Answering this question could be trivial and personal, emotional, controversial, and even extremely opinionated. It’s all bottled up into one, but you know…it’s still worthy of an honest answer, isn’t it? Assuming you’ve already asked the important questions and you know what kind of session you’re about to photograph as mentioned in my earlier post, now it’s time to think about the daunting question of ‘where’.
Believe it or not, it’s not too crazy important. Yes, you want to determine if you’re after a natural, outdoors look or a cityscape and yes it makes a difference with who you’re photographing and why, but 90% of your shots will be focused on your client. You want to remember that ‘where’ can also become a distraction just as much as it can be the attraction. In other words, there needs to be a balance. While you do want to showcase the area, you also don’t want to photograph as if the area is your main attraction. Most of your images will be with your client close-up and a nice boceh (or blur) in the background that really makes determining ‘where’ you shot the scene somewhat irrelevant.
Case in point: I shot the image above on a parking ramp downtown. Is it on my list of go-to spots for Sioux Falls? Not at all and I’ve never shot there since, but the shadow from the sunlight just lent itself to exactly what I was looking for, which was capturing this beautiful girl leaping through the air, alive and flowing in movement against a background that was inanimate and only reflective to her. You always want to think about where you’re drawing the eyes in your composition, painting with the shadow as much as with the light.
To answer the more general question of where, if outdoors, we need to dig into some of the deeper questions, that is, what is our focus, what will be timeless, and what will only lend itself and not distract? I try to keep in my mind always that I want my client to look at this image 20 years from now and feel the same about it as they do today. I don’t want them to be distracted by anything, but only connected to the feeling that they had in that moment, and to have even more sentiment in the years to come.
Living in South Dakota, however, brings with it this eternal wrestle of the weather, and what conditions you might be facing. Is this a young man with short hair, not such a big deal, but is this a young lady with long flowing locks, fresh curls and a skirt? You’re going to need to factor in the wind and direction, and there are certainly some places around here that can either help you in capturing that perfect image and places that will constantly battle against you. Tuthill or Arrowhead Park for example, are not so great for a windy day. Why? For the same reason that any place sitting up on a hill or exposed to our lovely Norther’s will be constantly driving you to shoot either in a particular direction or near some type of cover to help break the airflow. Remember, you need to paint with the light regardless of what the wind has in mind for your day. That may require that you bring along your own light source if the direction of the sunlight and the wind are working against you.
In many cases you can use the wind to your advantage, as long as it isn’t gale-force as is sometimes the case around here. If you turn the bride just so or position that senior with just an edge of her hair to the wind, you can actually get some very dramatic natural affects that can give great movement to your image. Working with the wind can give you a virtual photography assistant to toss those curls just right up and out of her face, just long enough to capture her eyes piercing through.
On the very windy days, moving to downtown or dropping down into one of the parks that offer more natural cover is helpful. The arboretum is a good spot, down in a bowl the way it is, and so is Rotary Park. While it can be so windy that a shoot would be impossibly difficult at another park, you might find that at one of these locations there is only a slight breeze. These are just a few examples. We’ll get into more detail in our next post as we talk more about the types of venues around the Sioux Falls area.