How to Work with Challenging Photography Locations

Arrived at your destination and found the location tough to shoot in? Been assigned by a client to shoot in a location that’s, well, anything but easy? There are a million different things that can go wrong for a photographer. Being asked to shoot at a challenging location is just one of them. At times you can relocate. At other times you simply have no option but to adapt and deliver what you promised. Marcin Lewandowski from Adorama shares some of his tips:

Bad Location

A bad location is simply a location “that is not suitable for the project that you are working on.” Different clients have different requirements for their projects. Some may ask for an urban look. But the location may simply defeat the whole purpose, being either too cluttered or under-lit or just plain ugly.

photographing a challenging location

As a photographer you have to follow your instincts and figure out very quickly whether the location will work. If it doesn’t, even with your best efforts, there is no point in dragging. Just leave. There’s absolutely no point in working when you’re presented with many obstacles, because you have a finite amount of time in which to deliver what has been promised.

Photography is about moving furniture!

“Photography is 1% talent and 99% moving furniture.” –Arnold Newman

This is one quote that probably sums up what it feels like shoot in a challenging location. Keep it in mind when you’re presented with a cluttered situation. Move anything that comes into the clear line of sight between your subject and your camera.

how to photograph in bad locations

Except, of course, when you want that object to be a part of the image.

On the other hand, if the scene is too bland, add something to it.

ugly locations for photography

If it is too cluttered take away whatever that is not adding to the image.

challenging photography locations

Use a fast aperture

One way to handle a difficult location is to shoot with a wide open aperture to melt everything into bokeh. You should have at least one fast prime lens in your camera bag to be able to do that. The cheapest fast prime is the 50mm nifty-fifty.

bad lighting photography

This lens is great in terms of its ability to produce great background blur and yet is extremely cheap.

If you can’t fight them use them!

Some elements at a location simply can’t be moved. A pillar, for example, or an ornate iron gate. If you come across unmoveable elements, stop fighting and use them instead.

how to fix a bad photography location

If you can, use a tele-lens and shoot through or use a wide angle lens and shoot from close up. Knowing your location is always useful. That will help you choose the right lens and have much of the planning done in advance.


fix bad photography lighting

Bad lighting is the bane of good photography. There are different types of bad lighting: too bright, too dark, too many different colored lights. Don’t let bad lighting or lack of light at a scene stop you. Carry lights of your own. Turn off the lights that are disconcerting at a scene to improve the images.

What’s your advice for shooting at less than ideal locations?

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