We have all been there. Stuck at a location that offers lackluster scenery.
This has happened to me more than once. Sometimes bad locations happen because the location offers something that I cannot get anywhere else. Sometimes there were circumstances that were out of my control that forced me to shoot there.
I even shot at a golf course once! It’s true!
The location that I had planned on using was closed down due to lack of funding. Unfortunately, I did not shoot there often. They did not have updates on their website or social media profiles about the change either. You can imagine how I felt when I pulled up to the location and couldn’t get in. I had a full blown panic attack.
I jumped onto Google Maps on my phone searching for a park, any park, and I was so grateful to find one five minutes down the road. I told the client to meet me over there thinking that I had solved everything.
When I pulled up to the site, I discovered that it was a golf course. Talk about a bad location but there were no other places that I knew of nearby so I made the most of it. Looking at the resulting images (I placed some throughout this post), you can’t even tell! The client was happy, I was happy, and no one was the wiser.
The client even bragged on her facebook page about how I could make even a golf course look good! (Oh, stop it! I’m blushing!)
It is possible to make bad locations look good if you just follow a few simple tips.
1) Pay attention to the background.
This is a pretty simple tip but it is easy to get caught up in capturing the client and, as a result, overlooking the background.
With the golf course, I had to make sure that I wasn’t getting the parking lot or any nearby cars in the shot. I also had to make sure that the background had something pretty in it. I used the trees, the hills, and the well-maintained greenery as my focus.
2) Use the attributes of bad locations that you actually like.
Look around and find some things that you want to try to incorporate into the shoot. Like I said above, the golf course greenery was very lush and pretty so I tried to make the background all about that. However, there were also a few other things that I liked about the location.
The golf course had a nice little road (think leading lines) that I knew I could use in the session to switch it up. I positioned my client family on the road being mindful of the background and started shooting.
There was also a pretty little field off to the side that was overgrown. We did not spend too much time around it because some of the golf course patrons warned us about a skunk that liked hanging out over there! Still, it made a great backdrop for some shots.
3) Shoot with a high aperture and get in close.
Open that sucker up! When shooting at bad locations, you want to deemphasize the more lackluster qualities.
In some of my shots, the golf course building was in the background. It was unavoidable. However, it was blurred quite nicely and did not steal the show from the clients or the other pretty aspects of the image.
Keep in mind that you still have to keep the clients in focus. I tried to stay around 2.8 but I made sure that all of my subjects remained nice and sharp.
Getting in closer and shooting some headshots also blurred the background. The focus was completely on the clients where it belonged!
4) Remember, there is always Photoshop.
I know that you don’t want to spend too much time in Photoshop cloning out distracting elements from your images. Unfortunately, sometimes there is nothing that you can do about it.
Taking the extra time to clone ugly things out of the background is always a great idea. People are showing off these images in their homes. Nothing makes me cringe more than seeing power lines in the background of a beautiful image!
5) Get low!
Don’t be afraid to get down on the ground to get that shot! Getting low allowed me to block out some of the distracting elements from the background as well as changed the perception of some of the images.
It has also helped me in other sessions (not necessarily the golf course one) to “create” my own field. I mean, I wasn’t going in that field with a skunk running around!
Take a look at the shot below. In this session, we were only working with a small patch of tall grass but you couldn’t really tell! It added a nice touch to the image.
Do you have any tips or questions about manipulating bad locations? Be sure to share or ask in the comments! Let’s learn from each other!