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3 Epic Photo Locations (& How To Find Your Own!)

9 min read

While some photographers do some (or all) of their shooting in a studio, most spend time scouting epic new photo locations.

If you’re regularly seeking places to craft the perfect portrait, these incredible images will inspire you!

Way Out Yonder

While the local park may be your best bet when photographing little ones, adults (and mature families) can be more adventurous!

Marianne Wiest Photography‘s horseback session in Montana took full advantage of the phenomenal landscape, a gorgeous couple, four beautiful beasts, and some to-die-for light.

Epic Montana Photo Locations - beautiful couple on horseback in a river at sunset
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST PHOTOGRAPHY via Two Bright Lights

“But I don’t live in Montana!”

Your home state may not boast Montana-esque mountains, rivers, and glaciers, but you can still find stunning scenery within a short drive.

In the US, an internet search for your state state parks” is a great place to start! You’ll find dozens of articles and images featuring hiking trails, waterfalls, forested acres, and breathtaking views.

Pro Tip: If a trip to a state park or a hike through the woods isn’t in the cards for your clients, take a drive through your city and scout out local overgrown pastures, mature orchards, and expansive pastureland. With permission from the property owner, you can create beautiful nature-based portraits without traveling a long distance!

Epic Montana Photo Locations - beautiful couple with horses by a river at sunset
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST PHOTOGRAPHY via Two Bright Lights

Show off the Scenery

On the shoot day, highlight your hard-won scenery with a variety of lenses.

Long / Telephoto Lenses…

  • …compress the background, causing background objects to appear closer to your subjects (such as mountains or the rising moon).
  • …create beautiful bokeh, with crisp separation between your subjects and the background.
  • …require more distance between you and your subjects if you hope for a full-length photo.

Wide Angle Lenses…

  • …capture more of the background with less distance between you and your subject, but may also minimize the apparent size of certain landscape elements. (Think, “Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.” It’s the same effect.)
  • …deliver very little bokeh (that fuzzy, yummy, blurred-out background effect) – unless you’re standing quite close to your subjects and shooting with a wide open (small) aperture.
  • …highlight the grandeur of an area, with an incredible overview of the landscape you’ve selected.

Epic Montana Photo Locations - beautiful couple with horses by a river in the mountains
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST PHOTOGRAPHY via Two Bright Lights

Don’t Just Show Up & Shoot!

But before you head out to new photo locations with your clients, take a scouting trip to uncover the quickest routes, simplest parking options, and most accessible views.

You’ll also want to confirm that you can photograph without a permit.

Pro Tip: If you’re traveling into the wilderness with your clients, come prepared with water, light snacks, and (yep – we said it!) a roll of toilet paper! It’s also important to have a map on hand in case your GPS loses its signal.

Art & Architecture

Urban landscapes are familiar photo locations to city-dwelling photographers. Brick alleyways, graffitied walls, and towering buildings frame their images – as in this series from Erin Usawicz Photography.

If you’re not a city-slicker, but want to add urban imagery to your portfolio, here’s what you’ll need to know.

Urban Photo Locations - young hipster couple kissing by an art installation
Photo by ERIN USAWICZ PHOTOGRAPHY via Two Bright Lights

Public Art Sometimes… Isn’t

Just because you can walk right up to it and photograph it, doesn’t mean you can walk right up to it and photograph it for retail purposes. Many seemingly public spaces are actually private property, and you may encounter a security guard telling you to put down your camera – or even leave the premises!

If you’re not sure about an area’s photo-accessibility, contact the property owner. If there’s no known property owner, inquire among local photographers to see if anyone has shot there before.

Pro Tip: When inquiring about urban photo locations, clarify to the owner exactly what you’re photographing. Most property owners recognize the difference between a private portrait session and a commercial shoot for, say, Nike. If you aren’t bringing lights or tripods, you’ll be even more likely to receive a pass.

Urban Photo Locations - young hipster couple cuddling in a stone archway
Photo by ERIN USAWICZ PHOTOGRAPHY via Two Bright Lights

Get Hands-On For Safety

When photographing in an unfamiliar area, don’t just scout photo locations from your car. Get out and walk around. What looks like an epic shooting spot from a distance, may be littered with broken glass or trash up close.

Use your head when entering unfamiliar cities. Even if you’re comfortable, will your clients be at ease in this environment? People who rarely venture into major cities may feel intimidated by an urban environment. Be sensitive to your clients’ personalities when selecting photo locations.

Urban Photo Locations - young hipster couple walking past an enormous wall mural
Photo by ERIN USAWICZ PHOTOGRAPHY via Two Bright Lights

Events & Experiences

Rachel with Brasspenny Photography knew exactly what she was doing when she photographed her clients at a hot air balloon festival!

The colorful silks, magical light, and hip couple combine for a magazine-worthy shoot that has us grinning from ear to ear.

Memorable Photo Locations - Free People styled couple in love at a hot air balloon festival
Photo by BRASSPENNY PHOTOGRAPHY via Two Bright Lights

(Not) Air Balloons

You can’t find a hot air balloon festival just anywhere! But you can find events and experiences terrific for an energetic couple not afraid of a little PDA!

Once you know a bit about your clients, you can discuss ideas for the following photo locations:

  • Food & Beverage Festivals. Are your clients a couple of foodies? Do they love wine? There’s an F&B event that’s perfect for them!
  • Carnivals & Fairs. State fairs and traveling carnivals can be a blast for photos! From cotton candy-eating to ring-tossing to merry-go-rounds, there’s no end to the action!
  • Renaissance Festivals. If your couple feels at ease in corsets and kilts, photos of them chowing down on turkey legs and heckling a Shakespeare performance in the round may be just the ticket.
  • Workshops & Classes. Candle making, glassblowing, cooking, acting, ballroom dancing… there’s a class for every interest – and with advance permission, you should be welcomed to photograph your clients enjoying the experience!

Pro Tip: Always verify an event’s photography policy in advance. If you need to gain additional permission, consider offering the business or event organizers a few images in exchange for permission to photograph (if your couple is amenable.) It could be the start of a mutually beneficial relationship!

Memorable Photo Locations - tattooed couple hugging at a hot air balloon festival
Photo by BRASSPENNY PHOTOGRAPHY via Two Bright Lights

Style For Success

Just because your clients are adventurous doesn’t mean they have great taste in fashion (though all these couples sure do!) Take the time to craft a What To Wear board on Pinterest, or simply share an email with styling tips. The right outfit can take a shoot from good to great – and will elevate unusual photo locations to epic.

Pro Tip: If you won’t get to meet your clients before shoot day, ask them for a few photographs so you can familiarize yourself with their look. Even a simple selfie can tell you a lot about a person’s comfort level in front of the camera!

Memorable Photo Locations - brunette couple gazing into one another's eyes at a hot air balloon festival
Photo by BRASSPENNY PHOTOGRAPHY via Two Bright Lights

Epic Photo Locations for the WIN!

How did you find your favorite photo locations? Tell us in the comments!


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