How I Choose Photoshoot Locations
Hey y’all! So after the wild response I’ve gotten since posting the photo from Jen + Shane’s engagement session at the Bromo-Seltzer Tower in Baltimore, I figured I’d write a post talking with y’all about the #1 question I got in response to that:”How did you find this spot?!” and “This is so cool! How do you choose your shoot locations?”
And I laughed every single time I got that question because the short answer is: I don’t.
I’m not kidding y’all. I RARELY choose my shoot locations. You’re probably staring at your screen right now with your mouth open or rolling your eyes thinking “Yeah, right. She’s full of it.” And I’m really not. Let me explain.
I have my couples choose their photoshoot locations. Seriously! Jen and Shane were the ones who found and booked the Bromo-Seltzer Tower for their session all on their own. I knew about that location, but had never shot there before. They asked if we could do it there, and of course I was all about it!
I typically start prepping my couple to choose their own shoot location before they even book me for their wedding. I talk to every client on the phone before booking so we can get to know one another and make sure we’re the perfect fit, and I provide a lot of education on a variety of topics on that call- one of those being the engagement session location. I explain how I encourage all my couples to think about what kinds of things are meaningful to them as a couple. What are some of the things they love to do together, or places they love to go? What’s something that really represents them?
So many photographers insist on choosing locations themselves, or don’t want to shoot at certain locations because of lighting or because it’s not “cool” enough. To be perfectly honest, a lot of photogs think about Instagram likes when they choose locations. Some of you photogs reading this right now might be appalled at the fact that I give this job to my couples, because maybe you feel like that should be on me, but I love giving my couples the power to make this decision, and I’ll tell you the same things I tell them as to why.
Allowing them to choose their own location, especially if it’s a location or activity that is meaningful to them, automatically is going to make them more comfortable during the session. Having a semi-stranger shove a camera in your face for an hour or two is uncomfortable for most of us, so anything I can do to help my couple feel more comfortable (within reason, of course)- I’m going to do.
If they choose to do something or visit a location that represents them as a couple, those pictures are not only going to be more enjoyable to take, but are going to be even more meaningful to them when they look back on them 10, 30, 50+ years from now. It makes me so happy to think about them pulling out a dusty album when they’re older, maybe surrounded by grandkids, or cats, or puppies, or just each other, looking back on those photos and seeing the bar they used to go to every Thursday night. Or the spot where they had their first kiss. Or heck, even them in sweatpants playing their favorite board game with their kitty cat.
“I am here to give them the opportunity to tell their story however they want to tell it. It’s not about me. It never was.”
This isn’t to say there is anything wrong with choosing a “creative” spot. My engagement sessions include two locations, so if a couple really wants something a bit different or creative, I generally encourage them to choose one creative and one meaningful location! Which is exactly what happened with Jen and Shane. After we shot at the Tower, we headed to a spot near their apartment where they walk their dogs, and we could see in the background where they had their first kiss.
I don’t know everything about my couples. I don’t know their stories from start to finish and all the intricacies of the in-between. When it comes to something as special as an engagement shoot, what could be better than letting them make it exactly what they want it to be? I love allowing my couples to tell whatever story they want to through their photos.
This isn’t to say that if they ask for my advice that I refuse, but I do say “it’s completely up to you guys” QUITE a lot. If they have questions about lighting or timing or how I think a certain spot will turn out, I answer them fully and honestly and give them all of the options, and then let them choose… because this is about them. I am here to give them the opportunity to tell their story however they want to tell it. It’s not about me. It never was.
Scroll below to see some samples from some of my engagement sessions this Fall. I’ve added a caption to each one explaining if it was a creative or meaningful location (sometimes it’s both) and why!
Thanks for coming, friends. Anything else you want me to chat about? Now that busy season has come to an end, I’ll actually have time to blog again! Leave any questions/suggestions in the comments!