Hi, I’m Lydia. I have a problem and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
I’m addicted to scouting for locations.
I’m constantly look for new and cool photography locations near me. On bike rides, I send pins to myself when I pass a location with flowers or gorgeous trees.
I peruse my area on Google Maps, looking for evergreens, creeks, rivers, lakes, and beaches. I explore the back corners of parks, nature preserves, and grass trails on foot. I seriously never stop looking.
That’s why I love it when my clients relinquish the location choice to me for their photos.
I have a looooong list of locations, and total flexibility to choose means I can find the perfect spot for each family.
Why you should let your photographer choose
Iowa has all four seasons, and the landscape changes throughout the year—as a result, there’s no such thing as a perfect location that looks good year-round.
Wildflowers bloom in May, daisies in June, sunflowers for a couple of weeks in late summer. Some creeks are only accessible in June, and fall leaves dazzle us in three weeks of October.
The best family photography locations in Iowa change throughout the year, and it’s my job to know what looks amazing at any given time.
That’s why I finalize locations one week prior to the session, giving me time to scope out each spot, and ensure it’s ready for its close-up.
These two photos were taken in the same meadow just a few weeks apart, at the same time of day.
These two photos were taken in the same meadow, one week apart. The leaves went from green to golden in a week. Just one week later, the trees were down to bare branches.
Sure, there may be a few “unicorn locations” that look amazing from April to December, but they’re rare (and probably overrun with other photographers who’ve discovered the same unicorn).
What to ask your photographer about locations
Ask them the locations they typically shoot at, or better yet, look at their portfolio to see how much repetition there is. Variety is good!
There’s a very popular location near me, in Kent Park; a huge stand of pine trees, with beautiful golden-hour light sifting through the trees. It’s really popular and tons of photographers shoot there.
My first year doing photography, I used it a TON. I didn’t have a roster of locations yet! But I haven’t been back there since.
Nowadays, I steer clear of the popular spots, and instead find locations with beautiful texture, light, and backgrounds that aren’t as well-known.
These off-the-beaten-path locations mean I can offer my families privacy and unique settings they won’t see on anyone else’s Christmas card. Bonus: no randos wandering into frame while I’m shooting!
What if you have a family photography location in mind that’s meaningful for your family?
This is the exception to the “let your photographer pick the location” rule.
Last fall, a client requested a specific lakeside area near their home. They were moving soon and wanted photos at a location near and dear to their heart.
I scoped it out ahead of time, and the evening of our session, we had the most gorgeous pinky-purple autumn sunset and perfectly still water.
A meaningful location is a wonderful thing—when it works. Your photographer is the expert on light and location, and they should let you know if your chosen location will make for beautiful photos.
Stay flexible when suggesting a location. If the lighting is poor, the background is overly cluttered, or some other deal-breaker exists, trust your photographer’s judgment when they advise you to choose a different spot. You’ll be glad you did.