The barn is probably too messy…

I love arriving at a location shoot to explore the options I’ll have to create a portrait series.  The early fall day was spectacular, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the location was filled with options.  The client thought I’d probably want to use mostly the trees in the yard, the tire swing and a rock.  I obliged and indeed used all three areas briefly, but the barn, and dilapidated sheds and the shiny new tractor gave me some incredible options!  My time was limited so I wasted no time getting started.


As we worked around the area, I couldn’t wait to get inside the barn (certainly too messy to use for pictures…).  These are my favorite two images from the session.  The first was a combination of daylight thru the window with a small amount of fill.  The mom was kind enough to risk life and limb holding an off camera flash (on 1/16th power) with a rogue bender diffuser curled and pointed at the flag on the wall.  Without that kicker flash, the flag would have been pitch black.  The doorway image was natural light, exposed precisely for the highlights created by the directional daylight.  I shot far enough back, with a long enough lens to pull the wheel of the tractor into the scene to create some foreground and depth.



When hiring a professional photographer, it is important to hire well.  The ability to visualize the shot allows me to execute the technical stuff, every time.  I see light.  I understand the direction of the light, the quality of the light, and have a few tricks up my sleeve to add (or block) light to get the right image.

I am so often asked what kind of camera I use.  It amazes me how many times someone sees an image, and blurts out “wow you must have a good camera”.  The last time I heard that I asked what they meant by that?  The client responded “my pictures don’t look like that!”.  I smiled and said thank you.  After a 5 second awkward silence, she got it.  That client has now referred 2 other families my direction for senior portraits.  All 3 have been total location sessions with no in-studio whatsoever.

I have had many photographers contact me asking how to shoot in the sun.  It’s tricky, but I usually try and use the sun as a giant backlight.  Beware, you need significant flash power to fill the shadow side, but the results can be amazing.


I do what I love, and I love what I do.  I encourage future clients every week to consider what areas, locations or elements could be considered to make their portrait experience truly one of a kind.  It fascinates me that clients so often comment on the amount of gear I carry on most shoots.  I had a mom recently say “wow you must really like camera equipment”. I just smiled and told her I just carried an empty bag on my shoulder so she’d think I was a professional.  “Really?” she replied.  That led into a fun conversation about cameras as we walked with her son to the site.  Her friend at work is a professional photographer (don’t get me started) who told her he bought one lens, because if it’s a good zoom, that’s all you need.

I respectfully disagree.  For this location session, I used the following lenses (for you camera junkies):

10.5MM fisheye, 24-70, 85mm prime, 70-200.  I used 2 off camera flashes, a reflector all using a full frame Nikon D600.

Don’t worry, no cameras were harmed in creating these images.

I love creating portraits on location!  Call me at Picture Place 651-426-0232 to discuss your location portrait experience.

You don’t even have to clean up the barn before I come!

Barry Howell – Picture Place Photography




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