As an on-location photographer, I always keep my eyes open for fresh spots around town to photograph. Great photo backdrops can come in the most random places. Never discount a spot because you are afraid to venture out of your comfort zone — be bold.
I’ve found myself knocking on the door of a barn in the middle of the country, chatting with owners at storage units or sheepishly grinning at passersby when photographing against a gas station wall. If you see a good spot — go for it!
Here what I look for when scouting out locations:
Color is often what first draws me to a new spot. I’ve found bright yellow, red, blue and orange spots around town. I’m drawn to take photos of people up against these spots of color just to see that color pop. I’ve found color on walls, a dumpster, or a vehicle that makes the image unique.
After color, I’m always drawn to texture as a component of a great background. Whether it’s dimension from pipes or bricks or steps, I love to see an interesting pattern. I’ve found it in some of the strangest places, but I’ve learned to trust my vision when it comes to different textures, and have found the frame of the camera can crop a spot perfectly.
This red background is a great mixture of color as well as texture. It was at the back of a restaurant:
3. Sun Pattern
The perfect background can be a big flop if the sun is shining on it the wrong way. Take a look at where the sun falls and the time of day, so when you go back, you can plan to make the most of natural light without glare.
I love the sun’s glow in the background on this image. Notice also the multi levels of texture with the wall and bridge in background.
4. Non-distracting backgrounds
Posing can be challenging when using the same positions over and over. Look for locations that inspire some type of action to enable candid shots. Sometimes the background helps draw interest to the subject, and sometimes a solid background is best for that. In a field, I look for a wall of trees so that my subjects won’t have anything distracting in the distance of my shot. In this image, the tree line works as a diffuser as the sun comes down, bringing that beautiful evening glow:
Next time you are out driving your kids to school or grabbing dinner, keep your eye out with these tips in mind to scout some new spots to take some engaging pictures.
Photo credit: Kristen Duke