Take Me To The River: How To Use Location, Posing, and Lighting To Tell A Story

Take Your Photography Up A Level!

Learn how to:

• Use a variety of natural light

• Gain confidence directing your subject

• Maximize your location to add variety

• Edit your photos to increase their impact

Find out more details about my Shoot With Me Workshop if you're ready to

improve your photography skills while connecting with likeminded creatives.

It's Week 2 in the Take Me To The River series! I'm SO excited to continue breaking down the different aspects that go into executing a concept shoot. 

If you haven't yet seen the whole collection, you can click here to see the gallery in its entirety. Last week we talked about pre-planning for your concept shoot, including pulling inspiration, choosing a wardrobe, and creating a shot list. Today we're discussing how to use your location, posing, and different types of lighting to convey a mood and tell your story.

At the end of the series, I'll be doing a live Q&A on instagram  to answer any questions that come up over the course of the series.

If you have any questions for me, be sure to leave a comment below! I will collect these comments and discuss them during the live Q&A. 

Review what we've discussed in the past weeks:
Week 1: Inspiration & Pre-planning
Week 2: Location & Posing
Week 3: Watch Me Edit
Week 4: Live Q&A - August 17

Location Scouting


Choose a location with lots of different backdrops to add variety.

It doesn't always take the most elaborate locations to create beautiful images. You can see the proof that you can make stunning photographs in any location here

However, choosing a location with lots of different backdrop options can definitely create tons of variety in your gallery.

When choosing a location there are several things you should be considering:

  • Does the location match the wardrobe you've chosen?
  • What type of lighting will be available? How will your surroundings help you use this light?
  • How can you use your location to bring in visual interest?

I've explored the location we used (Sope Creek) several times before , so I was already pretty familiar with the area. I had a general idea of some spots I definitely wanted to use and I knew there were tons of opportunities for many backdrops at this location.

Not only that, but I also knew there would be a lot of chances to introduce different textures into the photographs to add visual interest to the collection.

You can see some of the backdrops available here that added both variety and texture to the gallery. Rocks, water with reflections, trees, and a dock - all within the same location.

When you're location scouting make sure to take note of all the backdrop opportunities that will be available to use.

And as you're shooting, keep an eye out for opportunities you may not have spotted while previously scouting.



Plan out poses beforehand to avoid going blank during your shoot

I know posing your subjects can be awkward sometimes. You might not be sure about how to pose yourself in front of the camera, let alone someone else! 

This is why it's important to brainstorm your posing ideas ahead of time - it'll help you stay on track during the shoot to capture all the photos you need to create a cohesive collection. 

For this shoot I wanted a lot of movement and drama, but I also still wanted my model to exude femininity.

Some decisions I made in terms of posing my model to execute my vision:

  • I knew there would be no smiling because it didn't fit in with the overall mood
  • I asked my model to flow through the poses and captured the movement instead of choosing for her to hit stagnant poses
  • I played up the feminine vibes by having her interact with her dress throughout the shoot
  • I had my model close her eyes at times to create more intimacy with the viewer and draw them in

Make sure your poses align with the mood you want to communicate with your shoot.

When you're pre-planning your poses, be sure to keep everything in mind including what the light will be doing and how you can use your wardrobe to emphasize the mood. All three of these factors should work together to tell the story.



Use a combination of  lighting + posing to convey your message.

There are so many lighting options available to a photographer, and the best way to take advantage of these is to shoot right around the golden hour. 

Some different types of light you can incorporate into your shoot include:

  • rim lighting
  • split lighting
  • backlighting
  • hard light
  • spot light

Think about how you can use each type of light to convey a different mood. 

Backlight can feel very ethereal and magical.


Hard light can feel very dramatic.


A spotlight can feel moody.


Studying light and knowing how to combine that knowledge along with posing your subject can help you to convey your message more strongly.

Learn how to identify the different types of lighting that are available and how to shoot in each type for the best results.


The location, posing, and lighting all play important roles in the decisions you make while shooting. 

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help tie in all 3 aspects: 


  • How can I pose my subject to complement the lighting situation?
  • Will subtle posing or dramatic posing best convey the mood?


  • How many different backdrops will be available on location?
  • What types of textures can I incorporate with the backdrops?
  • How will the backdrops help with the lighting? (i.e. creating spotlights, naturally reflecting light, filtering light - such as through trees, etc.)


  • Will I have the opportunity to use a variety of lighting types during the shoot?
  • Which types of lighting will best convey the mood?
  • What time should I shoot to best take advantage of the location and lighting?

Keeping all of these aspects in mind while shooting and combining the power of all 3 will help you have a successful concept shoot! 

Do you have questions about location scouting, posing, or lighting?

Submit your question below and I'll be sure to discuss it during my live Q&A on instagram!

Name *