You guys really seemed to enjoy my post about how to take outfit pictures by yourself. So today I’m going to share some more tips with you. This time we’ll be talking about finding great shooting locations – so let’s get right to it!
You probably keep seeing those beautiful outfit shots – taken amidst a blossoming desert, in the streets of Amsterdam or on a Manhattan rooftop with the majestic skyline in the background. But what if, yeah, what if you’re simply not living in one of those places? I feel you. There are simply some places in this world that make for prettier backdrops than others and not everyone will always have the chance to go there to take pictures. Now we basically have two options: we can either perform a table flip and tell ourselves that we’ll never get pretty outfit photos or we can make do with what we have. Spoiler: no. 2 is a far more promising approach. So what can we do if we happen to live in a place that’s not exactly photoshoot-friendly?
Keep your eyes peeled
Make it a habit to look around for potential shooting locations even when you don’t have your camera with you. I stumbled upon most of my fav shooting locations for outfit photos accidentally. I will either keep them in mind or even make a note in my phone. Now what kind of places should you look for? This obviously depends on the style of your pictures. Things you should consider are:
What’s the light like?
Is the place always in the shade or does it get sunlight and if so, at which time of the day? As shade and golden hour light are the most flattering types of light for outfit pictures make sure to choose a place that meets these requirements. I’ll always avoid shooting in direct sunlight around noon as the light is way too harsh.
What are the predominant colors?
The background will take up a large portion of your image so be aware that the colors in your location will strongly influence the overall look of your image. They should match both the outfit you’re shooting as well as for example your Instagram feed if you have a specific theme. Nature backgrounds are always great if you’re opting for a lot of green in your pictures while grey city backgrounds are very suitable for a clean, minimalistic look.
Is there anything that kills the magic?
What I mean by this is: are there any elements in the background that just distract the viewer and make the picture look like a half-assed snapshot? For example when posing in a beautiful dress in the streets I wouldn’t want a sign next to my head that says “Steve’s Dry Cleaning”. Or whatever. A beautiful beach with ugly toilet cubicles in the background. You get the point. Tiny magic killers such as street signs in the distance can easily be edited out (we’ll get to that!) but large ones should be avoided altogether.
Nobody can see what’s outside the image edge
And we are totally gonna use that to our advantage. It took me a while to get into this mindset. Before I often caught myself thinking “How on earth am I supposed to take a pretty picture in a place like this?”. Then I eventually realized that the people who see your photo don’t know what the place looks like. They don’t see what’s behind your back while you’re shooting, they don’t see what’s left and right. They only see what’s in the picture and that’s the only thing that counts. Let me give you an example. Take a look at the picture below and just make a guess about where it was taken.
If I told you the location was a lakeside or some forest glade you would probably believe it. Here’s what the place actually looks like:
It’s right in the middle of the city at a busy crossing with ugly glass containers right next to it.
This is not about fooling people. It’s about developing the skill to see beauty and potential in places where other people don’t see it. Here are a couple more examples of outfit pictures I took in pretty unlikely places:
A car repair shop:
A construction site (I’m a bad role model – don’t climb into fenced construction sites, kids…):
Right next to a large supermarket (totally not in the forest):
A couple of trees in the middle of the city (totally not in the wilderness):
Botanical Gardens in the South of Germany (totally not the desert of Nevada):
And a favorite: The wheelchair ramp of the church archive building:
So now that you have these examples in mind keep your eyes open for places that might turn out to be real gems as shooting locations! Just make sure to choose the right angle.
If you really want your outfit to stand out without a lot going on in the background it can be a good idea to shoot with a very shallow depth of field. If you’re an experienced photographer you know what that means. If you aren’t: by changing the depth of field on your camera you can make the background of your image sharper or blurrier. With a shallow depth of field you’ll get a very blurry background which can help if the background isn’t something you would want to be very visible and prominent in your picture.
Edit your background
Now while editing cannot replace putting effort into finding a good location and taking a good photo it still goes a long way towards creating the final picture. You don’t have to be a professional retoucher to really improve your pictures by making a few little tweaks. I personally use Adobe Lightroom for editing which I can totally recommend. But there are other tools out there that can be really helpful! So basically the two things I’ll do in terms of the background are:
Remove tiny magic killers: This usually involves using a clone brush or healing tool to remove street signs or people in the background. Only do this with small elements – if you aren’t a skilled retoucher don’t try to edit large portions of the background this way – it will quickly look weird. Sometimes desaturating or changing the color of an element will already be sufficient to make it blend into the background seamlessly. Here’s an example:
Adjust the colors: Human eyes and brains love things that match. However, we obviously can’t force the real world to match our outfit. Buildings and streets and trees just look the way they look. Sometimes we want to convey a certain mood in our pictures but the world doesn’t quite cooperate. Making tiny adjustments in the colors can go a long way in creating a fully visually pleasing image. It’s not about changing a whole bunch of elements from red to blue or something. It’s usally enough to drag the green of the trees more into the yellow or blue, maybe the red more into the orange or pink (again, Lightroom is my tool of choice for this!). The changes are usually barely noticeable but help a lot in matching your outfit with the background and your photo with the theme of your photo series / blog / website / Instagram. So if you found a shooting location that’s close to perfect – give it a chance as some adjustments can always be made.
Hope you guys found these tips helpful! If you have more helpful advice that I haven’t covered in this post please leave a comment below!