It’s not just true in real estate- one of the biggest decisions to make in planning your photography session is choosing the right location!!
A great location can make all the difference in how your shoot goes and what your final images look like. Through the location, the mood is set:
~GARDENS for celebrating love, whether romantic or family
~FARMS for connecting deeper to the natural world
~URBAN areas for an edgier feel
The right location inspires creativity for both the subjects and the photographer, offering variety in your portraits and helping them stand apart. One of the main reasons I choose to shoot outdoors, rather than in a studio, is because of that wonderful added element that nature brings! Nothing gets me more excited for a session than getting to shoot at an incredible location!!
Here in the Madison area, we are blessed with an abundance of green spaces and potential locations. Key elements to consider include: what might be in the background (homes/buildings?) and how does the light fall (are there fully shaded spots for brighter days?)? Some locations can be hit or miss depending on the sun or crowding from other visitors.
A great example of this is Burke Park (shown below). It is an excellent photography shooting location because of the variety in backgrounds available- and it’s free! The flip side is that because of those very reasons, everyone wants to shoot there! It is not uncommon to shoot here at the same time as 3-5 other photographers. This can lend itself to logistical problems in waiting for a certain spot sometimes. Burke also has a pavilion available for groups to rent, meaning you could run into a large crowd having a party. Understandably, this could cause some unintended "photo bombers" :). Now, don’t get me wrong- I absolutely love doing sessions at Burke Park, and have a blast shooting there; no matter the lighting, there is a way to use this location! It’s my go-to suggestion when a client is undecided. As you can see from these pictures, it photographs beautifully! I just like to remind clients that shooting in a public park has potential drawbacks, and heading into the shoot, you don’t always know what to expect.
The wonderful variety of Burke Park
Another example of a great public park is Tenney Park in Madison. It has some great bridges that lend themselves to beautiful portraits. However, it is a well-visited park (meaning occasional pauses throughout the session as bikers, joggers, etc., move along) and has a good amount of sunlight coming through the trees on bright, sunny days (which can lead to uneven/unflattering light). However, at the peak of fall, it has beautiful color on the trees! I think on an overcast fall day after the leaves have changed, this makes for a stunning location!
Tenney Park in September 2016
**Quick tip: Although photographers love that “golden hour” before the sun sets (for me, it's the last 20 minutes when the sun is on the horizon that I especially love!), did you know that overcast days are ACTUALLY the best for portrait photography?! The clouds act as a diffuser for the sun, creating beautiful light without the brightness that leads to squinting and harsh shadows!**
Should you Choose a Private Location?
The reality is that the best way to ensure the perfect location for your shoot, where you have more control over the surroundings, is to choose a private location. With a private location, you are ensured not only a wide variety of unique & gorgeous backdrop options, but an elevated level of style due to the care & attention of the wonderful people maintaining the grounds. And of course, with your private shooting time, you are less likely to bump into other groups! The downside is that there is a permit fee, but I feel it is SO worth it for the end result! Let’s check out a few of my favorite private locations in the area!
Olbrich Botanical Gardens
~ Madison ~
Permit Fee of $30+tax
WOW- just wow! If you’ve never been to these FREE gardens, do yourself a favor and GO! Go take a walk through the beautiful trails, view the fountains, sit awhile on one of the benches and soak in the beauty surrounding you. I love shooting here for 2 reasons; first, because it is SO gorgeous, offering limitless options for stunning portraits. Second, I can’t believe that they offers this stunning oasis free to visitors, and I like that each shoot I do there helps, even in a small way, to support all that they do.
~ Cottage Grove ~
Permit Fee of $25+tax
I stumbled upon this little gem and immediately fell in love! Owned by a married couple and adjacent to their own home, it’s used primarily for hosting outdoor weddings. When weddings are not going on, it’s available for portraits.
From bridges and flowers to waterfalls and a wonderful koi pond, you feel like you’ve been transported to a secret garden, hidden from the rest of the world. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so check out just a couple shoots I’ve gotten to do there. Stunning!
~ Madison ~
Permit Fee of $30+tax
This is my favorite Fall location so far. I have not yet had the pleasure of shooting a Spring session there, but I imagine it’s just as wonderful. Like the Gardens, the Arboretum is FREE to visit, and I love supporting them by holding sessions there. With the variety of trees, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better display of fall leaves!
Well there you have it- my favorite locations for your outdoor photography sessions! Where do you want YOUR next shoot?!
Comment below- do you have a favorite location from a previous photo shoot?! What places am I missing? Is there somewhere awesome you’ve always wanted to try?
I am always looking to for new places to shoot, and I would love to hear your ideas!