many of these images will be used solely for private purposes.

However if you are so inclined you can also use these locations for special projects which can then be used to approach other commercial clientele such as photography stock houses and general photographic publications.


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      JE Ortega: thank you very much

    • JEOrtega profile image

      JEOrtega 5 years ago from Southern California

      The content and location of an image can create an emotional@ response in the viewer. Portraits taken by the sea or in a wooded environment has always been interesting to me. Voting up and interesting. Thanks Luis!