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Anatomy of a Great Family Photo Shoot Location

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There are great ways to incorporate your home into your family portraits.

There are great ways to incorporate your home into your family portraits.

At the heart of every great photo shoot creating an environment where the people being photographed can relax and be themselves. Because of that main goal, the location for the photo shoot is very important.

Last summer I wrote about why location matters (spoiler alert: it doesn’t matter that much), but the truth is that the specific spot matters less to the creation of great images and more about how the people feel in that place.

Maybe your home is a great photo location. It’s easy to get to. You have easy access to bathrooms, snacks, and changes of clothing. But if you are like me, you may worry about cleaning your house. You may worry about that stain on the rug that you can’t get out. If those are things that concern you, another location may be best. 

Parks are the first thing that comes to mind for photo shoots for most people. Parks are beautiful. They’re big. But they also come with some very specific draw backs. First, they all tend to look a little bit alike, making your photos look the same from year to year, or from one family to the next. Second, they’re full of plenty of photogenic stuff, and plenty of stuff that you’d rather not have in your photos - like other people.

"Bubble-gum alley" in San Luis Obispo, Great shot taken while on vacation in a fun urban spot.

"Bubble-gum alley" in San Luis Obispo, Great shot taken while on vacation in a fun urban spot.

What about the beach? We live in California. One of the biggest benefits to living in California is our easy access to the beach. The beach can be great. But it also has some of the same drawbacks as parks, plus a few others. Because most beaches in California are relatively flat, they don’t offer a lot of time for great light. That means we need to time your beach shoot a bit more carefully than other locations to ensure that you have flattering light for your photos.

Cities and urban locations are some of my favorite places to photograph families because they offer a huge variety of backgrounds for photos. There are tons of photogenic city spots to choose from. The only real drawback is they may present some safety challenges if you family includes toddlers or preschoolers who are oh-so-independent while being completely street-unaware.

Other great locations include spots your family loves to spend time. This may be a museum, fair, or theme park. It may be walking around your town or neighborhood. It may be at your alma mater. There aren’t a whole lot of places that are bad for photos - given the right timing and planning.

Your location can be used to highlight your family relationships.

Your location can be used to highlight your family relationships.

So how do you pick? I always feel that the choice of a great location should be something that you and your photographer discuss and decide on together. The photographer will know what to expect with regards to lighting, backgrounds, and legal requirements for locations, while you know your family best.

As a photographer, my preference is always for you to pick some place that is meaningful to you first, then we can plan around any challenges that location presents.

You can check out my analysis of a few of my favorite photo spots here and here.

When it’s time to plan you family’s next photo shoot lets work together to pick the perfect location. Contact me to get started.