7 minute read

Choosing the Right Photo Location

Choosing the right photo location can be a difficult decision to make. Here, Detroit-based content creator Vuhlandes offers some pro advice

In photography, the location you choose is extremely important as it has a huge impact on the look and feel of the resulting image. There is no such thing as the ‘best’ location, only the ‘right’ location for the specific story you are trying to tell.

We speak to Detroit-based content creator Vuhlandes, who has been using FUJIFILM X100VI on location to create a documentary and environmental portraiture photo project called Detroit: My Baby.

Vuhlandes’ experience as an environmental portrait photographer means that for him, the setting is an essential part of the story. Read on to hear his top tips for choosing the right photography location.

Creator Vuhlandes sitting on tyre on grassland with camera in hand and houses in background

Photo 2023 © Shotti NYC | FUJIFILM GFX100 II and FUJINON GF55mmF1.7 R WR, 1/60 sec at F2.8, ISO 320

1. Look for the Light

Light is the single most important factor in photography and videography. We’re not just talking about how much of it there is, but the type of light and where it falls.

“The light is 100% something I consider when thinking about locations,” says Vuhlandes. “Whether it will be poorly lit or well-lit at a certain time of day; maybe the light’s soft because the area’s blocked by trees – whatever the case may be.”

He goes into more detail about the considerations. Does the light follow a direct path to the subject or does it reflect off a nearby wall, for example? Does the light have to travel through anything on its way, such as foliage, glass, or fabric? How do these elements affect its quality and feel?

Another aspect Vuhlandes talks about is how light and shadow interact: “If the sun comes through, will it create certain shadows on certain objects during a certain part of the day?”

He recommends looking for particular pockets of light in the location and considering how they can add to your creative vision. In harsh light, for example, could you use the sharp contrast between light and shadow to your advantage?

2. Background, Textures and Colors

As alluded to earlier, the location of an image has a direct effect on the story you are trying to tell and, in turn, the feeling your image evokes.

For example, a photograph of a soldier in camouflage running across a battlefield towards the enemy would tell a different story than a picture of the same soldier in camouflage running through an airport towards his family.

However, the effect of location on the feel of an image goes deeper than geographical setting. Even the subtlest features can influence the viewer’s experience.

Vuhlandes agrees: “I look for textures and different visual characteristics, whether that’s trees, grass, flowers, the sky, buildings, or houses in the background. That helps to tell certain stories and do something extra for the viewer.”

Additionally, background can help emphasize your subject and draw the viewer’s eye. If you want to bring out the color of someone’s clothing, for example, choose a less colorful background to make them pop. Alternatively, if you want to highlight the textures in a subject, try isolating them on a more uniform backdrop.

3. Is it Public or Private?

Another, very important thing to consider when choosing a location is whether it is a public or private space. This is relevant for two big reasons.


If the location is private, it is likely you will need permission from the owner before you even set foot on their property. Furthermore, even if the owner is happy for you to be there, that doesn’t mean they are happy for you to make photos – especially if they are for commercial gain.

With this in mind, always thoroughly research any location you choose and, if required, ensure you have full written permission to photograph there.


If it’s a public photo location, there will likely be pedestrians who may cause distractions, make a model feel self-conscious, or even enter the frame at the moment you release the shutter – ruining your perfect image.

Of course, you may have chosen a busy location on purpose – maybe your desired image requires lots of people in the frame? Even if this is the case, you still need to be careful.

For example, if you are on a commercial project, every recognizable face in the frame will require a signed model release granting you and your client permission to use their likeness – even if the location is public.

For this reason, consider going early in the morning when fewer people are up and about. As an added advantage, you’ll likely get the best natural light, too!

This is exactly why location scouting is such an important part of the process – read on to learn more.

4. Location Scouting

Now you have an idea of just how many things there are to consider when choosing a location, you should be able to better appreciate the importance of planning.

Spend time scouting for locations long before you create any images. Not only will this leave time to ensure you know exactly where you stand with regard to permissions, but you will also know what time of day you’ll get the best light, how many people to expect, and how it will add to the story.

“I have entire scouting days where I just look for locations – I don’t even take a camera with me, I just jot things down,” Vuhlandes reveals.

“I’ll be at a location and ask myself: what images would I want to create here? Who would I want to photograph? What type of story would I like to tell? I write all that down, then present it to someone, find wardrobe, and create the vibe of the image.”

Scouting a photography location in advance is also a great way to assess the logistics of the session.

Is the location easy to get to, for example? It’s one thing getting there on your own, but getting a model, a team and all your gear there is another thing entirely.

If it’s a long hike, anyone involved will likely need to prepare with appropriate footwear, food, and plenty of water at the least. Amenities are another factor. Is there a store or restaurant nearby, or will you need to bring supplies of food and drink to last the whole day?

When photographing outdoors, the weather can play a huge part. Not only could a rainstorm ruin the light, it could also ruin your gear and the team’s morale. With this in mind, think about nearby shelter.

Streamlining workflow like this can be particularly important if you need to pay for a model’s time out of a small budget.

Read more about Vuhlandes’ project, or browse all the content on Exposure Center for education, inspiration, and insight from the world of photography.

For more information about the camera Vuhlandes used for his project, shop X100VI today and read the full specifications here.