When planning a portrait session, I'm often asked for suggestions about where the session should take place. I know plenty of places around town to recommend, but I'm always on the lookout for new places! I can't think of anywhere that's impossible to use for a portrait session (except maybe the middle of I-69, for obvious reasons, or any place where we'd be trespassing), but some locations do work better than others. There are a few specific things I look for when I'm scoping out a setting for a portrait session.
The background is both the most and the least important part of a setting. A good background is important to a strong composition and will add to the photo or the subject, not distract from it. I want the focus to be on you, not on the construction equipment behind you, the tree that looks like it's coming out of your head, or even the cute gazebo in the park. Beautiful or dynamic scenery can make a great background, but sometimes it's also good to just keep it simple.
Choosing a location also depends on the quality of the available light. I don't want my subject hidden in shadows, or squinting into harsh light. Soft, diffuse light is my favorite, but at the very least I'm looking for a place where you won't have distracting shadows on your face. Like the background, the lighting should be one of the least noticeable things in a portrait. It's there to support the subject.
In this first example you can see that having this couple stand under the pergola while the sun was overhead caused some pretty intense and distracting shadows. The second location with the willow tree works much better since they're completely in the shade.
I like to find places where my subject can interact with their surroundings. Any interaction - leaning on a post or tree, touching a flower, sitting on a bench or stairway, or even just looking at a part of the scenery - makes the subject part of the scene. It also gives us more options for posing. You'll feel more natural in your environment if you can interact with it, and that will make you more comfortable in front of the camera.
Lines & Framing
Sometimes I like to use the scenery to draw focus to the subject. Locations with sidewalks, paths, or alleys are great for this. Lines will draw a viewer's eye, and using a sidewalk's natural "lines" will make the entire scene look like it's pointing the viewer to the subject.
Finding ways to "frame" the subject has the same effect. Creating a frame with parts of the scenery also draw the viewer's eye to the subject. Tree branches, doorways, and alleys make great frames.
One of my favorite things in a portrait setting is variety. I like to be able to go to one place and have lots of angles, backgrounds, and scenic features to choose from. Your gallery will be a lot more fun to review if you weren't just standing next to the same flowering bush in every single picture. I try not to pick locations based on one cool feature if there's nothing else nearby to work with. Sometimes a location is awesome just because it has a couple good backgrounds, several places for the subject to pose and interact with the scenery, and a few options for using lines and framing as part of the composition.
The parks downtown are great for this, but smaller areas can work too! All these shots were taken at the Spencerville covered bridge, which is really just a bridge with a little space on either side.
Fort Wayne has a lot of great locations to offer... and I know I haven't found all of them yet! Sometimes locations are like "hidden gems" that surprise you with how well they work for a portrait session, while others are a little more obvious. For more about my favorite places to shoot around Fort Wayne, check out some of my other blog posts.
Do you have a cool location in mind? Are you thinking about your own senior session this fall? Let me know you're interested and I'll get in touch with you and give you all the important information about my portrait sessions.