Eye on Business | Location, location, location

Welcome to SSG’s Eye on Business blog! Glad you stopped by. I’m Jodee Ball, your tour guide as we trek through fields, cities and forests. Hop on the ole’ JP Ball Photography tour bus.

Today, I am discussing the art of choosing a location for your senior sessions. It’s a session detail that shouldn’t be chosen flippantly.

You will have two types of clients. Those who know exactly where they want to shoot and those who don’t. I used to love when the clients just told me where they wanted to go. It was one less thing to think about. And, when they didn’t have a preference, I gave them about three choices. Places I knew well because I shot these areas often.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with that way of choosing locations, but… after a while, I got bored with my own choices and sometimes I kicked myself for agreeing to theirs.

We have a very well known park in our Dayton area.  If you’re from the area, I don’t even need to name it and you know it! We are blessed to have such a great place to shoot our pictures. I am certainly not complaining about it. However, it is so overused that if one more person requests to go there, I just might barf (There’s a word I haven’t used since last century!).

A couple of years ago, I had two beautiful senior girls who wanted to shoot in this park. But, wait, there was a catch. They didn’t want ANYONE to know they shot their senior pictures there.

My initial response: blank stare.

This place is known for it’s rock stream and teal blue bridge –> Just gave it away to the locals.

But, since I like a good challenge, I quickly said, “No problem!”  Two words that flee from my mouth frequently, and are sometimes met with regret.

However, that one request changed the way I looked at shooting locations. It really was ‘no problem’! It forced me to look at something so common and well-known through a different lens. >Some puns are just hard to resist!<

Here are some tips to guide you through the process of choosing locations.

  • Location scout. Go for a drive and look at areas through your photographer eyes. You probably do this naturally. Have you ever wished you could park on the side of the highway and shoot in a field? Illegal, yes, but so tempting.
  • Look for hidden niches. A location doesn’t have to be a grand park or large city. The picture I’ve posted below is the entrance to a trail that starts from the parking lot of a horse stable. I would eye this nook while driving by and couldn’t believe the quality of the light that surrounded the trail.
  • Know the light. This is so important, especially in an unfamiliar location. Know where the light falls, when the sun sets and where the open shade is located.
  • Map out the flow of your sessions. Show up a few minutes early to your session and note the direction you will move your client throughout the location.  Share with your client so he/she can coordinate clothing changes for the session. Communication and planning are key.
  • Visit the location before the day of the session. When a client requests a location unfamiliar to you, take the time (if you are able) to see the location before shooting. It’s okay to tell a client that a spot isn’t great for taking photos. Your clients are coming to you because they trust you and your knowledge. Make sure you have similar options to give them for alternative locations, if needed.
  • Have a backup plan in place. Have you ever been to a location that looks beautiful one week and then go back one week later to find that it looks terrible? I certainly have. The fall season, especially, can be very unpredictable. Make sure you have another location planned for backup. There is a place near my studio that I am always able to find some type of good scenery.  I’ve had to utilize it from time to time simply because the first choice was compromised.
  • Find out if permissions or permits are needed. Your park districts would have the information you would need. You may also need to speak to owners of private property and businesses if you wish to use their settings as well. And, did you know that shooting on live train tracks could land you in jail? Yep, learned that yesterday. Thankfully, NOT the hard way.
  • Assess the safety of the location. There is not one image worth getting at the cost of your client’s or your own safety! You must also think in terms of legalities. You could be held liable in the event something happens while you are on location with a client, depending on the circumstance.  Let common sense and your gut instinct prevail over the desire for the “perfect” shot.
  • Make the most of each nook of your location. Shoot high. Shoot low. Shoot from the left. Shoot from the right. Shoot wide. Shoot narrow. Shoot close. Shoot far. Shoot for variety!

I’m hanging up my mic and signing off now. Hopping from the tour bus to the family bus. It’s off to the yogurt dive we go! It’s a beautiful, sunny day here in Ohio. Hope you are enjoying one that is just the same!

Tell us about your favorite location on SSG’s Facebook or Twitter pages! And don’t forget to venture over to JP Ball Photography…I’d love to have you!