"Location, location, location" - the mantra of realtors, the golden rule of what determines a property's value. This may be the case when listing a home for sale, but is location really so imperative when it comes to getting Pinterest-perfect family photos? I'd like to talk about the pros and cons of scenic venues, and how there could even be "prime real estate" for photographers right outside your door!
I think one of the most common questions I get is "I don't think there's anywhere nice near me to take photos. Should we travel to Kent Falls?" Ah, yes, Kent Falls State Park, Connecticut. It really is beautiful! I have no problem shooting there (I've shot a whole proposal there, read the story here!), but the trouble is that when I name the final quote for me to travel to it (at 60 miles away!), more often than not my clients shy away from the extra distance fees. Not to mention, they come to realize what a journey they would have to make to get there themselves.
"My town isn't very scenic though. Do you have any recommendations?"
The key word I want us to focus on here is the word "scenic". I think quite often, we interpret scenic to mean majestic mountains, golden beaches, the tulip fields of Holland, and so on. Obviously these are beautiful, but not very practical for a family of four with toddlers! So what can we do when limited to the ecosystems of central Connecticut; is Kent Falls really the only place worth taking photos?
I'd like to take a little detour to talk about these business headshots for a moment taken in front of warm, bourbon-toned bricks.
Would you believe that these photos were taken on the edge of a dirt driveway, the brick wall is the side of a crumbling garage, and to both the left and right of him are city garbage bins? I'd be willing to bet that wasn't your first thought. The reason the viewer can't see any of this information is because it's not provided in the photo.
As a photographer, my job is to only include in the frame what I want the audience to know. If you're a newly engaged couple walking around on the beach, I don't want the audience to know there were other people there with us. If you're a model posing in a bush of wildflowers, I don't want the audience to know that we were actually on the side of a busy highway. And if you're a businessman, trying to look sharp and professional in a suit and tie, I don't want the audience to know you were surrounded by garbage bins.
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Again, this is another fantastic example of photo versus reality. In the photo above, we can easily imagine my maternity client is sitting on the side of a grassy hill in an open meadow. Amazingly, not ten feet behind her there is a boardwalk of a hundred people riding their bikes, walking their dogs, and pushing strollers. In fact, this patch of grass is no more than just that - a patch. In reality, we are on the Savin Rock Beach in West Haven and this cluster of grass really stretches no further beyond what you see here. But you don't know any of that, because I didn't want you to.
So what does this have to do with Kent Falls State Park? Again, I have absolutely no problem photographing there. It's a gorgeous location, and if you're okay with some mild travel fees we could get fantastic photos. But the point I'm trying to make here is, just because you don't live near Kent Falls, and neither do I, that doesn't have to mean that all is lost!
The point that I'd like you to focus on more than anything as a client, is that I'm coming to take pictures of you! Both figuratively and from a technical standpoint.
On one hand, the subject of my portraits is not going to be the location, but the people in them. As well, portrait lenses are built to focus on intimate poses. They will capture some of the ambience and backdrop of the setting, but overall the viewer's eye is going to be drawn to the figures.
That's why, at the end of the day I like to say that "trees are trees". Whether I take your photos in the forests of Kent Falls, or the forest of a more local New England park, you likely won't be able to see a difference. The same can be said for the coast; we can pay $25 to enter Lighthouse Point Park in East Haven, or we can go to Savin Rock in West Haven for free – your photos will come out the same! This is because for our purposes, most Connecticut beaches are all very similar to one another. So when debating about where you'd like your photos taken, you don't have to feel like the more expensive, famous locations are going to be better.
The best question to ask yourself is, what sort of ambiance do I want my photos to communicate? Take a little hike around Pinterest and see what scenery catches your eye. Do you like meadows of wildflowers? Golden hay fields? Evergreen forests? Cool grey rocky coastlines? Once you pinpoint the type of setting you want, then you can ask around and take a peek around your neighborhoods. You might be surprised – the ordinary wheat field you pass by every day on your morning commute could actually be prime real estate to your photographer! (Another thing that can really impact your photos is what you choose to wear!)
In the end, my takeaway for you is this: If you have the money and time to travel to an extremely epic location, do it! Any photographer would obviously love to take iconic photos in the Salt Flats of Utah or the turquoise waters of Puerto Rico. And yes, I would love to take your photos at somewhere grand like Lover's Leap State Park to get some more wide angle shots if you're okay with the fees!
But understandably, not everyone can afford that, or maybe it's not convenient for you with a young child. Which is why what I want you to see, my dear New Englanders, is that you're not restricted to the infamous Kent Falls park as your only worthy venue. Sometimes the locations around our own neighborhoods that we deem as "ordinary" can be turned into the extraordinary with our photographer.
All of the photos in my albums can attest to this. I've photographed in locations like Edgerton Park, East Rock State Park, Lake Wintergreen, and College Woods in New Haven, as well as Elizabeth Park Conservancy and Wickham Park in Hartford. As far as beaches, I've worked with clients at Lighthouse Point Park in East Haven, Savin Rock in West Haven, Silver Sands Beach in Milford, and even shot a small wedding at Walnut Beach, also in Milford.
And my biggest venue of them all? Backyards! Would you believe that a large percentage of my galleries takes place on my clients' own properties? I love photographing on top of grand mountains overlooking dramatic valleys when my clients are up for it. But in the end, sometimes all you really need to get those Pinterest-ready photos is your neighbor's field, some matching sweaters, and a nice crisp sunset!