When considering locations for an upcoming portrait session, most people tend to think country side. They picture tall grass on rolling hills, or magestic mountains as a backdrop. Lovely landscapes and lush gardens are usually the first choice for photos. Yet it might be fun to consider the alternative. Let's consider the fun of an urban shoot.
Now some of you might squash this idea for several reasons. Perhaps you have little kids and the idea of shooting portraits around busy traffic does not partner well with rambunctious little ones. I would agree with that. But others might dismiss the possibility of an urban shoot because of location. Perhaps you don't live near a "city", and so you don't think this is possible. Or maybe you think urban settings won't offer anything visually appealing. To those arguments I say this. First, all of the following images (with the exception of one) were shot in small "cities". Some were even shot at a small town outlet mall. You can create an urban look without going far. As for less than lovely images, maybe you won't have tulips and daisies, but you can find great colors and great light anywhere.
Now let's consider the pros of an urban shoot:
1. YOUR PORTRAITS HAVE ENERGY
If you're a quiet and thoughtful kind of person (or family), then a quiet and subdued setting might work best for your photos. But if you're outgoing and have spirit, then consider the urban shoot. There are people milling about. Maybe a few cars. Maybe a lot of cars. Buildings and colors, shops and shoppers. The energy of an urban shoot is more lively, which evokes more energy in the person in front of the camera- whether that's you or your subject. It's hard to take photos in an urban setting and not feel the energy.
2. YOUR PHOTOS ARE MORE UNIQUE
This is a particularly important apsect to consider with high school seniors. They always want their photos to be unique rather than like every other girl in their class. So take them downtown. Take them all downtown. You can choose a different street or setting for every girl. And as long as you've got decent, even light, you can create unique photos for every one of them.
3. YOU CAN FIND UNUSUAL COLORS AND PATTERNS FOR FREE
I love walking downtown in Colorado Springs. I always find myself noticing colors and textures on walls, pattern on store fronts, and cute furniture along the sidewalks. Sure this is beautiful Colorado Springs. But I noticed the same things in Pottstown, a very small and run down "city". In fact, the following photos were taken along High Street in Pottstown (with the exception of the first one). You can find fun patterns and colors almost anywhere. You just have to look for them.
4. YOUR INTERACTIONS ARE MORE NATURAL
As mentioned in our first point, there is more energy in an urban setting. And that pours into the person you are photographing. Even better, if you are photographing more than one person, this energy flows from person to person. As the busyness of the streets around them amplify, so do their emotions, so does their body language, so does their smile. Everything becomes more natural. Laughs happen more easily (perhaps because of what they are witnessing on the streets), smiles are more authentic, everything is amped up. No one needs to fake emotion.
5. YOU CAN SHOOT AND THEN GO SHOPPING!
Perhaps my favorite positive to doing an urban shoot, the rewards afterwards are a few steps away. Grab some ice cream afterwards at the shop on the next block. Or grab dinner at one of the many restaurants that line the streets. Or go shopping! I photographed Jaid here at the local Outlet Mall. I hung around after we wrapped up and did a little shopping. How much fun!
Urban shoots might not be what you usually think about when you consider portraits, but I hope you might rethink the idea. It could be fun to try something new, and it doesn't take heading out to New York City, or LA, or Denver to achieve the urban look. With a little thought and maybe a little research, you can find a great urban shot anywhere- even in a super tiny town like Lebo, Kansas.
And don't forget. If you shoot urban, grab some ice cream afterwards!