On Choosing a Location for your Portrait or Headshot Session

I was photographing a headshot session a few days ago in Denver, and was struck, as I often am, by how stark the contrast can be between what you see at a location, and what you CAN see at a location... with the right composition, professional equipment, and knowledge of how to work a location to your advantage as an experienced photographer.

I was so struck by this contrast, in fact, that I whipped out my cellphone on this particular session just so that I could share with you what I was looking at… vs. what I was able to create in camera at this exact spot. Fairly dramatic, yes?!

Behind the scenes pullback on headshot location in Denver

I had so much fun at this location that I went back with another headshot client a few days later, and was amazed by how completely different the results were, now later in the afternoon and with overcast skies.

behind the scenes pullback of headshot session on location in Denver

Note that in the two examples above, the backgrounds in the final photos are quite different, even though the location is the SAME exact garage, due to the difference in the angle and amount of sunlight on each day.

OK so what am I trying to say by sharing this??

Basically that choosing a location may not be as critical as you think, at least if you want the focus to be on YOU in your photos. A skilled professional photographer should be able to draw attention to YOU no matter what the location.

Absolutely, there are certain variables that I consider when considering locations: walk-ability, ease of finding places to change, wind and sun exposure, color, texture and the motion and fabric of the available “backdrops” in the vicinity, as well as variety in the intensity of all of these things.

behind the scenes on senior session in Denver, Merritt Portrait Studio

What keeps me on my toes all the time is that even areas I know very well will change dramatically from hour to hour, season to season. So part of the challenge (and delight) is derived from learning how to work with what I see on any given day, at any given hour, and with my client’s particular style, coloring and wardrobe.

In fact, working with a place that is special to YOU is one of my favorite creative challenges as an artist (and if you’ve worked with me, you’ve seen how obsessed I am with the visual discovery!)

behind the scenes on senior session in Denver, Merritt Portrait Studio

Urban locations offer infinite possibilities for texture, light, vibrant movement and implied history. I’ve photographed in stockyards, next to dumpsters, in gritty alleyways, in open parking lots, garages, industrial garage doors… you name it. And in fact, some of those least expected locations become people’s favorite photos of their session.

There’s also an organic energy that happens and brings both focus and spontaneity to expression when you're not in an enclosed, safe studio space. A studio has its advantages for certain kinds of sessions to be sure, but if you head outdoors, when you add the motion, noise and vibe of the city with just enough of a textured background and some beautiful light… it can be rather magical.

Even inside in an urban setting, it’s amazing what can happen with the right composition, aperture, lens, photographer's eye and willing subject! 

Hopefully this all leads to a finished photo that becomes true portrait or headshot magic.

That's when, for me anyway, a picture can cross into becoming ART.

I’m a Denver based headshot and senior portrait photographer specializing in bringing out personality and highlighting connection in my clients’ EYES. I strive to create images that are far more memorable than typical headshots or senior pictures. Your session will be styled around YOU, and will be an immersive, enjoyable and empowering experience, to boot. I would love to chat with you about a session!