Tips for Dealing with Lousy Locations

How to make a poor portrait location work!

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I'm Katelyn James Alsop, a photographer, educator and momma who believes any photographer can have a profitable AND purposeful business.


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Have you ever showed up for a wedding or a portrait session and took one look at the location and thought…. “You’ve got to be kidding me!!! How am I going to make this work?!” I have. I have had so many scenarios in my career where I have thought….“Ok, how in the world am I going to make this lousy location work as a great portrait location!!?”.

Over the past 12 years, I’ve learned how to make almost any scenario work! 

I’ve collected some of my best tips for transforming LOUSY LOCATIONS and I’m sharing them in today’s Youtube Video!! :

I hope you enjoy and take away a few tips for the next time you find yourself in a less-than-ideal shooting location! If you didn’t have a chance to watch the video, here are some quick tips that I mention in the video!! :


  • Get creative with your crop:

This means paying attention to ways that you can strategically crop out distractions in the background and foregrounds to make your images appear more high end! You can also use your crop to eliminate unnecessary negative space as well! 

  • Use high compression lenses:

If you have followed me for any length of time, you know that I love prime lenses and I love high compression! That is why my 85mm is my FAVORITE portrait lens and will always be my top pick! I love how high compression makes the background blurry and almost like it’s RIGHT BEHIND the subject while also creating a creamy, highly compressed foreground! It’s a perfect way to hide elements in your location that you want to hide! 

  • Shoot vertically:

This seems so simple but it’s a learned skill to remember this when you’re working with a poor location and feel stressed! Simply shooting vertically (and closer to your subject) will eliminate distractions and allow you to frame your subject more effectively! This will not only allow you to photograph more intentionally but it will save you editing time and image quality because you wouldn’t be cropping out so much negative space that isn’t necessary! 

  • Create foreground and add visual interest & hide distractions:

You know this is my favorite thing ever. FOREGROUND! It’s just so much fun to photograph and I love the layering that it provides! When I’m working hard to make a hard location usable, this is my favorite trick!!! You can basically use it at any time and you can do it manually! Sometimes I don’t have an actual bush, flower, or branch to shoot through and so I have to hold objects in front of my lens to make it happen!! This technique can hide distractions but more importantly, it softens your images and causes

  • Use bodies to block distractions: 

last but not least, use your client’s bodies to hide unwanted parts of the location that you’re shooting in! If you don’t look at a location and think “could I block that with their bodies?” then you will probably miss out of so many spots that could hold so much potential! This, much like the other tips I’m sharing, is a learned thought! This is a fun tip to implement because it instantly opens up more possibilities! Now, in order to block unwanted things in a location, you have strategically pick a pose that makes this possible! Often times, this makes using a pose where their bodies are close to one another without any space between them!


If you’re wondering about how you can get better at actually taking these tips and applying them to your shooting, here’s what I do. I think about this stuff all of the time. When I’m driving, I’m constantly passing by locations and thinking, “Ok, how could I make that work”? Medians on highways, Target parking lots, random flowerbeds at the mall…. I think about how I would make it work if I HAD to shoot a portrait there. It sounds ridiculous that THAT is what goes through my mind when I’m out and about and not working but it’s just engrained in my head! I encourage you to think about it too next time you’re in town and driving around!!


Thanks for reading, friends! Be sure to check out the rest of our Youtube Channel for more free education! 

Thanks for reading!

— Katelyn

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