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5 Creative Portraits in a Crappy Parking Lot

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You don’t always get perfect locations or circumstances on every shoot, so in this video, we wanted to show you how to achieve 5 creative and unique portraits in a small parking lot.

1. Find a Frame

We are all familiar with the popular compositional theory of leading lines, but in this instance, instead of looking for actual lines, try to find areas in your location that could serve as a way to frame your subject. This could mean finding an archway, using columns, or anything with good structure that can help you build a more interesting composition.

For this scene, we found a small opening in a shrub where Devin could sit and have the leaves frame her upper body and face. Because this is a compact area, we are shooting in a 50mm lens to help us crop out the car right behind the bush and fill the frame with just the shrub.

2. Look for Areas of Depth

The most compelling compositions usually have interesting foreground or background, or both! Scan the area for a spot that has the ability to compress the background or utilize the foreground as part of the frame.

This spot we found worked out great because it had a matching foreground in the background, but it was separated by a couple of feet. We placed Devin close to the foreground shrub and then framed her so that you could still see the shrub wall in the background. By filling the frame with the shrub, we don’t see anything in the background and if we do we can then use Devin to help block any unwanted areas in the frame.

3. Look for Natural Reflections

It had just been raining all afternoon before we set out to start filming and there were a bunch of small puddles all around the parking lot. We got down low and filled the entire frame with the puddle since we couldn’t really shoot much of Devin without getting cars and the rest of the parking lot in the frame.

Take a quick look around to see what other types of reflections you see in your location – it could be an office window (hint: you’ll see us use this a little later) or even a car window.

4. Find Interesting Backgrounds

The great part about using a prime lens is being able to obliterate your backgrounds to make them look like a texture or pattern. You’ll be surprised by the appearance of an object once it’s blurred into the background. While meandering through the parking lot we found this trailer

5. Use Your Phone To Create More Reflective Surfaces

Earlier we discussed looking for reflections around the parking lot but we’ve all got one simple tool that allows us to create reflections wherever we go… our mobile phones. I used the same idea of creating a reflection with the office window here except I added in another reflection to help block out some of the cars and other things you could see in the window reflection.

There you have it! 5 creative portrait photography ideas in a crappy parking lot. You can apply these principles and compositional theories anywhere you shoot and yield the same, if not better, results!


P.S. Although all of the images taken in this video are shot with natural light, there are ways to add light to your scene to emulate sunlight or re-create golden hour on cloudy or overcast days. Over at SLR Lounge, we dedicated our newest Lighting 4 course to teaching you how to create every natural light effect using flash – you can gain access to a free lighting recipe from that course here!


About the author: Pye Jirsa is a wedding photographer based in Southern California and the co-founder of SLR Lounge. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Jirsa’s work here. This article was also published here.

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