How to Photograph a Crowded City Session

Education, Engagements, Session Tips

May 9, 2018

Prepare Yourself Shooting in a Crowded Location

There are a few quick tips we have for making it look like your clients have the whole city to themselves that doesn’t involve Photoshopping out people! If you know us, we want to spend the least amount of possible editing behind our computer screens so we do everything we possibly can to get everything right in camera. Let’s get to the tips…

Use Preplanning to Your Advantage

Scope out locations before your clients get there. We’re very into preplanning when it comes to any session. We like to be in control and know where the light is going to be during the session. A little bit of preplanning saves you from scrambling to find the perfect location while your clients are starring at you. For a city specifically, it’s important to know the area really well. Where can you go where you can represent the city vibe in your photos without the crowds? If your client has a specific location in mind that they really want, scope out the time that it’s the least crowded. Early morning is typically way less crowded than sunset if your client is willing to do that.

In this particular session, for example, Jerica and Lester wanted the city vibe, and did request that we shoot at the pedestrian bridge that overlooks downtown Nashville. Shooting early morning wasn’t an option so Hannah and I scouted locations and compromised. We found the first location (the courthouse, the building with all of the columns) where we knew we’d have the place mostly to ourselves. We knew we’d be able to educate them on all of our posing there without distractions, while also keeping the city vibe.

We also knew the sun was blocked by the tall buildings in that location so we’d be able to move around and shoot easily. While if we would have started at the bridge, the sun would have casted harsh shadows everywhere. We needed to wait for sunset for that location to work out. When they got to the session, we also educated them on our exact plan. We wanted them to know that while we were not going to do the entire session at the bridge, we were planning for the perfect timing to make that location their grand finale.

Use Your Clients Bodies and Environmental Objects to Block People

One of the magical parts of a city session is if you can make the images look like your clients have the whole city to themselves. One way you can do this is by simply changing the positioning of your clients in a way that they are blocking people in the background.

You can also put your clients in position and then change your footing to block bystanders with environmental objects like these columns, for example.

Lower Your Aperture

If you’re having trouble hiding people behind your clients or buildings, you can also lower your aperture to blur them out a bit more in the background. Hannah and I love the look of blur in the background because it makes our clients pop out so we typically keep our Aperture around 2-2.8 during portrait sessions.

Instruct and Wait 

One final way you can block out crowds is to wait for breaks in the crowd. The pedestrian bridge is one of the most visited places in Nashville, and on the particular night we were shooting with Jerica and Lester, there was also a Predators game, which meant that there were tons of people in bright yellow jerseys walking across this bridge to get to the game. Luckily, Hannah and I planned for that. We taught Jerica and Lester all of the posing while we were at a less crowded area. Then, once we were on the bridge, we’d tell them exactly which pose to do and tell them exactly where to stand. We then got into position and asked them to hold their pose until the crowd cleared. We’d then take rapid fire shots and then allow them to rest. We did that over and over again until we knew we had enough variety to deliver to to them in that location!

Well, there you have it! Our top tips on how to shoot in a crowded city location. We used to be intimidated by all of the hectic energy of the city, but now, its a great break from out tall grass strolling and we welcome the challenge!

If you need some tips on how to prepare your clients for a city session, read this post!


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-Chelsea and Hannah


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