It's October, it's a Tuesday, I have about a million things I ought to be doing because it's peak season — but here I am writing a blog anyway.
Months ago, I decided to dismantle all of my old blogs and start fresh. The thing is, each year that passes I grow and gain more insight into this business. I don't always agree with all of my former opinions or rhetoric; at the same time, I've also developed strong opinions about new things as well. All of this is to say that at the end of the day, my main goal is for my sessions to go well, for my clients to be happy, and to give the best advice and guidance I can to ensure both of these things.
So today, we're going to talk about locations, version 2.0. When I first wrote a blog on this topic years ago, I had been doing quite a few backyard shoots at that time on a regular basis. Initially I had written that a great photographer shouldn't need a fancy location, and should be able to get great photos of you wherever you are. While I still totally agree with this concept, I've actually stopped offering to complete sessions remotely at my clients' homes around Connecticut (except for lifestyle newborns). So, why is this no longer my thing — And what do I recommend instead?
Quality Over Convenience
It's not that I don't still feel that a great photographer should be able to utilize any location and get beautiful shots, but I've realized a few things.
First, I started to notice a bit of a pattern with these backyard shoots. To be frank, they consistently just didn't work out well! I began to notice that most of the clients from early in my career who were asking me for these at-home sessions, were generally looking for convenience above all else. While I want my clients to be comfortable for my shoots, the unfortunate consequence of shooting at homes regularly resulted in — too much comfort. I often found myself arriving on time, only to be met with clients who were wandering around, half-dressed and with no sense of urgency to begin our session any time soon, despite myself being on the clock and our sunlight disappearing by the minute.
With the style of narrative photography that I aimed to market, I found that I needed my clients to be willing to step outside of their comfort zone a little if we truly wanted to achieve these immersive results. A backyard shoot can work well for a couple of quick posed portraits, but for the strong emotive candids I was striving to capture, it just wasn't cutting it. I've learned that in order to get these intimate connections, we need to start in a neutral location, with a clean slate and no distractions.
In short, I need to pull you out of your comfort zone, in order to put you back in it. That's where the magic happens.
Quality Over Content
Now, one thing I'll say is that I still truly abide by my former opinion pertaining to grand or renowned locations. The truth is, while sometimes a famous landmark can be cool, it's not at all something that's necessary to yield breathtaking photos. At the end of the day, my main focus is to photograph you and the way you connect with your loved ones and realistically, much of our background will be blurred and distorted for the majority of our photos. So if your photographer isn't curating locations based on how popular they are, then what are we looking for?
Usually, it's a combination of things:
While a prominent landmark might meet these qualifications on occasion and look great, there's many obscure spots out there that hit the mark with this criteria too. And when I say obscure, I mean spots where a photographer will literally come to a screeching halt in the middle of their errands because they saw a pretty clearing of trees on the side of the road that just looked magical.
Most drive past spots like this every day and wouldn't even give it a second look, but photographers have a way of making the ordinary, look extraordinary. I've photographed in some strange locations around Connecticut; I've shot in the weeds near a train station in Fairfield, I've dragged a friend out to photograph her in a construction zone in Southbury, I've made my fiancé pull over on the side of the road so that I could run into the woods in Durham to check out some weird-looking trees —
— All this to say that a photoshoot location is never about its claim to fame, but about its potential.
Many of my favorite locations can't even be found on a map, and I like to keep it that way! Not only because of how gorgeous they look, but because having a photoshoot with no interruptions or distractions is a great benefit. The thing about wanting your engagement photos taken in front of that famous waterfall? Well, everyone else does too.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with proceeding with this type of backdrop despite the foot traffic, but having a potential audience and a rushed time frame is just something to consider! If you feel that you're more interested in getting the less-posed and more intimate moments that you see in my style of work, a more off-the-grid location is usually more beneficial to all of us.
And remember, the landmark isn't what will be the main focus of your portraits — it's you!
All of this applies to the time of year as well. Because Connecticut turns brown in the winter, I often have clients wonder if this will result in poorer backdrops for photography. The answer? — A hundred percent NO. Brown and beige look stunning in photos and if I'm being honest, many photographers prefer those neutral tones over saturated greens anyway. Foliage on trees is not a determining factor in good portraits, and I've curated my favorite locations based on spots that will look good year round, green or not!
Quality Over Popularity
If there's anything I'd love for you to take from this, it's that not a single photo in this blog was taken anywhere significant.
The first photo in this blog was taken on a dusty trail on a brambly hilltop. The second photo was taken on a beachy nature conservation. The third photo was taken in some weeds near a train station. And the photo above was shot in front of a very random, shabby shack we came across that seemed to be some form of maintenance building at a park — but the color and texture of it was gorgeous.
None of these locations are chosen because they're highly sought after by photographers and tourists, but because they offer the soft golden light and solitude we need for poetic moments like this.
So before you jump to believing you'll need your photos done at the most grand venue in Connecticut, remember that your photographer may have secret recommendations all over the state that they've scoped out themselves. As long as we have adequate light, beautiful colors, and little distractions, we can turn a clump of weeds into something magical.
What do you look for in a location? What type of backdrop are you drawn to the most as a client?
Comment below and tell me all about it!
Morgan Ofsharick specializes in engagement, wedding, maternity, newborn, and family portrait photography, servicing New Haven, Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, Litchfield, and other regions around Connecticut. – Gold Thistle Photo