If you've ever asked me about a location, you know I'm a little touchy about giving you a direct answer, unless you've already booked with me. Why?
First, is overcrowding. Two years ago, I did mini sessions in a park. There was fifteen photographers at this park. I counted. Even with photoshop helping me remove extra people out of a background, working around that many people (don't forget to add in all the photographer's clients!) out of images becomes a headache! If you are with me and have younger kids, all those people can be distracting to them as well, making it harder to keep their focus on what we're doing.
Sadly, people don't always have the most respect for their surroundings as well. My daughter was assisting me one day at a popular location. We watched another photographer do a cake smash with the cutest little boy ever. There must've been 8-10 adults with this cutie, all getting shots with the birthday boy. When they left, my daughter and I oohed and aahed over him as he passed us, with his little hat and suspenders.
My daughter helped me finish up my sessions and then as we were cleaning up, we noticed the other photographer had left EVERYTHING from her session as trash on the ground where they had been working. Streamers, confetti, even the plastic container the cake had come in had just been left on the ground.
Many local parks and public areas are starting to implement permit fees for photographers. Reasons like this is why. Leaving your trash and not respecting the area ruins it for everyone. If I shoot at 5 different locations with 5 different permit fees....I have to be able to pick up that cost somewhere. So my prices need to go up, or clients need to pay the permit fee up front. OR, they need to choose another location. It's a lose/lose/lose for my clients.
I didn't have to say a word to my daughter. When we were done cleaning up our area, we quietly went over and started cleaning up their area. There were trash cans on site, so there was literally no excuse for not cleaning up. Especially when you had so many adults that each could've grabbed just one thing and dropped it in the can you had to walk by on your way out anyway.
My "secret" spots...no one is there. Few know about the location. That cuts down on the overcrowding and the litter. It creates a more unique session for you because not every person in town has that same shot.
I also sometimes ask you to do things during your session that may seem odd. Or feel weird. TRUST ME! I'm going for something here! But now, when I ask you to do that weird thing, "kiss with your teeth!", you can do so without a park full of people watching you and your loved one try to figure out what I could possibly mean by kiss with your teeth. It's just you, your loved one, myself and possibly a horse (a horse literally showed up at my last session!).
Lastly, I've had people ask me for locations, I talk with them about the locations and then they ghost me and go with another photographer, using my location. Look, you can work with whomever you love as a photographer. If my style doesn't fit you, THAT'S OKAY! If my price is too high for you, THAT'S OKAY! I take no offense. I do take offense when you sneakily get information out of me to pass it along to someone else. I have spent time looking for these locations and hours out of my day and away from my kids to make sure these spots are perfect for what I need when I need it. I have also, sadly, had photographers try to send people my way, just to pretend to inquire about a session, ask about locations and then pass the info back to them. Unfortunately, more reasons for me to not discuss locations until your booking process is completed. If a photographer finds the location on their own, more power to them! I have no problem sharing the space. I do not work for anyone other than myself though. I put in the time. I put in the effort. Feel free to get out and explore the great outdoors on your own.
How do I find my locations? Sometimes I literally stumble upon them. God did not gift me with an internal compass. My mother once got lost on her own street once. For real. Her sister-in-law was taking her home, turned down her street and my mother argued with her from the second she turned down her street until the moment they pulled into her driveway that she was NOT on the correct street. Another time, my Dad had friends over for a card game and sent her to go grab some pizza for them to munch on. The pizza place was two streets away. We loved in Pawtucket, RI at the time. Two hours later, she called the house and told my father she needed help because somehow she had ended up in Fall River, MA. Of course, she didn't know that's where she was and it was a guessing game as my father asked her to describe her surroundings until he figured out where she had ended up. "Barbara, how did you end up in Fall River?! The pizza place is two streets over on the corner!" "I followed the guy in front of me," she replied. "He had RI plates and seemed to know where he was going." He did! It just wasn't the same place YOU were going!
I seem to have inherited that poor sense of direction. Though, thankfully, not to that degree. And since driving around lost with her on back roads in the late 80's and early 90's, there's been the invention of GPS. Someone must've known I was going to need it. I sometimes get turned around, but I always know where I'm somewhere I'm NOT supposed to be. Haha! So sometimes, I stumble upon locations by just being in the wrong place at the right time. This is an example of one of those locations:
I was looking for another spot entirely, went one street over too far and found this lovely quiet beach that it seems no one knows about except the people on that street. And no, it's not residents only, but it may as well be. The most people I have ever seen at this location is 2. And when that tide goes out, there's frequently seals that sun themselves on the rocks just off the beach. It is so lovely and so quiet.
Sometimes a client leads me to a location. Do you have a beautiful spot you love spending time in, hiking in, playing in? Let me know! We don't have to use just MY spots. Sometimes YOUR spots are way better than anything I had!
Some days I flat out go out with the intention of finding locations. I drive around and stop anywhere that looks beautiful and not prohibited. As you know, I'm not afraid to hike in a ways. In fact, my prep guides for sessions should include making sure you have a decent set of shoes for walking in, because rarely are any of my spots right on the road. Sorry!
So that's the reason I keep my spots on the "secret" side. I'm trying to keep your images unique and I'm trying to avoid dealing with the people that are going to inevitably create permit fees at more popular locations. That keeps your cost lower.