With August already steamrolling ahead, it seems like we can maybe, kinda, sort of start preparing for fall in the Lowcountry! Fall means lower temperatures, and lower temperatures makes the idea of scheduling a photo session much more appealing. And that goes for all involved — trust me when I say: I really don’t want to apologize for being a hot, sweaty mess while hugging clients goodbye! Eek. So if you are thinking about a photo session, I’ve decided to put a guide together about some of the available Charleston locations. I’m including the good, some of the bad, and things you ought to consider when scheduling!
There are two things I always try to include in my forms to clients: parking & bathroom access & availability. This is important. This is part of the experience I like to deliver.
First, I think everyone can relate to frustrations with traffic and parking in crowded areas. My aim is to avoid increasing anyone’s irritation, particularly people – ahem, like my husband – who are reluctant to take photos in the first place. Does parking cost? Are there laws about tires off the road? Does it get crazy busy? Are there multiple lots in one area? Can traffic get backed up 15 minutes over a bridge? (Yes, Folly, I’m looking at you!) It is important to know all those details beforehand! If your photographer doesn’t share those details with you, you might just want to ask.
And bathrooms – well. I assume a lot of my readers are parents, or soon to be parents, in which case…you know. If you are a pregnant woman, or in the midst of potty training, or a parent of girls, bathroom availability is important. If you’ve traveled a long way to the location, or need a wardrobe change that could be difficult to finagle in a car, make sure you know! I have absolutely told clients before that they need to stop somewhere before making it out to the beach!
So now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk a bit about what makes the Charleston area awesome: all the locations.
1. The Beach. Whether it’s Folly or the Isle of Palms, the beach is a favorite. The vastness of ocean, beach, & sky are beautiful. As we are on the east coast, the sunset won’t be at the ocean horizon, but there are plenty of spots that make for gorgeous beach photos.
Things to consider: Sullivan’s Island: it is illegal to use its beaches for professional photography. Traffic (particularly in tourist season), the tidal calendar (high tide means less beach to use), wind (if the idea of hair you spent $$$ on blowing around wildly horrifies you), and the increased likelihood of clothes getting wet. Which, I love light and water in my photos, so I love it when my clients will wade in the water.
2. Downtown Charleston. We live in a beautiful city, with old, colorful architecture. It is a photographer’s dream when it comes to coordinating colors and backdrops. I can guarantee there is a home somewhere in Charleston that will complement the colors of your wardrobe perfectly. Not to mention cool doors, walls, and window boxes to frame your family and give you a colorful, urban look. Also, within walking distance are the waterfront parks, with cobblestone roads, big oaks, and iron gates galore.
Things to consider: You may need to start a little earlier than evening’s golden hour, since again, the sun sets opposite of the water and buildings can block those last few minutes of rich light. There are a lot of people…and cars. And carriages. You may need to put things on pause as people pass, etc. Also, your kids can’t run around without being monitored for that reason.
3. Our local parks. There is Hampton, Riverfront, Cypress Gardens, and Charles Towne landing, to name a few. Each one offers a variety of environmental elements, from live oaks, to blooming gardens, to great architecture and winding paths. If you love flowers and greenery but don’t want to wade/walk through tall grass, these are great choices! (Plus parking & bathroom access is usually very close.)
Things to consider: Mosquitoes. I always give my clients warning when we are going to go anywhere potentially shady – the bugs can be bad. Also worth considering is the occurrence of any local events and the size of the park. (Sometimes they get crowded with photographers.) Also, be mindful of their public hours, especially off season!
4. Rural fields, preserves, forests, & private farmland. This is the ultimate rural look. Long grass, wilderness, blooming fields, and tree farms. They are timeless, and usually a bit more empty than some of the other areas listed. You will have room to roam, lake and/or river views (in some cases), and lots of what makes the Lowcountry special.
Things to consider: The yucky things you don’t want to think about. Mosquitoes, ticks & other things lurking in grass and/or water. I always tell my clients that if they feel uncomfortable somewhere, they can tell me, and we’ll move. No matter what speaks to me creatively, I want my clients safe and happy! Long periods of rain often delays mowing in field areas. Mud. Nature stuff. If you are an avid outdoors person, this might not deter you at all, but if you are the least bit faint of heart – ask your photographer about this, too! Also, if you’re going somewhere on private land, permission to be there is important. Nothing would spoil a session like getting kicked out early.
Places to avoid:
– Mepkin Abbey. If you go to the website, you will notice it says “no professional photography.” It’s a beautiful place, I know, but I respectfully obey their rules.
– Places that say no trespassing and/or are fenced off. A lot of beautiful areas (Old Sheldon, Biggins Church) have been fenced off, and a lot of times photographers are specifically mentioned as the reason for it. Yikes! I always tell my clients – I will find you a beautiful place with the same vibe that we can photograph in without problems!
And of course, there are plantations, walls of street art, private areas in local neighborhoods, waterfronts near the creeks, and much more. We are so lucky to live in a diverse area like Charleston. Not only is it a gorgeous place to visit, it’s an awesome place to call home. The opportunity to make beautiful family heirlooms is worth dealing with thunderstorms, bugs, and traffic every once in awhile. Don’t forget, you can always inquire to schedule your session this fall!