• Ask Anything

phrase “Making something outta’ Nothing”?   Maybe the “outta” is the country coming out in me but you get the point. I feel like this phrase perfectly describes that I have to do when  I’m searching out locations for portraits before a wedding day. Some of the places I choose are weird, odd and downright ugly! But hey, if the LIGHT is good….. I’m going to shoot there and luckily, my clients trust me enough to let me do just that. The last wedding I shot took place at a church in Downtown Hampton, VA. While  Hampton is on the water and there are parts of town that used to be over-the-top gorgeous….it can be a little tricky to find

GREAT portrait locations when you’re near the ghetto and are surrounded by heavily residential areas. There aren’t alleys or abandoned office buildings or fields filled with wheat…. and to be honest, I end up at these type of locations a lot! Take Jordan and Katy’s wedding for example. It was at a BEAUTIFUL church but this church was on the corner of a busy intersection and the ONLY portrait location I could find was in the tall grass behind a shopping center!! Sounds strange? Oh it was! People were passing us, honking and staring like “What on earth is a BRIDE doing in tall grass on the side of the road?!”  There was trash there, an old tracker trailer in the background and not a lot of shade but we made it work and I LOVE their images from the beginning of their day!


So back to Mandy and Josh’s wedding in Hampton, VA.  I searched around the church and down the street for some locations before we started shooting. I wanted to be prepared and know exactly where to have the bridal party meet us after the first look!  So here is what I look for when scouting locations:


1.  Good light! If the couple is doing a First Look and it’s a super sunny day, I look for SHADED but well lit areas…. “Open Shade” if you will! :)


2. Areas that will match the THEME and overall FEEL of their wedding day! For Josh and Mandy, I knew they were using birdhouses and pastels and so a yellow and white Victorian house seemed perfect! …. Luckily the owner was mowing his grass that morning and so I stopped and asked permission!


3.  Accessibility.  These locations need to be easy to get to because before the ceremony, we’re on a time crunch in some cases. In Mandy and Josh’s case, we were racing the MASSIVE storm that was going through Williamsburg and heading our way! So I knew that we needed to be able to get to these locations easily and get there FAST!


4. Private. The first look locations needs to be private. This is a big moment. I had originally picked and little path for Josh and Mandy so to share their First Look but when the time came, one of the neighbors was WEED WHACKING!!! I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to be yelling over the sound of a weed whacker when I see my husband for the first time! Not romantic at ALL.  So I made a fast decision to change locations.


So here are some iphone images that I took when I was scouting and they are all followed by the ACTUAL portraits that were shot that day! Enjoy!!


xoxo, Katelyn
38 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. francine reply

    that is seriously impressive!! i would have never guessed the locations really looked that way!! you’re such a pro!!!

  2. Carrie Logan reply

    this is AMAZING!!!!

  3. Aimee reply

    What a great post!! I love the phone pics and then the actual wedding images. I think “making something otta’ nothin” is an understatement!

  4. Aimee reply

    outta’ *

  5. Lara Van Klompenburg reply

    wow. this is absolutely amazing. You have inspired me to reconsider locations to shoot in! Once again you have taught me something that I would have totally overlooked! Thank you! :)

  6. Kelly Green reply

    Such a great post Katelyn!!, I especially love the pastel blue wall & how that compliments their colour scheme!!

  7. Tina reply

    It’s always so fun to see what a location ACTUALLY looks like vs. what a photographer can do with it! Absolutely love this post:)

  8. Abby Grace reply

    Katelyn this is SUCH a great post!! I love that you gave examples of “this is what I was given to work with, and THIS is what I produced!” Awesome reminder that portrait locations don’t need to be perfect- we can MAKE them work :).

  9. Amanda B. reply

    Great advice! I am always searching for new places to photograph, have a back-up plan, and *always* expect the unexpected!

  10. AmandaBryce reply

    Thank you so much for this! I love seeing what other photographers do with “hard to shoot” spots. It’s inspiring, really, to know how much you can do with so little. Your shots are great :)

  11. Rachel reply

    Love this post, Katelyn! I loved seeing the iPhone pics and then the wedding images. Beautiful!

  12. Jessica Horton reply

    LOVE this post!! It’s so great to see your “behind the scenes locations”

  13. Regan reply

    Holy cow, Katelyn! I’m now convinced you’re a miracle worker!! Sooo impressed with this post!! I feel so inspired! :)

  14. Kathy reply

    What a great post! :) SO informative! It’s so true – sometimes you just have to work with what you’re given and you really, really just make any location sparkle. Thanks for sharing! :D

  15. Melissa reply

    Awesome post! It’s great to see the behind the scenes so we can see what magic you’re really working with creating those final images!

  16. Susan Evans reply

    This is a great post! LOVE seeing the location-scouting shots followed by the end result. Thanks for sharing!

  17. molly reply

    LOVE this post! and that green wall is seriously the best!

  18. Gail reply

    Best behind-the-scenes location scouting post I’ve ever seen a photographer do. And those shots? AMAZING. Rock on girl…you never fail to impress me with your work!

  19. Lupe Ruiz reply

    Whoa!! I love seeing the “before” and afters with the actual people!! Great and super helpful! Thank you!!!

  20. Rebekah Hoyt reply

    AMAZING! I tend to look for “pretty things” all the time on wedding days and this is an awesome reminder that you really can make something beautiful out of nearly anything! And you are so good at that, Katelyn!

  21. Kristin reply

    The best post I’ve ever read about this subject! The before and afters are amazing. I love how you show up earlier than contracted time to find these spots. We can all learn something from that! Thanks Katelyn! :)

  22. ashley barnett reply

    This is an AWESOME post Katelyn! I’m totally going to take iphone photos of my locations tomorrow! :) Where we are shooting tomorrow I am not sure there is anything “pretty” nearby so this was super helpful!

  23. renee reply

    That is awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  24. Kathryn Grace reply

    Thank you so much for this post! I love seeing how great photographers find their locations, and what they use (for instance the side of the garage photos – I love the color in the finished images but I probably wouldn’t have looked twice at the garage if I was passing by!).

  25. Caitlin Gerres reply

    This is a great post! I love the comparisons. You make dingy places look so great!

  26. Kimber Wassenberg reply

    What a great reminder that there’s beauty everywhere…even when it doesn’t seem like it! I loved the iPhone and then “official” wedding pics…it’s amazing how one place can look so run down but actually be beautiful!

  27. Kirsten reply

    Seriously…you are amazing. The end.

  28. robyn reply

    I used to live in Hampton. You worked some magic, girl! ;)

  29. Sydni Jackson reply

    awesome! is the final color in your images a result of the light and exposure or is that your editing style? because obviously your post-production images look MUCH better than the iphone shots!

  30. Lindy reply

    Wow katelyn. you most definitely have the eye! i love it. this is such an awesome post.

  31. Lisa Cour reply

    Magic!! Bravo!!!

  32. Kristin reply

    Love this. Sometimes the ugliest spots with great light make for the best photos.

  33. Heather reply

    I am SO absolutely inspired by your work! Thanks for sharing ..sometimes as a photographer its easy to fool yourself into thinking that you get the worst venues to work with when in reality, no matter where we’re shooting its our job to find the best light and location!

  34. Jasmine reply

    I am seriously in love with your blog. thank you for showing so clearly that anything can be made beautiful – this is truly a lesson.

  35. Stephanie reply

    Hey Katelyn, im Stephanie. I am beond AMAZED by your work. I found you on youtube and ever since i have drowned into your website! My boyfriend makes fun of me, because your website is open all the time on our desk. I just love how much dedication you have put into your business! In Germany, there aren’t as much wedding photographers as in the US. I hope to get as successful as you are there, over here. Blogposts like this are huge to me. THANK YOU. I wish you, Michael and Bokeh all the best!

  36. BRIDE GUIDE » Molly Anne Photography Blog reply

    […] the pictures are crazy good. Here is a fun blog post to read about making something out of nothing {CLICK HERE}. How cool would broken down railroads be or old trains. Maybe canoeing or sailing? My fiance and I […]

  37. Christian Stumpf reply

    Very interesting read and great shots. Thanks for reminding me, that almost any location can have its charms, if you’ve got a good idea how to incorporate it.

  38. Ksenia reply

    It’s amazing how beautiful the pictures can become from boring enviroments. This inspires me to practice even more on my photography skills.

Reply to: