Recently there has been a trend circulating the internet called the “Ugly Location Challenge.” It began earlier this year and seemed to spark notice in many widespread YouTubers, from Niki and Gabi to Aspyn Ovard to Jessica Kobeissi, internet stars took advantage of this trend and encouraged their followers to do the same. The Ugly Location Challenge is taking portraits of a model in an area that would be seen as undesirable to most. For example, some locations often used are Michaels, Lowes, Mcdonalds, Laundromats and grocery stores. I decided to follow the trend and do my own Ugly Location Challenge at a laundromat near my home.
I decided to shoot with my 35mm lens to have more of the background in focus and to really draw more attention to the washers and dryers in the back. I was lucky enough to not get kicked out but I would recommend asking the owner before you begin shooting to ensure that it is allowed and you’re not disrupting their business. I would also recommend going early on a weekday to make sure there is not a lot of people and to have better lighting for your images.
Here is my attempt at the ugly location challenge. I hope this inspires other photographers to realize that location is not everything. Good photographs are not dependent on the location in which you are shooting, good photographs come from natural skill, excellent composition and ability to edit in post. I encourage everyone to not feel limited by where they live or where they are shooting, grab your camera and go take some portraits your location is not everything.
I edited these images with a more retro and faded style than I normally would, using Lightroom to create a vintage look in these images.
Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark ii
Lens: 24-85mm- used 35mm setting
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If you look at Brandon Woelfel’s feed on Instagram you will notice a common theme in his images, a cotton candy color palette. Woelfel often uses Photoshop to achieve these unique colors in each of his images but I found a way to achieve something very similar in Lightroom. Here are the steps to achieve a similar look to Woelfel, I, however, do not encourage copying his style in all of your shoots. I think it is important to emulate a photographer from time to time to learn how to shoot with styles different than your own and improve your photography game. Personally emulating Woelfel’s style showed me some tricks for photographing portraits at night that I might use in my own images.
First, you must photograph a model holding fairy lights at some time after golden hour. Woelfel often photographs at blue hour or at night time with artificial light to illuminate his image. I photographed at sunset into the night time and I didn’t have any trouble achieving the look. I would also recommend purchasing some serial killer/ oversized glasses to reflect more of the fairy lights. Mango Street made a Brandon Woelfel starter pack that is relatively inexpensive and a good starting point to begin photographing like him.
- After photographing the image you will begin your editing process.
- I started by adjusting the temperature of the image to make it a lot cooler and making the tint a bit more magenta to achieve that aqua and pink look in Woelfel’s images.
- Next, I turned up the exposure a little to bring back some light on his face and brought down the contrast to create more of a faded look in the image.
- After that, I raised the shadows, dropped the blacks and dropped the whites almost all the way to add a little bit of contrast back in the image and even out the light distribution on his face.
- Next, I played with the tone curve a little bit to create the crushed black look and created a slight S curve from that point.
- I then played with the hues of the colors by making the yellows more orange, blues more aqua, aquas more blue, purples more magenta and magentas more purple which might sound a bit counterintuitive but it creates the colors that I wanted.
- After I adjusted the saturation by dropping the saturation of the oranges and yellows and bringing up the saturation of the blue and magenta to emphasize the colors further. I also brought the luminance of all of the colors up slightly.
- I added a pastel pink color into the highlights and a pastel blue color to the shadows to really create that cotton candy look to the image.
- Lastly, I raised the vibrance up and brought down the saturation while also bringing down the clarity slightly.
- I’m not saying these editing techniques will work for every image but they worked fairly well for me to create a similar looking image to something I thought Woelfel might create. For a more in-depth tutorial, I would recommend watching Mango Street’s video on this very technique.