Sometimes your settings are less-than-to-be-desired and are far from photo-ready. But you're itching to take photos of your kid/dog/delicious dinner, or you have a client and have no clue where to take them for photos. The place you're taking photos in can make or break the end result, but usually with a few tweaks you can make anything work! These are my three tips to getting great images when your options for location is limited.
Be mindful of your background & lighting
Have simple fabric or paper on hand
Use what is around you to tell a story
Be mindful of what's going on around your subject
If you're home with your kids, for example, and you're thinking of getting some photos of them playing with their toys. But your living room is a mess. (I know mine is sometimes!) Look beyond the cute kid at what is in the background that you can either move or position outside the frame. TV wires, a basket of laundry to be folded, maybe some dust on the coffee table- those are things you can tweak to get out of your frame. Things like a basket of laundry can also enhance lyfestyle photography and make a photo more realistic, so it depends on the look you're going for.
In the case of an ugly recliner that should have been recycled three years ago, that's hard to move out of the frame. So move yourself! Try out a new angle, or pick up your subject and put them in a place that is easier to make work. This goes for lighting, too! If your living room is solely lit by a lamp in one corner, but baby's nursery gets lots of natural light, move your shoot there!
If you're outdoors, and you have options for what your subject is up against, try to find one plane of view. This means if there is a wood fence, a concrete building, and a gathering of trees it might be too much going on. Find an area with a simpler background, and your subject will pop against it. Be on the lookout for things that might look unsightly depending on what look you're going for- trash cans, litter (cigarette butts, ew!), photo-bombers, junky cars, signs, etc. You're in luck if you're shooting with a DSLR and can get a shallow depth of field to possibly block out some of that stuff you'd rather not see in the background!
Set up a temporary backdrop
I photograph mostly all outdoor sessions, but when a client has something specific in mind that requires a backdrop, I have pulled together a temporary backdrop that worked really well! You can really use what you have for this, and can get as fancy as creating something to clip the backdrop material to, or use a roll of paper, or for small scale things just some posterboard.
When I photograph my stationery, I like to find fabric and styling props that are relevant to the artwork. But when you're short on large pieces of fabric, white posterboard works really well! Make sure your backdrop- no matter what scale- is wrinkle-free, smooth, and isn't distracting from your subject either with a pattern or crazy color.
As always, if you're indoors make sure your lighting is the best it can be. Choose a time when natural light is coming through the windows near your set-up so it creates an evenly-lit room. If you need to, you can use white posterboard or photography light reflectors opposite of the window to decrease shadows.
Use what you have!
No backdrop materials? No worries! Use your surroundings to create photographs that tell the story even better than a white roll of paper could. If you're trying to organize a cake smash for your little one, sit them in their high chair in your kitchen or dining room when the lighting is best. Clear out any clutter, but keep the surroundings true to what your home really looks like, and let that kid go to town! In years to come, you will look back on the photos just as fondly as you would if you had a fancy backdrop a la Pinterest. Photographing your newborn and have your heart set on those amazing almost un-real photos of them positioned all sorts of crazy ways? Find your own little baskets, cozy blankets, and buckets and try your hand at positioning them how you're imagining. Or, keep it simple and lay baby on your neatly made bed, and capture the details of their brand new-ness simply and naturally.
These tips work with any kind of camera and photography level- don't let a lack of location options hinder you from capturing the best memories. Keep in mind that with good, natural,even lighting you can usually take quality photos no matter what camera you have. Keep your surroundings clutter-free or find a backdrop, and get clicking away!