making the BORING look AMAZING

making the BORING look AMAZING


I'll be the first to say that I don't always have the opportunity to choose amazing locations for the sessions I shoot. Sure, whenever I can help guide and direct location choices I'm more than happy to do so, but sometimes you're given a location and simply have to make the most of it.

That can be daunting – I get it. And when you're placed in a less-than-ideal situation and told to create beauty, it can be easy to make excuses. "Well, I just did the best with what I had" or "If I'd only have been at *insert some awesome location* then the product would've been incredible." 

Been there, done that, made those excuses. And what I've learned from it is this...


Today I want to offer some tips on how to create amazingly beautiful results from less-than-awesome situations. Sound good? Cool...let's jump in.


This is the foundation for everything. Before you ever take a photo you have to figure out color pallet and lighting, so when you're trying to make the most of a harsh environment you have to know beyond a shadow of a doubt the general feel you're going for. For instance, most of my work is earthy and muted so I'll always try to find pockets of space that will allow me to photograph that way. Whatever that looks like for you, know the general look you're trying to achieve and evaluate the environment you're in to find the best space to set up your shot.

EXAMPLE – the photos above were taken at a wedding I shot a few weeks ago. Normally I gravitate towards wide open natural areas, forests, or hills but the venue we were at provided none of those options. However, I found a tiny cemetery across the street that had a small patch of tall pines. I knew that would fit my general aesthetic – and we were in business.


Composition is one of the most powerful assets a photographer has. By including (or excluding) details you communicate the story you want to the viewing audience. So when you're in a boring or unappealing location, the last thing you want to do is to showcase everything. Once you've found a space that you can work with aesthetically, the next step is getting creative with what you show and what you don't. This means choosing lenses that allow you to get tight and crop out unwanted details, shooting at apertures that strategically blur out background noise, and framing your shots to communicate the beauty you want to showcase, not the chaos that might be happening around it.

EXAMPLE – what you don't see in the example photos above are the array of tombstones littering the background, the dude on a riding lawn mower running circles around the grass, or the random trash scattered across the ground. I intentionally used the couple's bodies and my framing to block these distractions and showcase the beauty I knew was there.


I'm a firm believer that beauty is everywhere. We live in a stunning world and even though there is brokenness and chaos all around us, if we look hard enough we can see beauty shining through in the midst of it. So instead of approaching less-than-ideal situations with the "if only I had a better environment" mindset, walk into every new session with this challenge burning in your mind...


While some situations are definitely better than others, you're never going to be given perfection so always seek to use what you've been given to the absolute best of your ability.

EXAMPLE – with the photos above, I knew from the outset of the wedding day that a small church in a little town wasn't going to afford me the opportunity to photograph grand vistas. But I was passionate about showcasing the beauty and love of the couple's wedding day and so I showed up ready to find spaces where I could craft and curate beauty and that mindset changed everything about the day, the images I was privileged to capture, and the beautiful moments I was ultimately able to deliver to the couple.

Creative angles, unique framings, and intentional background/foreground choices – these are all just tools to help you in this process. The best tool in your arsenal? A positive attitude and the continual self-challenge to make something beautiful no matter where you happen to be.


Have a question you want answered or want me to address something specific on this blog? Leave me a comment or shoot me an email using the links below and I'd be happy to help!