9 Portrait Location Ideas to Try for Unique Portraits
Sometimes, the biggest battle you face when taking portraits is simply finding locations that are suitable for creating the images you want.
But if you’re like me, much of the struggle to come up with portrait location ideas revolves around the inability to see normal, everyday locations for the beautiful possibilities they present for portraits.
In the video above, Mango Street provides nine portrait location ideas, each of which you can likely find in your neighbourhood or town (or even your own home!) without much effort. Some of these locations offer you an opportunity to get creative with your compositions, too, like shooting through a window for a more interesting portrait.
Have a look at the video (they summarize all nine locations in just 90 seconds!), and for easy reference, you can see each of their portrait photography tips below.
Shoot through a Cafe Window
The nice thing about shooting through a window at a subject on the other side is that you immediately get more depth in the shot. That’s thanks to the subtle reflections in the window, as shown above.
The trick, of course, is to use this technique at the right time of day, such that your subject isn’t obscured by the reflection of very intense light, like the sun rising or setting. Look for windows that face away from the sun, that way you can capitalize on diffused lighting to achieve a look similar to the one shown here.
Near a Construction Site
There are a couple of advantages of shooting portraits at a construction site.
First, there are often interesting colors and patterns that you can use to create a more visually compelling portrait, like the orange and white road closed signs in the background of the portrait above.
And second, construction sites are very readily available so it’s not like you have to look long or hard to find one! Just be careful when shooting near a construction zone – obey all regulations and laws to maintain your safety, the safety of your model, and the safety of the construction workers.
Chain Link Fence
Posing your model in front of a chain link fence takes advantage of the grid pattern of the fence. What’s more, if you compose the shot looking down the fence, as was done above, you can create a portrait with a ton of depth.
As you can see, the model and the fence directly to her right are beautifully sharp, but in front of her and behind her, the fence is nice and blurry. Showing that very shallow depth of field gives this portrait an artistic flair that can sometimes be difficult to get.
A hedge is a perfect background for a portrait because of the colors and contrast that they can provide.
In this case, the bright pops of red add nice color to the background while the light and dark green tones give some dimension to the hedge as well.
Just be careful when composing a portrait in front of a hedge so that you don’t have a branch or flower appearing as though it’s coming out of your model’s head!
For a grittier vibe, a highway underpass could be the ideal location for your portraits.
Look for elements that will give the shot more visual appeal, like the arched ceiling and the strong shadows in this portrait.
Other alternatives are to find an underpass with graffiti on the wall or to shoot at night using streetlights to give your portrait a bit of a mysterious vibe.
Indoor Window Light
When all else fails, you really don’t have to look any further than your own house or apartment for a great portrait location.
Using interior window light should be any portrait photographer’s go-to spot for taking beautiful portrait!
Not only is the softened natural light ideal for portraiture, but you can also use the lines of the window frame and sill to help move the viewer’s eye toward the model, as was done in the example above.
Another highly common feature that you can use for portraits and find virtually anywhere is stairs.
The beauty of stairs is the linear nature of the steps – the symmetrical lines add structure to the portrait, even if they aren’t showing all that much in the background.
Experiment with the distance from which you shoot – take close-ups like the one shown above, half-body and full-body shots, and even some environmental portraits that show the model in the context of the stairs.