How to find great portrait locations even in the ugliest neighborhood

Apr 19, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

How to find great portrait locations even in the ugliest neighborhood

Apr 19, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Sometimes even in the crappiest conditions you can make great photos. Although, I thought this was impossible in the part of the city where I live. However, this video from Jordan Matter helped me change my point of view. It shows you how to choose great locations for your headshots even when you’re limited to a very ugly neighborhood.

Jordan wanders around the neighborhood he says to be the ugliest in New York City (I don’t know which one it is, though). Only one block around his studio, he and his model Juliette Garrett managed to find five locations to make excellent portraits.

YouTube video

1. CARS

The first “location” is pretty much everywhere around us – cars. Jordan advises to look for cars and make them your background. If you use a 50mm or wider lens, they will not be blurred enough and they could distract from the subject. Therefore, use a long lens (he uses 200mm) and wide aperture, and blur those cars to create a great background.

2. DOORWAY

When you see a doorway, stop for a while and check out what’s inside. Doorways soften the light and make it flattering for the model’s face. At the same time, the ambient light inside can add fantastic colors to the background.

3. WALLS

If you find an interesting wall, you can use its textures and color for the awesome background. There are three ways to photograph the model in this setting:

-Leaning with the back against the wall

-Standing further from the wall, to soften the background

-Leaning sideways against the wall, to add more depth to the images

4. SKY

This is the background you’ll find pretty much everywhere, right? Jordan suggests finding a location where the background is brighter than the light in the model’s face. Expose for the face, take the shot and you’ll end up with a bright and soft background. Keep in mind that this only works on an overcast day, and it will be too bright when it’s sunny.

5. ENVIRONMENT

Finally, even if the neighborhood is ugly, there may be some buildings you find interesting. If you’re lucky to have a roof deck, that’s ideal location for a photo shoot. You can incorporate the subject into the environment and add some context to the images. Put your long lens aside and use 50mm, 35mm or even 28mm.

I hope you enjoyed this video and that it inspired you. For me, it was a true eye opener. I moved to the ugliest neighborhood of the city almost a year ago, and the only photos I’ve taken were either in my flat or when I go to other parts of the city. The area where I live is utterly uninspiring, and I haven’t even tried to find the inspiration I need within myself.  So, this video was a real inspiration and made me try and look beyond the ugliness. I hope to return soon with the results, so stay tuned. And if you take gorgeous shots in ugly neighborhoods – feel free to share them in comments.

[5 Great Portrait Photography Locations You Can Find Right Outside Your Door | Shutterbug Mag]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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3 responses to “How to find great portrait locations even in the ugliest neighborhood”

  1. E Galarza Avatar
    E Galarza

    I came to a similar conclusion a few years ago. When I first purchased my EF70-200L f/2.8 II IS in 2011, I always shot my head and shoulders shot between 80-and 135. Originally I thought the 200mm focal length was too much for portraiture but good enough for sports. But then I realize there isn’t a whole lot of difference in compression between 100mm and 200mm, but the covered angle at 200mm allowed me to eliminate lots of distracting backgrounds objects by narrowing the field of view my sensor sees. So even in uninspiring locations, I could get a decent headshot at the 200mm range.

  2. Justin Griffin Avatar
    Justin Griffin

    Ilia Draznin

  3. Vincent Ho Avatar
    Vincent Ho

    Lots of Bokeh always help.