How to find session locations that your clients will love!

How to Find Session Locations That Your Clients Will Love

How to find session locations that your clients will love!The more clients enjoy their session, the more likely they are to be happy with their images and spend more with you…

…this may sounds obvious, but a big part of really increase the value of your client experience is to offer them locations with scenery that fits their personal style and personality.

So today, I’d like to give some tips on some of the best and most popular places to take clients, as well as some tips on places to avoid.

This post was inspired by one of our Hobby to Pro readers, Shannon, who asked:

“I hope this is not a silly question but when choosing a location. If the location is part of a museum or government property, is there a process, etiquette or permission usually needed? I came across a museum with hiking trails on the property but as soon as I mentioned photographer/portraits it became an event and a fee is required that is more than half my session fee. Any Advice?”

– Shannon

First off, there are no silly questions when it comes to educating yourself about running a photography business.

Actually, it’s a very good question, as photographing on private property can get you into trouble. It can be embarrassing to say the least to get escorted off a property with your clients, especially if you have no back up plan as to where to finish the session.

Let’s jump into this question with some ideas of locations that clients tend to love most:

Locations with an entrance fee

I am going to make the assumption with this scenario that your client suggests to you that they would like to be photographed at a particular location that involves a fee to use the grounds.

In Newport, RI, we have the famous Newport Mansions, and there is a fee to tour the grounds and interiors of the mansions. They do host weddings there, and if you are the hired photographer you will of course have access to their spectacular gardens and grounds and possibly even the interiors.

These are not the kind of places that you can pay the admission fee and then proceed to bring your lights and equipment in along with your clients and their kids and pet dog and take over the grounds. You would quickly find yourself approached by security.

My Take: Regarding any spot that has a fee to get in to it is best to call and inquire about their policy regarding photography. As Shannon mentioned many times it may be a considerable fee. In that case I suggest the following:

  1. If you client has any involvement with this facility they may be able to get permission to do the session or at least get a special rate.
  2. It doesn’t hurt to try and negotiate a lower fee especially if for example its $200 and allows you 2 hours of shooting time. Maybe you just need 30 minutes- it’s possible they may be open to charging a reduced rate.
  3. If you can’t negotiate then let you client know what the fee is and that they would be responsible for the cost of the fee AND your session fee. Depending on how badly they want that location and their financial situation, they may be fine with it. Have some back up locations ready that you can suggest if they do not want to spring for the extra cost.

Government Property

To touch on Shannon’s question specifically, be very careful with government property. They often have strict regulations, so you will want to ask permission.

In an event like this, where you did ask permission and were told that you would have to pay a hefty fee, perhaps you could try to negotiate…

Since you are not actually running an “event,” they may be willing to go easy on you and allow you to photograph on the grounds as long as you do not disturb anyone.

Local Beaches

Many beaches in our area during the summer will charge admission or at least a fee for parking. Luckily for us, we prefer to photograph either early in the morning or later in the evening near sunset to get the best lighting. During these times, there is no one there charging admission.

In the morning, the light is most desirable and we can usually fit in the session before the beach starts filling up. You want to avoid the busy times and busy spots on the beach, because having bathing beauties in the background will create a lot of post-production time in Photoshop to remove them. The evening is usually busier, as there are umbrellas staked out with the die-hard sun worshippers that don’t leave until dusk.

We have scoped out a few beach spots in our area that are much less busy than the main beaches, yet still offer the same elements that clients are looking for. Beach sessions are one of our most popular locations.

Local Parks

Local State parks can be great locations for all kinds of sessions. We are lucky to have Colt State Park in Bristol, RI and we photograph kids, seniors and families there fairly regularly.

There used to be an admission years ago, but they did away with it. Back when they charged the fee, we bought a season pass so that we could just come and go without always having to pay each time.

The great thing about local parks like this is that they are public, so you shouldn’t have an issue bringing in your equipment and running sessions.

Of course, the large National State Parks (Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, etc.) are a totally different story, so you may just want to check your local park’s website to make sure it’s public.

Schools & Universities

As a photographer I never recommend these locations as potential spots for photography sessions to my clients, even though some can be quite beautiful.

Occasionally, I’ll have a client that wants to use school grounds for their session, and they are in some way associated with the school and receive. That’s always the best case scenario.

Every once in a blue moon, I’ll have a high school student interested in attending Brown University in Providence that wants a couple shots around the school. We’ll do a few shots outside the school’s gate, which is never a problem since we are on the public sidewalk (and we would pass for tourists except for my pesky off-camera flash).

In the past we’ve also done a couple shots on campus without any problems. I will mention to my client that we could get booted, but since we were already outside the gate, we might as well take the chance.

I would not make a habit of this, and of course it’s easier when you are just photographing one subject rather then say, a family of six.

City Locations

Just as you can certainly photography clients in front of a university gate, you can find many public areas within cities that make for a beautiful location.

For example, one of our most popular sessions is called Downtown Bristol, where we take clients around a local town for their shoot. We photograph in front of cool murals on the sides of buildings, by fences overgrown with flowers, and more.

As long as you don’t try photographing on private property, you should have no issues finding great spots around your local cities.

Use Your Best Judgment

All in all just use your best judgement when it comes to any location where you are not positive that photography is permissible. It’s always best to err on the side of caution.

If you are approached by someone who questions what you are doing, remember to be polite and humble, and they may just let you finish your session.

Our Most Popular Session Spots

Ok – we just went over many of the big types of outdoor locations you may want to consider for sessions. To recap, here is the list of locations that are most popular with my clients:

  • Local Park – popular for seniors in the summer, and families and children in the fall.)
  • Beaches – popular with seniors and families
  • Downtown – popular with seniors
  • Private locations – some clients are willing to pay our private session fee to have us photograph them in their home yard.

Now it’s your turn!

Now that you’ve got some ideas, can you think of any locations in your area that you may want to try out for your next session?

Let us know your ideas in the comment section below!