25+ Ideas for portrait shoot locations: Get creative indoors and outdoors

Portrait shoot locations don’t have to be hard to find. Sometimes all it takes is walking out the front door and checking out the street in front of you.

I struggled to find the perfect portrait shoot locations when I started photography. Now, I make the best of any location by looking for the most creative compositions I can with what I can find around me.

Find portrait shoot locations in front of cool buildings
Find portrait shoot locations in front of cool buildings – Perot Museum

25+ ideas for portrait shoot locations (and counting)

When you’re just starting out, finding places to shoot can seem overwhelming. With that in mind, I created a quick list of places to keep in mind to keep it easy.

Portraits tend to be close up so you don’t need elaborate locations unless you are shooting with wider angles or want to incorporate more of the scene.

Check out some ideas from below to help get you started. I keep this list on my phone and can always update it when I’m on the go.

  1. Start with your home or apartment
  2. Your own backyard
  3. Local park, lake or nature trail
  4. Botanical gardens (may not be free)
  5. Downtown streets in your city
  6. Local coffee shops
  7. Skating rinks
  8. Arcades and game rooms
  9. Local cafes or coffee shops
  10. Tennis courts or basketball courts
  11. Beach or sandy lakes (If you live near the beach)
  12. Local ice cream shops
  13. Local attractions such as a zoo
  14. Museums or art exhibits
  15. College or universities
  16. Fair, carnivals or local festivals
  17. Travel outside the town or city to open fields
  18. Industrial or abandoned buildings (please be safe)
  19. Local attractions (Dallas has a butterfly center)
  20. Look for graffiti and murals
  21. Rooftops if you can find access
  22. Parking lots (especially multi-level structures)
  23. Rent a local photography studio
  24. AirBNB homes or apartments (featured image for this article is a local cottage rental. 
  25. Ask friends and family for home pools or cool homes
  26. Check social media and locations from your favorite photographers
  27. Ask local photographers for recommendations
  28. Take a day trip outside the city to explore

Finding a portrait shoot location

This is an ongoing list so make sure to check back for more ideas. The point of this list is to help inspire you to get out and explore.

I live in the beautiful state of Texas where the weather is either hot or there is ice on the streets.

Rarely do we have in-between, and when we do I take full advantage of it the beautiful weather for natural light portrait shoots.

I am constantly driving around the city to find new locations and beautiful backgrounds.

When shooting portrait photography, I started a running list of locations so that I could be prepared for future shoots.

Consider building a home studio for ideas portrait shoot locations
Build a home portrait photography studio

Consider building a home studio

If the weather is a constant factor, you may want to consider starting or building a portable home studio. Pick a small corner or unused room in your home.

Lighting can always be setup and broken down when not in use. This way you always have a backup if the weather goes crazy and you can’t make it work outdoors. If you’re not ready for a full-time studio this is always a great flexible option.

Keep a running list of locations to shoot portraits

No matter what the weather is like, I always keep a running list of photoshoot locations that I can reference and locate quickly for my shoots.

I use my phone to take quick pics of locations that I pass daily. There will be times I even take a small video so I can remind myself why I liked a particular location.

Take pics of places with your phone and tag the location
Photo: from Pexels.com

Some of the best shoots I have are when I return to places I am very familiar with. I already know the lighting and best little spots to grab great shots.

I know many photographers who will shoot at the same location for years and get a huge variety of different shots.

Leading lines - get creative with portrait photography locations
Leading lines – get creative with portrait photography locations

Get creative with your locations

The biggest skill you can develop is looking at a location from different perspectives. take the high ground and look down on a location.

Get down towards the ground and look up. You need to learn that all portraits don’t always have to be shot from eye level.

Build your knowledge of using perspectives to your advantage and this will help you learn how to see a familiar location in a different way.

Sunset Time - Consider timing for portrait locations
Sunset Time – consider timing for portrait locations

Consider different times of the day

Another consideration you need to take into account is the time of day. It you’re going to be shooting outdoors, then try to find portrait shoot locations that will compliment your shots.

Lighting is a key factor to shooting portraits so you want to make sure it’s not too bright or too dark in the composition.

Park Archways portrait shoot locations
Park Archways – portrait shoot locations

Scouting locations is part of being a photographer

I’ll be writing more about this topic, but overall I look for unique things in an area. Maybe large natural trees, or very prominent colors.

I am constantly looking for colors or textures that stand out to my eye. Look for large buildings and how they overlap with the light at different times of the day.

When I’m in downtown Dallas, I look for creative architecture or sharp lines. The location can help bring more details and attention to your shots, so keep those eyes open.

There is no secret to finding locations. the most important thing is to take a variety of shots to see what works for you and your style.

The Painted Lens Photography Studio in Dallas, TX
The Painted Lens Photography Studio in Dallas, TX

Consider local photography studios

A great place to consider as well is local photography studios. Many photographers will rent out studios by the hour or full-days to other photographers to help cover costs.

Many studios will have equipment or areas setup for beautiful portrait shoots.

I rent out studios through out the entire year. Sometimes the Texas heat is just too much, so finding a nice indoor spot is clutch.

Bonus tip: Searching Instagram

Photography studios are a great resource for you. Keep a running list of your favorite locations. If you’re new to an area, get on Instagram and search your city.

For example – I live in Dallas so I use this in my hashtag searches to find studios and other photographers.

#dallasphotographers, #dallasphotographystudios, #dfwstudios #dallasstudios

Many studios will hashtag their locations and this makes it easier for you to find. Also, many photographers will tag their photos with location tags and this lets you see where they go to shoot.

This is a valuable resource, especially if you are traveling to a new city and want to setup a portrait shoot on the fly.

If all else fails, then just Google it.

AirBNB Locations

Another option is also looking into AirBNB locations in your area. I have done this a few times, but I also messaged the host ahead of time and asked for permission to shoot at their locations.

Many area very gracious and allowed me to shoot in the homes, but I did have some that said no up front. It’s better to ask up front and get permission as you don’t want to upset the host of any location.

Yes, they may not know that you are doing a shoot, but it is better to be on the safe side. Also this speaks to the industry as you are representing other photographers in the area as well.

Save locations on google maps

One of the best places to keep track of locations is google maps on your phone. Just drop a pin at a certain location and save it for later.

This way you can always return when you have time to scout the location in more detail.

You can also take a quick picture while at the location and iPhones automatically geo tag the location of the photos.

Things to keep in mind

Many places like parks and lakes are public property, but some areas are private property.

This is why it’s great to do your research ahead of time. You don’t want to get in trouble for being places you are not allowed.

Don’t go into private business or stores and start taking photos without asking the owner. You are a guest in the store but you might be disrupting other patrons of the establishment.

Be courteous and always ask for permission before you just start shooting photos.

Visit downtown for ideas portrait shoot locations
Visit downtown locations

Parking & fees

I live in the Dallas area and I know that parking is rarely free.

It’s good to keep some spare change or a few bucks in your car to cover parking fees. This is also another reason to scout locations before hand and find the best places to park and walk.

Also, places like the botanical gardens require an entrance fee and have other rules you have to follow. Always do your research before showing up on site.

If you are unsure about a location, just check them out online or give them a quick call. Ask about doing photography on site and if there are any guidelines you need to follow.

Carpool to locations

There are times it can be cheaper and easier to carpool or share rides to locations. If you and your model are close, it may be easier to share a ride to the shoot.

I’ve done this many times with models that I work with on a regular basis. Saves time and money for everyone.

This can also make it easier if you are going around city hoping. This is when you drive around and look for locations to shoot.

It’s a fun time, and best when you have multiple models and photographers.

Just go out and shoot

The best advice I was ever given, was just to get out there and start taking more portraits. Locations will almost account for nothing if you’re shooting wide open at f1.4 or f1.8.

The background bokeh will be so strong that you might be able to tell what or where you are.

If it takes 10,000 hours to become a professional at the thing you’re learning, then it’s better to get started now versus later.

Learn from your shots after each session and see what can be improved on. This is way better than worrying about the location you are shooting at.

Conclusion

These portrait shoot location ideas are just the start.

Every city is unique so go out and explore and scout locations that you normally would never go see.

These can make for some amazing portraits and can help set your photos apart from the competition.

Just don’t miss an opportunity because you were busy browsing the internet trying to find a new place to shoot.

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