Two Locations In Which Every Beginner Needs to Shoot

Two Locations In Which Every Beginner Needs to Shoot

You wouldn't expect that certain locations alone could assist you in learning the art of photography, but they do — especially if you are one that needs to experiment to learn. Photographing someone in these two locations will force you to learn about all kinds of light, get creative with posing, and help you create images that are full of substance and all the elements of art.

Photo by Gabrielle Colton, model Bex Davis

Photo by Gabrielle Colton, model Bex Davis

There's a ton to learn when you pick up your first camera, and even more so if you're anything like me and struggle to learn solely online. Because there are endless ways to learn photography, a starting point that's actually worthwhile is hard to find. This is the reason most beginners, including me, resort to taking their cameras outdoors to basic outdoor locations for a while. I wish I hadn't taken this route when I first picked up a camera. I became comfortable only shooting outdoors with plenty of sunlight, and it took me years to realize I needed to get comfortable with other lighting and location situations if I wanted to get any better. I also wish I would have done this sooner to gain confidence about shooting in public places. Until recently, I was very shy when asking to use locations like these. 

Although all practice is good, an easy, lit-by-the-sun location won't teach you very much and may make you fearful of more challenging scenes in the future. So, challenge yourself right from the start if you're wanting to expand your skills with a camera fairly quickly and authentically. It's important that you choose locations that will challenge you enough to do this. Don't just go outside. It's understandable why we start outside: shooting indoors can be intimidating and confusing until you know what you're doing with your camera. Daylight may be the easiest way to get images with good clean lighting, but it doesn't push you to grasp some form of creative control and it doesn't encourage you to experiment with your camera's vast settings and when to use them.

Arcades

It may sound silly, but hear me out. Arcades are full of beautiful light setups, fun colors, and unique textures. It's like a studio with strobes and gels that you can just walk into. They make for beautifully lit images, and you don't even have to set any equipment up. Shooting in an arcade or a business with a similar aesthetic will teach you how vast the lighting possibilities are, how artificial lights fall on a subject, and how your camera captures this. Locations like this will also push you to add drama and vibrancy to your work, something I didn't grasp for years. Because I had gotten used to outdoor light, I had no idea you could do so many different things with all kinds of light and camera settings.

Photo by Gabrielle Colton, model Bex Davis

Photo by Gabrielle Colton

Photo by Gabrielle Colton, model Bex Davis

Photo by Gabrielle Colton, model Bex Davis

Photo by Gabrielle Colton, model Bex Davis

Photo by Gabrielle Colton, model Bex Davis

Laundromats

I personally couldn't stand being in laundromats until I realized how the light in most of them bounces off all the white machines and walls to create a gorgeous, softly lit scene for portraits and editorial images. Laundromats usually have a set of decently sized windows to let natural sunlight in to light up the whole space. The white walls act as giant V-flats all around the subject to create the soft light. Learning how to use both artificial and natural light in your images will add a unique and professional style to your work from the start.

This was the closest laundromat I found. We showed up, and it turned out to be exactly what I wanted. If you don't like a location you find, the cool thing is you can likely go right down the road to try another one. At either location, no one said anything to us while we took pictures. As long as you're respectful and polite, it's rare that anyone cares that you're there.

Photo by Gabrielle Colton

Photo by Gabrielle Colton

Photo by Gabrielle Colton, model Bex Davis

Photo by Gabrielle Colton, model Bex Davis

Photo by Gabrielle Colton, model Bex Davis

Photo by Gabrielle Colton, model Bex Davis

Not only do locations like these teach you about lighting, but they will also make you and your subject utilize the space in creative ways very easily. The model in these images had actually never been in front of a camera until this shoot, which shows how the spaces encouraged her natural comfort in posing with the objects in the building. Being able to direct your subjects comes with practice, so placing them in these spaces will definitely ease that awkward stage of learning. The spaces will also get you used to utilizing lines and objects aesthetically in your frames.

Venturing out to indoor locations such as these will really help you narrow down what you're shooting when you're just starting out. Confining yourself to a small space allows you to focus on lighting, framing, and style as opposed to stressing about where your subject should stand outdoors. If you shoot in these types of places early on, you'll have a much easier time knowing what to look for outside for good locations and substance in your work.

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22 Comments

William Howell's picture

I have never thought about a laundromat, but they are brightly lit with very clean, soft, neutral light.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

They sure are! I highly reccomend it, there aren't many places like them that provide this type of environment to shoot. We had a lot of fun, and I even ignored the germs because the light was so cool lol

Matthias Dengler's picture

The frustrating thing is, those things are very American!
In Europe it's hard to find such places.
When I was in New York, I entered a public laundry just because it reminded me of a cool portrait location.
But as I was travelling solo, there was no model. :(

Arcades are less common indeed and often crowded and monitored. Laundromats on the other hand, can be found easily in any big European city.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Awesome! We got lucky that there was no one in this arcade, it can be cool though shooting with a lot of commotion around as well

Andy Day's picture

In my experience, you won't find many laundromats in Poland. Or Bulgaria. 😂

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Dangit! Well that's a good thing I guess because they're gross lol

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Dang! I didn't know they were so American! Are there any other places with a lot of white walls like this you can shoot in? Awe that sucks you'll have to find one next time!

modelmayhem.com will help you to find models while travelling

Matthias Dengler's picture

Thanks Alex, I'll give it a try! :)

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Model mayhem is kind of iffy nowadays, I like to search IG hashtags for models in different areas. I have quicker responses and more active models than on model mayhem.

Paul Ver's picture

Good call! lately I’ve been walking by a laundromat (in a new neighborhood) and thinking how lovely the lighting is

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Give it a shot! You definitely won't be disappointed in the shots! Share them with me if you try it :)

How do you go about arranging to shoot in these locations? Especially if you bring your own lights? I've always wondered how these conversations go down to shoot in some locations, like bars laundromats, etc

Re-read the article, she mentions that. In short, you don’t.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Good questions, I usually don't bring lights, and just walk ing and start taking photos if the locations are pretty empty. If it's busy and I see someone around to ask I will just be sweet and tell them we are taking portfolio images for fun. I also give them my card and send them a few images sometimes to use on social media for letting us use a location.
I have never had anyone stop me from being in a place like this, people usually think it's cool. Just look like you're meant to be there and know what you're doing ;)
If you bring lights though I would definitely call ahead and let them know!

Jason Pietroski's picture

Great work! I've used an arcade but never a laundromat, I'll have to add that to future work! Great article!

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Thank you!! Absolutely, share them with me when you do!

Christos Dikos's picture

brilliant!

michael buehrle's picture

plus you can get your cloths clean while you are there, bonus

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Haha if you're into that sorta thing ;)