Reflections : Maximizing a Photo Shoot Location


Happy Tuesday and I hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday weekend! A couple weeks ago, I asked JD to come along to a photo shoot with me (due to complications with my back). He carried my gear and also took a few photos, most of them documenting behind-the-scenes action for Shane and Mikaela’s Laguna Beach engagement session.

As with all my engagement sessions, I arrive 20-30 minutes early to scope the location and plan the layout of the shoot. Mikaela suggested we’d start at the Laguna Beach TraveLodge hotel and when I arrived, my mind quickly went into overdrive. With my clients’ permission, I’m blogging about how I approached the shoot.

In full candor, I walked the premises of the TraveLodge hotel and was struck with its small size then made a mental map of the location. It was a rather basic hotel in a U-shape, a pool in the center, and seemingly similar backgrounds (white walls, windows, and shrubbery)…okay, so now what? I asked myself how I could photograph the location and make it feel: 1. not too hotel-ish; 2. not too similar; and 3. not too simple. A few blog readers might remember how I employed the 10 by 10 Rule during my first creativeLIVE course (this is basically shooting 10 poses in a 10×10 feet space), so I revisited this rule as I walked the premises. The first third of the engagement session had to occur in a 30-foot space so I made a mental map of how I’d approach the shoot once it started. Here’s a look into my head…

Location One: Beneath the Bridge
At the top of the frame you can see bits of the bridge overhead. I started the session at this location because it’s pretty straight-forward and a great place to get a couple comfortable and relaxed in an aesthetically pleasing location. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s a time for me to talk and get to know my clients for who they are in front of my camera.

50mm f/2.5 1/400 100 ISO

Location Two: On top of Bridge, shooting down.
I moved the couple a few feet while I got situated on top of the bridge. It’s still the same location, but by changing my vantage point, I was able to secure an entirely differently image. Oh, and please don’t ask why I was wearing that jacket…the weather changed unexpectedly and it was the only thing I had in my car…tragic, I know…

35mm f/2.8 1/400 100 ISO

Location Three: On steps.
While on the bridge, I asked the couple to sit on the steps. They smiled at me, then I smiled at them…then the photo wasn’t working for me. Because they were just sitting there. I asked Mikaela to adjust her scarf and prompted Shane to look at my camera…

50mm f/3.5 1/200 100 ISO

Location Four: Bottom Story, next to window.
While I walked the premises before the shoot, there was a hotel room undergoing construction. The window was missing and there was junk in the room, but I realized I could creatively crop what I didn’t want to expose from my frame…

50mm f/1.2 1/400 100 ISO

Location Five: Top Story.
This location was directly above Location Four. The second story provided better light, so I moved the couple to find complimentary natural light and placed them within a frame…something I’m fond of doing.

85mm f/3.2 1/320 100 ISO

Location Six: Parking Lot.
When I realized I depleted my shoot locations at the hotel, I took the couple to an adjacent parking lot. Sure, it was a parking lot, but I tried shooting it in a way that didn’t reveal that it was, at least initially anyway…

50mm f/2.5 1/500 100 ISO

There was a total of seven locations at the hotel (JD missed one behind the scenes set up…he’s SO FIRED!) and I posed the couple two or three different ways in each location. The hotel portion of the engagement session yielded around 35 images, then we headed the beach to end the session. For this Reflections blog post, I specifically focused on the hotel portion of the shoot since it was the most difficult. When I walked into the hotel courtyard, I felt a wave of nerves, but then immediately set out to do what I know I can do…what I know anyone can do given the same situation. I hope this helps and if not, I’ll try again soon!

Happy Tuesday!