Choosing Your Location: Myths About Wide, Open Spaces


I think this will take a blog series to cover, but I’d like to talk about the myths surrounding how we choose the right location for photo shoots. Lots of thoughts are passed around amongst photographers about who chooses and how a location is chosen, but when rubber meets the road, it’s the photographer who has to learn to navigate shooting in a tricky location – not the client. So, whether you are a client wanting to choose your own location, or a fellow photographer wanting to know more about shooting in tough locations, stay tuned! I have lots coming on this topic.
To start us off, I’m about to challenge one of the most popular myths in choosing a photography location… the wide, open field. Ah, yes. We all love those beautiful portraits of a couple laughing amongst tall grasses with nothing but the big blue sky behind them. We’ve seen them so much that two things have happened in the world of photography.
  1. Nearly every client is asking for or expecting a field or wide-open location
  2. Fields have become a cliché engagement photo location
Not knocking the wide-open field idea at all! I’ve also fallen in love with green or golden landscapes and tall grassy foregrounds. But let me turn and talk to my local client base for a second. Hi, guys! Emily Nicole Photography here… you know, that northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland based photography business you’re starting to hear more about! 😉 Yeah, we all know that big grassy fields are a little tougher to come by in our crowded, urban DMV area. They exist; but expect a mini road trip!
The wide-open location option can cause a bit of anxiety for my client base. They love all the gorgeous Instagram or Pinterest images they’ve been seeing, but they feel pressured that unless they can provide such a location, they won’t achieve the same pictorial magic.
Fear not, my dear metropolitans! At the end of this post, I share 3 of my favorite locations in the area to host sessions. But first, to dispel your fears, here are the top reasons why shooting in a wide-open field can be more challenging than just finding one:
  • Hand me the diffuser! The sun is a powerful source of light, which is a great tool in photography. However, like most tools, when not properly controlled, it can be disastrous on a photo. To the left is a photo from one of my first shoots as Emily Nicole Photography. It was taken at the end of the session when the sun was just about to get lost behind the horizon. I saw the glowy yellow light, but I positioned my clients… where?… right in the sun’s beam. And then I stood directly in its direction! I did not use natural diffusers or direction of light-to-lens to guide my shot. While this was a technical error on my part, rather than just a location challenge, a lesson can still be learned in both areas. In wide-open spaces, there are not very many trees to diffuse the direct sunlight from my clients or from my lens. As a result, you risk photos like this dominating your gallery. This photo is adorable, and definitely resembles the art that some photographers work toward, but it lost the pop, color, and contrast that I am working hard to achieve in my own work. It isn’t indicative of “Emily Nicole Photography” style.
  • Where’s the background? I’m going to share another photo that, again, is not a bad photo (actually it has become one of my favorites)! But I learned something by trying a shot like this. This is the lovely Gleason family. Their session was one of those I mentioned earlier, where we tried hard to find a big Christmas tree farm location, and had to drive pretty far to get to one. I am so glad we found one because of shots like [this], but the more I moved them around and tried to get creative, the more I learned about the importance of creating a beautiful background. In Image A, there is nothing but sky behind their heads! Again, this is a stylistic preference for some, but for me, I love composition created by interesting backgrounds. Plus, by creating a great background, the client just POPS off of it so beautifully (Image B).

  • You’re missing out. The above are only two challenges photographers face with the popular field location. But here’s my third and final argument to forego the golden wheat farms… you are seriously missing out! Right before Christmas, I took the Weinert family (somewhat nervously) to Old Town Alexandria, on a little road called S Lee Street. I was expecting people and cars buzzing around the entire shoot, but to my pleasant surprise, what we found was a charming, historic, Christmas wonderland street. We did not see a soul the entire shoot, there were cars parked along the road but you’d never tell by the way I was able to crop them out, and it was decked out with just enough Christmas decorations to make you want to come back every year! That location added so much character, and I think it beautifully hosted the lovely family by letting their story and love shine in every image. Not to mention, my portfolio gained a lot more variety and a new location to come back to.
Photographers, challenge yourself! You might be super happy with the outcome. And to my amazing clients, you give me a location and I will do everything in my technical skill and creativity to deliver the highest quality work for you, no matter the challenges. The photos I used as learning experiences were by no means representative of the entire galleries those clients received. So yes, we’re going to try new things and learn new things. But the final product will always be a gallery of photos that you can be proud to invest in and I will be proud to show off!
And as promised, here are three locations near me that I’ve really enjoyed taking clients to:
  • S Lee St, Alexandria, VA
  • Theodore Roosevelt Island (Rosslyn), Arlington, VA
  • Green Spring Gardens Park, Alexandria, VA

Thanks for reading!
Xx Emily

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