A challenging location is not just one you’d call “ugly,” It may just not suitable for the project you’re working on. Your client will have their expectations from you, and the location can make it difficult to meet them. Marcin Lewandowski from Adorama discusses this problem and gives you some great tips for overcoming the challenges and getting the best out of your location.
The location you shoot at can be dull and featureless. Or on the other hand, it can be just crammed with distracting details. It can also be too small or have the furniture arranged so that they get in your way. The challenges are many, but there are ways to overcome them.
Marcin quotes Arnold Newman, who said that “photography is 1% talent and 99% moving furniture.” And he says that he tries to remember this not only in the challenging locations but during any of his shoots. If a place is dull and empty, you can add some elements to the shot. And if it’s too cluttered, you can remove them. This way they won’t get in the way or draw the attention away from the subject. I also do this every time I shoot no matter if I’m at home or on location. And of course, when on location – don’t forget to ask if it’s okay to move stuff around.
Another solution you can apply is using a wide aperture and “melting” the background into bokeh. Of course, this won’t always be the solution; it depends on the type of shots you want to get. But still, it can at least always be “the last resort.” There’s probably no background that lots of bokeh can’t make pretty.
Sometimes, there will be obstructions you won’t be able to move, such as pillars, fences and the like. So, try to use them to your advantage, shoot through them and use them to frame your subject.
Another big problem can be unfavorable lighting. If you don’t have the proper lighting gear or not enough of it (for whichever reason), don’t let this discourage you. Play with the available lights, try switching some of them on and off, or find the window light if there is any. Be creative, and even play with long exposures.
Of course, it always helps to know your location. Ideally, you have checked it before the shoot. But sometimes it’s not possible, so try to at least arrive at the set 15-20 minutes earlier to see what you’ll deal with and to work out the plan.
Even when everything seems lost, remember there’s always the way. As Marcin puts it, don’t let the bad vibe of the place kill your creativity. Consider this as one of those challenges when you limit yourself to boost your creativity, and you’ll learn something new, get new ideas and of course – some neat shots.