6 Tips on How to Choose your Portrait location | San Francisco Photographers « Tanya & Victor

6 Tips on How to Choose your Portrait location | San Francisco Photographers

Having been a Bay Area resident for the last 30 years, I’ve seen some of the world’s greatest places in person. You have a coast, sandy beaches, mountains, hills, valleys, ranches, gardens, tall redwood trees and everything in between. There’s no doubt that there’s so much of the California essence in our beautiful Bay Area. So how to choose an outdoor location when you’re considering your portrait session? We frequently come across this question and decided to write something to inspire T&V clients to search a little further. Although we have our favorite spots to go to, Victor and I are always open and excited about new areas.

We’ve photographed it all, from ranches to wineries to more urbanscapes in San Francisco and our favorite, the mountainsides with unlimited views of everything from the sky to the ocean. We’re sunset chasers, we love good light, unique landscapes and structures full of character. Whenever we’re not shooting in our studio these are elements that we recommend our beautiful clients to consider when choosing an outdoor location for their portrait. Always being mindful that the focus is you and not necessarily the location.

  1. Find Beautiful Light – Isn’t there light anywhere? you might be asking, but there are places that are just dark by nature (literally). More woodsy environments are full of shade, which can be to our advantage but can also photograph flat, meaning that there will be very little dimension. We like places where sunlight is visible and casts a glowing spotlight on you.
  2. Easy Access – By access we mean everything. Parking seems like the most tedious component to worry about, but believe us when we say it is everything. Sometimes locations with no parking or overcrowded areas will make it difficult to act as a home base. You can have peace of mind knowing that access to your vehicle from our photoshoot location is not too far and it’s a secure place where you can leave your personal belongings. We’ve encountered a handful of locations that are very cumbersome to get to because of the limited parking areas. For example, Muir Woods has been a popular place for many of our clients, but because of the impossible situation of the parking sometimes, we’ve had to revert to plan B (75% of the time). They now only take reservations which helps but still is very unpredictable.
  3. Weather – This is another element far out of our reach but there are some areas that are more humid, hotter, foggier than others, especially in our very biodiverse Bay Area. There have been some mountain spots that are so high in elevation you can almost guarantee that it’ll be sunny. There are quite a few coastal locations that are incredibly windy, where it gives you tunnel wind hair and not the Beyonce kind. Plan for a location that has more of a neutral flow and it’s now necessarily known for its weather characteristics.
  4. Beautiful but not too busy – We want to focus on you! There’s so much beauty in different kinds of places, like gardens, trees, architectural elements, but those places are not the point–you are! There are some places where the story of your family can get lost in the details of the location. Some backgrounds can photograph a little too busy and it can result in being a little visually overwhelming. We love it when locations have symmetry and the focal point goes immediately to you as opposed to everything else. Also, consider a location where not many people can be a part of your portrait session. People in shots are a huge distractor, especially when wearing colors that are not part of your session’s palette.
  5. Variety – How great would it be to have different backdrops in your portrait session? That’s why we very much enjoy when a location has multiple spots within that one area that are equally photogenic. Sometimes you just got to find them.
  6. Personal Connection – Before anything else, find that deeper meaning in the location – ask yourself why is it special? We believe that when you look back on these memories you don’t see us or our list of suggestions, but the season that you were in at that time of your life. What were you celebrating? what was the occasion? Was that location where he first proposed or had your first date or the first time you went out as a family? Was it a location that represented something for you? We bet that once you consider these simple questions, you can come up with a list of very gorgeous but meaningful locations that will serve as the backdrop to your story.

When Victor and I had our recent headshots done in Paris, we knew we wanted to take some time from our travels to do this. One, because when we first started dating Victor and I bonded over how we wanted to see Paris together. I dreamt of it so much that we acquired a collection of vintage Paris postcards and petite Eiffel Towers. We love baroque architecture and we marveled at the mile-long streets of beautiful structures. We knew this would be the perfect backdrop to our story in the season where we are in our lives. We’re a little bohemian, romantics, and storytellers, so naturally, Paris is and was a good idea.
These suggestions will undoubtedly take your portrait session from traditional to a more personal one. Get creative, do a little google searching and when in doubt just ask us!





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