The positives and negative of being an outdoor, on-location photographer in Wisconsin.

The one thing we have always prided ourselves on, is being an on-location photographer with a willingness to go pretty much anywhere (minus dangling from a cliff) for our clients. Being an on-location photographer is not for every photographer though.  In this blog post we are going to look at the positive and negatives to being an on-location photographer.

In the beginning when we started our business there was a decision to be made where were we going to be located the majority of the time, in a studio or on location? Yes, we started out as a sports and journalism photographer but as we progressed to portraits and other styles of photography we had a choice to make. In the end, we decided it was in our best interest to be an outdoor, on-location photographer. For us at Vagabond Photography we are outdoorsy people and love the ability to bring the outdoor world into our photos and being indoors day in and day out become repetitive to us.

Now understand we are not saying that if you decide to invest a brick and mortar studio and work out of one place you won’t do on-location work as well far from it. This blog post is mainly designed to address some of the upfront ups and down of deciding to work exclusively outdoors.

The pro of photographing most of your clients outside is that your back drop is ever changing. Every location can be found and sculpted to fit the clients own personal style and that works great because some clients may want a more country/nature setting while others may want more of an urban setting. While this does have its upsides the down side is that as a photographer we should really only use these locations two to three times a season/year to keep it fresh for future clients. Also one thing to keep in mind when photographing in a urban environment is your surrounding and is it safe for you and your clients to be there.

When setting up for a client’s session the main thing we as photographers must keep in mind is the weather. In Wisconsin and like other states in the snow belt we are all aware that the weather is something we always keep an eye on and it is constantly changing. It’s been stated that in Wisconsin you can have three of the four seasons all in one day and over the year we have seen it happen. In the summer, you still have to keep an eye on the temperature and with the added inconvenience of whether or not it may rain. Which is why having reschedule date in mind for you and your client is must even though we hope you never have too. Now this works for family and senior portraits and some corporate clients, but for weddings it’s a one day only deal with no reschedule date. For us in the north, come winter we keep in mind about how cold it is outside and what your clients are wearing. While a colored snow ball fight between loved ones on a field or ice-skating engagement sessions seems like a cool ideas for a photo session if it’s under 20F it may not be the best idea. This has two reasons one; clients and photographers get cold quick and frost bite is nothing to fool around with, secondly is gear can become brittle and is easily damaged when the temperatures get bellowing freezing.

One of the better things about working on location is we can go bigger. It allows photographers to incorporate larger things such as a cars, trucks, bikes or animals. Its comes in quite nice for senior portraits especially if a client would like to incorporate a classic car that they may of helped restored with their family. Also incorporating animals can bring extra life into a photo especially if it is a horse or the family dog and it is something that we always recommend our clients to consider incorporating into their sessions. The down side of both of these is going too big and not being able to deliver in said session this can hurt the image and return business. In addition, with large animals they can be easily spooked by flashes and noises if they are not used to being around those. Having recently attended ImagingUSA in Huston we watched as a long horn steer get spooked from behind when a fair amount of people were around it, thankfully no one was seriously injured granted this animal was not spooked by a flash but still this is an example of what can happen if you as a photographer are not prepared for what could happen. Animals decide when they are done, not you and you can only string them along so long.

Working outdoors and on site means that the light is always changing and that is something you always should be attentive to. If you start in the early morning around sunrise if will go from blue hues, to golden, to full white light and the opposite it true before sunset.  This is a great thing because depending on what/who/where you are photographing a photographer can get several different moods in a short amount of time. On the other side of the coin it can also be a hindrance if you are not ready for how fast the light is going to change. Working outside also means that you have to contend with the sun due to your time of day during your photo session. This is a time where one would want to remove excess light by using scrims and gobo’s. This is quite the opposite when working in a studio where light is much easier to control.

These are just a few of the positives and negatives we have encountered in Wisconsin over the past few years and it is just something you may like to consider when working outdoors. We can say that even though it presents several unique challenges the benefits far outweigh the negatives.