How much does location really matter?

Location used to be really important to me. I would spend significant time searching for new and exciting places that had a lot of color or artistic intrigue that would make for interesting pictures.

In the past few years my interest has instead shifted to focus more on the emotional content of an image. I’d much prefer people to be drawn to my actual subjects than to be drawn to any compelling backgrounds that in many cases have nothing to do with the subject whatsoever.

Hindsight is 20/20.  Looking back, I believe unconsciously my obsession with location hunting was tied to the fact that I felt like the subjects weren’t interesting enough on their own.  An exciting location would make up for whatever the subject lacked for making a compelling picture. (How thankful I am that I have since learned differently!).

My interest in location is now a sentimental one rather than an artsy one. Of course I still want it to be pleasing to the eye, but one of the best things I’ve done is to invite the subjects to pick the location instead of me.

It works every single time. And I love it.

It means I shoot somewhere new each time, my portfolio broadens, and best of all–the location means something special to them which makes the images have even greater value.

This family shoot took place in their Grandma’s backyard. I love that it has memory and meaning to the subjects.






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Brooke Snow is a Lifestyle photographer in Cache Valley, Utah.  Her favorite locations for her own personal photos include her house, her yard, and her parents farm.  Its where most of life happens and the daily memories are built anyway, so why not infuse sentimentality into the whole creative process?!

Brooke teaches inspiring online photography classes that bring you confidence in your skills and creativity.
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9 Responses

  1. How fun to open this post 😉 We have had so people ask us where you found this beautiful spot! No one could believe it was in the back of the muddy barn! Thank you thank you again for the beautiful photos that we will cherish FOREVER!!

  2. Do you ask to view the location before the shoot so you can guage what time of day you’d get the best lighting for different spots throughout the location? Or do you just choose to set the session for right around the golden hour?

    1. Hi Kristen! if I’m shooting inside someones home I ask them to email me pictures of all the rooms so I can see where all the windows are and judge my light. If its outdoors I usually just ask them what I would see facing a certain direction depending on the time of day. For example, I shot these in the afternoon when the sun would have been in the West. I love to back light so I asked what I would see facing West. As long as it wasn’t a distracting view, we go for it. Usually I can make any location work though, we just might not be able to highlight a certain part of the location that initially sparked the thought depending on light.

  3. Sometimes my clients look at me funny when I choose a spot that is nothing to write home about. But when they see the images and how they are so focused on them and their emotion, they forget about the background!

    1. Amen, Rayleigh! If the light, composition, and emotion of an image is good it doesn’t matter what the location is 🙂

  4. hey brooke! being a new york city shooter, im blessed and cursed w the places i get to shoot. central park and brooklyn bridge get old real quick. and so often, i ask them while we’re walking through central park what their favorite part is, and 9 times out of 10, theyre like, oh weve never come here. and i always think, why the hell are we here then??? i much prefer to pick a place that has sentimental value to the clients instead. when they say they wanna do a shoot at cp or brooklyn bridge, i steer them away from it if theres no special value in it. honestly, id much rather shoot in their 800 square foot apartment (thats considered huge in nyc lol) that they fell in love in rather than “beautiful” central park.

    i mean, i want my clients’ photos to look like their own, not like everyone elses. you know?

    keep up the awesome writing brooke!

    1. ha ha Jase! That is so great, and yet so true for places other than NYC as well! Too often we as photographers shoot in the same spot or people request locations that don’t mean anything to them. I’m with you… go for the 800 sq/ft apartment if it has some sentiment tied to it over an incredible park 🙂 A neat thing happens when people are in places that they love and have memories with–they relax! They open up and they are more likely to be more comfortable more quickly! Thanks for sharing, my friend!

  5. Brooke – as usual all of your photos are gorgeous. But that first one…my jaw dropped – I love it! I have trouble from time to time finding awesome locations and haven’t mustered up the courage enough to just bite the bullet and ask people if I can shoot places. But recently, I’ve been trying to find new locations and devoting one day a week just to searching out neat places. Love this post!

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