Sunday, November 21, 2010

Setting the Stage: Finding Your Location

Now, just where shall we go today?

Imagine that you've prepared your ideal coordinate at long last.

It's detailed, it's well-balanced, it fits just right.

Pretty. Perfect.

Now imagine that the only photos you got to take of it are a few outfit snaps in your living room and a few stray shots at a meet-up or convention. Seems a little sad, doesn't it?

Depending on where you take your photos, the coordinate's feel can change drastically! The mood of the outfit can shift from whimsical and quirky to eerie and dark with a simple change in scenery. Identifying a good location for your photos is one way to add extra spice to your coordinate snaps, and can give you a good start to a more formal photo shoot.

Here are five suggestions for general locations which will frame your outfit (or that of your model!) nicely.

One: Just Outside of Your House
This may sound a little bit over-simplified, but get outside and enjoy the sunshine! Or rain, if that's your preference.

While not everyone has a two acre field or a fully landscaped garden in their back yard, getting outside in the world can provide you with quite a few unique opportunities for photographs that you wouldn't have expected. If nothing else, it can be a nice change of scenery from (and usually has better lighting than) your house's interior. Every neighborhood is different, so there are endless opportunities to do something new.

Look for garden structures that frame your figure without cutting into it, like flower trellises or arches, or other scenery that you can utilize. You don't want trees growing out of your head, though, so beware! Look out for light posts and street signs, too. They like to lurk, and frequently pass unnoticed until after you've finished your shots. Remember the details at all times.

Benches are another nice option and provide a lot of opportunities for fun or downright quirky poses (and who doesn't like to take a rest after walking around outside?). Many neighborhoods have park areas with sitting areas, playgrounds, ponds, or shaded sidewalks. All of these are popular choices for photographs not just among lolitas, but also with formal dance groups and wedding parties.

Urban areas have lots of geometric lines to move your eye
around the photo.
They're flexible locations and good for a variety of photos ranging from informal snapshots of lolitas at play, to carefully composed portraits.

Another warning: keep in mind that a huge number of lolitas are at least a bit on the silly side, so don't be afraid to let them have free rein. It can be a lot of fun! If they feel like climbing trees, or running through a field, enjoy it! Be sure to keep your finger on the shutter release for that perfect moment, though.

If you live in an urban area, lolita in the streets makes a striking contrast. Find alleys or sidewalks with character, or pose on your front stoop. Just get out there and keep your eyes open. Take a stroll through your neighborhood sometime, and see if there's something that appeals.

Be on the look-out for interesting architectural structures, too. There are a lot of straight lines in man-made structures, which you can use to compose your shots. A lot of the time, the soft look of lolita will really come out in contrast to these harsher surroundings.

Two: Publicly Accessible Spaces
This term is perhaps a bit vague. Anywhere outside of your house is technically a public space, but I refer specifically to areas where you may encounter other people in large groups in this case. It doesn't sound like a necessarily wonderful idea at first, but getting out in public with a camera and a frilly model can result in some truly intriguing photos.

Any location is fair game in this case: malls, farmer's markets, university campuses, pubs or bars, boutiques and bakeries. Anywhere that you can get out and about, or find a small crowd more or less. The contrast between lolitas and "normal" folks can definitely provide you with some good material for social, political or personal commentary. You can also find really interesting buildings and rooms simply by looking around your area.

Just remember that some of the people you encounter may not want to be in your photos. If someone swerves away from the lens when you raise it for a photograph, let them get out of the frame before you snap. Also try to keep from having clear, easily-recognized photographs of people's faces unless you have their permission. Finally, watch for anybody who may (intentionally or not) be doing something unflattering in the background of your shots.

If you want to get really fancy, you can carry model release forms and a business card for curious onlookers.

Faith Thiang has several shots of lolitas mixing with the mundane, emphasizing the idea of lolita as a culture rather than just a fashion.

Three: Gardens and Historical Sites
These two are fairly obvious, and most people think of them almost immediately when planning a photo shoot. Both are good options for the simple fact that they are often safe, well-maintained and fit the aesthetic of lolita by their very natures.

Gardens provide a wide variety of opportunities depending on the layout and type of garden you are visiting. Try to find appealing vistas, follies, and resting points. Many gardens have paths that cross and intersect, and sometimes you'll be able to see one another from parallel or adjacent walkways. Take advantage of these for shots that are further away, and always be alert to alternative perspectives.

When shooting in these locations, it's always a good idea to follow the rules laid down by the establishment. Often, historically preserved sites do not allow flash photography as it can be damaging to artifacts on display. Some locations do not allow photography it at all. Be respectful of their restrictions. If they don't allow photographs in certain areas, move on to somewhere else; if there are signs saying "don't touch", then keep your hands to yourself.

To find locations near you, a quick google search should prove quite helpful. For inspiration, check out Nitemare Photography. Nandi often utilizes historically preserved and restored locations for her shoots.

Four: Head Into the Woods (Or Desert, or Beach, or Fields ...)
This is another seemingly obvious choice, and a lot of lolitas actually do utilize this option frequently. Setting a lolita against the wilderness creates a poignant contrast. Since many lolitas draw inspiration from fairy tale characters for their outfits, it also gives you the chance to tell a story of your own if you so choose.

Most people also don't live far from a "wilderness" of their own, either. Do some research and see if you can't find small stands of trees that you can transform into a remote woodland (with a bit of clever angling) or parks that have been allowed to overgrow their borders. Empty lots can become an open field, or the bank of a creek the beginning of a grand river.

If you really want to get adventurous, take a road trip to a larger area with true wilderness (or at least less obviously maintained domesticity).

Five: Abandoned Places
There are abandoned buildings and structures all over the world. In some places, whole towns have been left behind. In others, bridges have crumbled to nothing more than empty supports. Combined with lolita, these locations can provide you with ethereal, eerie scenery. The idea of putting one in the other has become particularly appealing over the years as sweet lolita has come to be ever more extreme, and many lolitas have experimented with the idea.

Shooting in an abandoned place is a bit of a tricky sort task at times, but is frequently very rewarding. However, the aspect of shooting photos in an abandoned location that I cannot emphasize enough is safety. Never go by yourself, and always scout out the location before your actual shoot to make sure that the situation you'll be headed into is safe is safe. Not only will this allow you to know where in the structure you want to shoot, but also whether other people are likely to be there.

There are many dangers in shooting photos in abandoned places: 
  • You can encounter other people, who may or may not be hostile of your presence.
  • Buildings which look stable may have hidden structural defects.
  • Landowners may not take kindly to trespassing (so you should always look for signs).
  • Critters like snakes, spiders and wild dogs have been known to take over abandoned buildings as their own homes, and can pose a threat.
Also, always stay with your group, carry a cell phone in case of emergencies, and be aware of your surroundings. If at any time you feel unsafe, leave. Finally, researching the location you're going to visit ahead of time is a good idea. Most abandoned places are listed in the public records of their city, county and state, with information about any hazards you may encounter there (such as biological waste in the case of abandoned farms or hospitals, or partially open shafts in old mining settlements).

I am hardly an expert on the subject of urban exploration and abandoned places, so for further details, tips and information, check out the Urban Exploration Resource, an online community that focuses on just that. For ideas on how to utilize your abandoned locale, check out ToxicTenshi on DeviantART. She has a gallery full of urban exploration photos, with and without lolitas. Likewise, this particular shoot (by zarsu and blackangelriku on EGL) has several great images!

[eta]: You'll also want to check out this guide to UrbEx specifically for lolitas!

Now that you have some ideas for your options, get that dream outfit set, grab a friend, and start planning the shoot!



great post! i like it!
supportin& following!


I love reading your posts on photography, very helpful, thank you so much!


Heh, the number of photographs on EGL that really need to pay attention to location is seriously staggering...

You should post this on EGL :o


Nice post, i follow you...

Colin B

Good tips :D

I haven't shot any models/actual portraits yet, but I'd really like to

focusing the lens

@ Chokelate & Colin B: Thanks! I hope that you're able to use the information to advantage. :)

@ arnyke & MarkoManager: Thanks so much! I'll definitely do the same.

@ Ada: I've been considering it. I think I may well do it.


Great advice! I love going out to places in lolita and I see so many wonderful places to take pictures, but that would require someone holding the camera. Alas~

focusing the lens

There are always friends, or if they're unavailable, tripods! :D

I know I'm not the first (nor will I be the last) who has hauled a tripod out to take self-timer photos of herself. haha


Another thing to add about abandoned places- look for asbestos signs before entering! I made that mistake once!

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