We arrived to the wedding venue, and to put it briefly, we were quite underwhelmed. It was one of those locations full of tile from the 1990s, furniture to match, and a bridal room that doubled as a storage closet. Right away, we began racking our brains to find a way to make this work. We were determined to capture gorgeous images that day, but how would we do so in a less than ideal setting? Being able to deliver outstanding images in less than outstanding surroundings is just part of the job. So if you’ve ever found yourself working with a location that is not optimal, keep reading. We’ve got some great tips for making any location work for you!

Look for the Light

When you’re working with a location that seems less than desirable, look for good lighting first and work from there. Even in the worst of locations, if you can find a spot with nice even, soft light, you can create beautiful images. Take the shot below as an example. This wedding took place at a church that was full of fluorescent lighting with less than flattering backgrounds. In a quest for soft, even lighting and non distracting backgrounds, the detail shots were taken outside on the sidewalk in a patch of shade.

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Being able to deliver outstanding images in less than outstanding surroundings is just part of the job.

Good lighting can make or break your final image. Always look for areas that have can provide soft, even light over your entire subject before you even worry about the background.

Make the Most of Your Perspective

If you’re trying to make an ordinary or even less than ideal location work for you, the angle you choose to shoot at can have a large impact on your results. The image below was taken under a tree just down the block from my house. In the pull-back shot, you can see that there is a busy street in the background, as well as some construction going on. Not to mention it was mid-day and the sunlight was harsh and bright. By shooting from a slightly lower angle and pointing my camera up at the subject ever so slightly, I was able to get the tree and glimmers of bokeh from the sunlight in background instead of passing cars, construction vehicles and blown out highlights. A location that may have otherwise been overlooked for it’s distractions and lack of charm became a great little spot to capture a few fun shots on the fly!

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Shoot Wide Open

Another way to combat an unsightly background or location is to open up your aperture as wide as it will go! Shooting wide open is one way to blur out your background so that your subject pops as the main focus, and the surroundings are an afterthought or barely even noticed at all.

Frame Wisely

When you have a challenging location to shoot in, use the framing of your shot to your advantage. By composing the shot wisely, you can block out the most distracting elements of an unsightly or cluttered background. Remember the bridal room that was actually a storage closet? By shooting tight on the bride, Shannon was able to draw your eye right to her, instead of leaving an entire room of storage bins in sight to distract your eye.

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Image courtesy of Simple Joy Portraits.

Melissa took this awesome shot off of a dock that was piled with clutter. By shooting from above and using a dramatic crop, she was able to produce an awesome shot full of drama, without any of the unsightly distractions.

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Image courtesy of Melissa McClure Photography.

Look Past the Ordinary

Sometimes we get so caught up in looking for the “perfect” backdrop that we forget that, with unique composition and a little artistic freedom, we have the ability to make any location look stunning! This image by Rachel below is the perfect example. By taking a chair outside and placing the bride’s bouquet against that striking turquoise wall, she ended up with an awesome shot that is both impressive and out of the box.

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Image courtesy of Rachel Bausch Photography.

Great photos can happen just about anywhere, even places that may at first glance seem ordinary or lackluster. The key is knowing what type of lighting to look for, and being able to see past the ordinary. The next time you’re tempted to seek out an exciting location for your photos, challenge yourself instead to find ways to make something “ordinary” work for you. It’s amazing what happens when we put our toes to the fire a little bit… You just might find you were more creative than you thought!