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5 Killer Locations for Your Photo Shoots

Tired of the usual posed portraits? If you’re thinking about doing something a little different this year with your portraits (or your clients), here are a few examples of creative locations that you may want to try to shake things up this holiday season.

1. At the Local Icon

Famous landmarks take the stage on postcards and prints, but slipping the Statue of Liberty or the Rocky Mountains into the background can punch up your portraits… especially if the final photo will be sent on cards around the world.

Bonus points if you catch the right light, unusual weather or a fresh perspective on a popular location.

What photographer Ivan Makarov says about his photo:

“This is a photograph I took as part of the family engagement shoot I did with my clients, who were about to get married. They both had kids that were now becoming one family, and we wanted to do their first "family shoot" as part of their engagement pictures in San Francisco. This is where Ryan and Liss met and dated before getting married, so it made sense to capture that part of their love story.After few shots in a house in Russian Hill, we headed onto the streets, looking for views of the city. Luckily for us, just one block down the road we stumbled upon a street that was looking down on the San Francisco's financial district, the famous Transamerica pyramid building, and the Bay Bridge. It was sunset, and we thought it was a good timing for a silhouette shot of the whole family."

2. In a Photo Booth

What do you get when you mix the studio, customizable portraits and a million smiles? A photo booth! Props and the booth’s inherent casual nature make this a winning option for you or your clients. It’s hard not to smile when you’ve got silly costumes and a tight space to squish together.

Here’s what photographer Rachel McFarlin says about her photo:

“In the fall, I usually hold a special Santa on the Beach photo session. After the second year of doing this, I needed to add some variety for my returning clients, so it evolved into Photo-booth Santa pictures. (Although, these were taken on the beach with a plain white backdrop). Since fun photo-booth pictures are so popular now, this was a creative way to give my clients a current, yet unique and lighthearted family picture for their annual holiday card. I took a more traditional family photo (at the beach) at the same time as part of the session, so they got both the Santa photo and picture where Dad was not wearing Bozo's glasses.”

3. Where the Heart Is

Exotic and extraordinary locations are great, but sometimes the very best location can be found much, much closer to home. How can you possibly get more comfortable and more personal than in your own house? This method not only ensures that the little ones will be more comfortable in their surroundings, but it’s a great excuse to tidy things up.

Here’s what photographer Jamey Thomas says about his photo:

Younger kids are typically more relaxed at home; generally when subjects are more relaxed (at ease, comfortable) I find they're more able to express themselves in ways that might result in pleasant pictures. It was something the kids did spontaneously and I was probably both shooting and trying to get my settings right at the same time.

With little kids I want to shoot someplace they can play and have fun since it's pointless to try and reason a two year old into looking happy. Create the mood during the shoot that you want to convey in pictures. If you want to show a happy family it will be a lot easier if the family is having fun.

4) Unexpectedly Indoors

Getting back to nature is a classic idea for portrait shoots, but the weather (and the seasons) won’t always work with you. Finding a piece of eternal springtime indoors can add a beautiful pop of color to any photo shoot, and the controlled environment gives you more leeway in your schedule. The kinds of greenery you find growing in your local nursery can dramatically change the mood of your photos.

Here’s what photographer Tiffany Zettlemoyer has to say about her photo:

“This image is actually from a senior session and was taken in a flower distribution greenhouse. I love shooting in unique locations, so this particular location was a great option for a senior looking for a portrait that no one else had. The greenhouse acted as a giant softbox, so the lighting was awesome even in the middle of the day. The greenhouse was super hot though, definitely recommend not going in the middle of summer.”

5. In Photoshop

If the weather outside is frightful, sometimes your imagination is the best location for that perfect photo. There’s tons of resources and training on the web that will guide you towards creating the perfect lighting, perfect weather and (above all) the perfect composite photo that ticks all your boxes… no miracles or magic required. It’s also a great way to add a touch of humor, as shown in Alex Tiethof’s classic holiday card below.

Here’s to keeping your portrait photos fresh, creative and ultimately you this year (and every year!)