Susan Dixon Photography » Blog

As a Jacksonville photographer, I feel like we are very blessed to have SO MANY options in our area when it comes to choosing a location for a photography session.

Whether you’re a professional OR you’re  just wanting to take pictures of your friends/family, the location you choose makes a HUGE difference in the outcome of your images.

And whether you’re in the Jacksonville area or not, here are three questions to help you select a stunning location for your next photography session!

(1) What will the lighting look like at the time of my session?

Since the best light for outdoor sessions happens in the golden hour–one hour before sunset, you really need to know where and how the light will shine at the time of your session. Sometimes you know because you drive by the area frequently. You may need to make a special trip to check out the lighting. If you love back-lit images, you need to be sure that there’s a fairly open area in the west so that you can get enough of that gorgeous, warm light.

If you need to do the session at a time other than the golden hour, think about finding some open shade or other ways to get good light.

Try to avoid dappled light (often produced as sunlight shines through leaves), which leads to hot spots in your photos. In addition, avoid placing your subjects facing into the sun. Everyone will be squinting.


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(2) What mood do you want these pictures to convey?

Take a few moments and think about the story you will tell with these images…..and what type of location will add to the mood you wish to achieve?

The two engagement photos below were taken in very different settings.

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The one on the left has a definite city/modern/sophisticated vibe. On the other hand, the pic on the right has a dreamy/romantic/natural quality. They are both beautiful… just depends on the direction you want to go. It’s your story, and your location should enhance that story–not detract.

Don’t just pick a place because you think it’s pretty. Decide on the tone you want your images to have, and go from there.

One of my recent families specifically asked for a beach session. They know they will only be here for a few years because of the husband’s military career. And the beach fits them perfectly, because reads as fun and casual….just like them. It helps them tell their story of their time in Florida.

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{A side note about shooting on the beach–>ALWAYS check to see when low tide is. High tide makes your session more difficult and/or impossible–depending on the beach.}

We also have a lot of awesome buildings here in Jacksonville, Florida. One of my favorites is a warehouse that is covered with art! Images photographed at a place like this will read as modern/young/edgy.

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There are SOOO many more examples that I could give……but the last option I’m going to mention here is being photographed on your own property. I’ve done several sessions with clients on their own land, and it something extra special to the images. Here are a couple of my favorites:

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(3) What location works best for all of the people involved?

If you hire a professional photographer, please defer to him/her for the final say in the location. Photographers LOVE suggestions from clients! But trust his/her experience as to whether or not a specific location will work. Also, make sure that everyone can get there ON TIME–> ready to go.

The closer your location and more familiar everyone is with the directions, the more likely you are to experience success.

Location is very important! It creates the framework for the story you are telling with your images. Be thoughtful when selecting a setting….you will be so glad that you did!

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Engagement photographers in Jacksonville are very fortunate because there are SO many locations in this area for portraits! When many people think of a Florida session, the first thing the think of is the beach. And, of course, beach pictures are great!

However, there are so many fabulous options. We have urban areas in downtown, Riverside, and San Marco. In addition, we have grassy fields, marshes, parks, flower gardens, and [one of my personal favorites] FORESTS.

Carrie and Chris are getting married in September, and I am thrilled to be their wedding photographer. They knew from the beginning that they wanted their engagement pictures taken in the woods. That totally fits them! Chris is on the management staff at a local sporting goods store, so it makes sense that he feels at home in the forest.

In fact, it was through their jobs that Carrie and Chris met. While Chris worked at a sporting goods store, Carrie worked at a cosmetics store that was right NEXT to Chris’ place of employment. Somehow, Chris never managed to venture into Carrie’s shop. :) However, Carrie enjoyed browsing next door while on break. Once she discovered Chris, I’m pretty sure that Carrie found reasons to go there more often. I think that Chris is very glad that she did! The two soon started dating.

Chris proposed to Carrie during the Florida/Georgia game this past fall. He planned it all out. The best thing about that is that they were surrounded by family and friends. It’s a bit complicated because Chris is a fan of the Florida Gators, and Carrie pulls for the Georgia Bulldogs. But they are making their relationship work!

Both Carrie and Chris are very friendly, and I love how relaxed they are together. Their wedding is coming up in just a few months, but they are not the type to over-stress about it. They have chosen Bowing Oaks Plantation as their venue, and it totally fits their vibe. Bowing Oaks is known for being both rustic and elegant, which I absolutely love! I believe that a couple’s venue sets the tone for their whole wedding, and Carrie and Chris have made a wonderful choice!

Please click to here see other engagement sessions. It’s amazing how unique and different they are…based on the couple and location.

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Jacksonville wedding photographerimage to pinterest

As a Jacksonville photographer, things can get pretty overwhelming. Fast.

Socrates was on the right track when he said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

Rather than going through life reacting to one thing after another, it’s important to step back and analyze how things are going. What is important? What is truly meaningful? What is going to stand the test of time?

I’m going through a course right now with Justin and Mary Marantz that involves digging deep into who I am as a person, as well as who I am as a photographer. This has been an eye-opening thing for me. It’s hard work to set aside the hustle and business and really think about what I stand for….and how I am serving my clients.

One of the assignments in the course is to identify several “I believe….” statements. These are the important things that [should] drive my photography business. Collectively, they form the filter through which I need to funnel all of my business decisions. Big and small… believes affect what I do.

You might think this would be an easy thing to do. You would be wrong! After several days and quite a few edits, here’s my list:

(1) I believe in being real over striving for perfection. There’s no replacement for authenticity.

(2) I believe in true love that never fails.

(3) I believe in finding beauty and joy in the little things.

(4) I believe in lifelong learning.

(5) I believe in pursuing God and His plan for my life.

(6) I believe in making moments count and living life well.

(7) I believe in being married to your very best friend.

(8) I believe in the importance of stories and how powerful it is to share YOUR story.

(9) I believe in printing your favorite pictures because they are visual anchors to important relationships.

So there you have it…..these are the core values that drive my photography business.

I am so glad that I did the hard work of thinking through these and writing them out. Doing something like this really does make things more clear.

I also think I need to do this for my life in general. There will be several points that overlap, of course. I think that’s quite natural and good. :)

Find out more about me right here.

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Routines. We all have them. They make life a little smoother. A little less stressful. Routines are the parts of life that we can do on auto-pilot.

My morning typically consists of a whole bunch of routines strung together. Wake up. Get a shower. Make coffee. Do my daily devotion. Eat breakfast. Make the lunches……the list goes on.

My final routine before I walk out the door is to stand at my dresser and put on my jewelry. And right beside my jewelry box, tucked into the edge of the mirror, is one of my favorite photos in the whole world. I took it back in 2010. That’s seven years ago, if you do the math. :) I’ve never put it in a frame [although I probably should.] But when I see this picture, it makes me smile.

My best-friend-in-the-whole-world/husband is the person behind the camera in the picture. When I took this image, we really didn’t know what we were doing. At all. Neither of us were professional photographers [yet.] And please, PLEASE don’t judge us by that horribly cheap and flimsy tripod! We were just two people in love that were discovering our love for photography. Together.

I remember that day well. We were visiting family in Tennessee. And it just so happens that our relatives lived right next door to part of the Appalachian Trail. How awesome is that?!

It was December, so of course as native Floridians we bundled up in our warmest jackets and went exploring. As we walked along the rocky trail, birds chirped back and forth, and we were soothed by the cheerful bubbling of the nearby mountain stream. I can still remember the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot. The crisp air made the climb down to a small waterfall easy work.

I’m pretty sure it took BOTH of us to set up the tripod for our beloved little Canon Rebel T1i. (Yes, that was our first DSLR.) And I remember being nervous the whole time that it might fall. But we were so excited to try a slow shutter speed for the first time!

Then we went further on the trail, chatting back and forth, soaking in all of the beauty around us. It was a great afternoon!

Since that day, we’ve upgraded in many ways. I now have a Canon 5D Mark iii. Troy has gone micro four-thirds on me. But now we don’t fight over lenses. Oh, and we have MUCH better tripods! I own a Manfrotto, and Troy has a great travel tripod. I went on to become a professional wedding and portrait photographer, while Troy is content as a hobbyist. He enjoys landscape photography most.

This picture of Troy from that special day back in 2010 stays secured in the edge of my dresser mirror. It reminds me of our trip. But, even more than that, it speaks of our deep love and friendship. It causes me to remember the joy of discovering photography together and what it was like when we first realized that we could capture meaningful, artistic images that can stand the test of time.

I’m so glad this picture is not buried somewhere in the megabytes on my computer. It’s printed for us to enjoy. In the midst of the monotony of my daily routines, it’s a visual anchor to my person and the love we both have for photography.

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I had the honor of photographing Joey’s senior session last month. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again:

I believe that a senior session is BEST when it takes place during the few months just before graduation! There are a few reasons for this:

(1) You pretty much look like the person that actually walks across the stage and receives the diploma. Students change so much over the course of their senior year!

(2) We can shoot for the announcement you want to send out. Friends and family members absolutely LOVE receiving picture announcements! Often, the template you love the best will require a certain layout for the pictures. If I KNOW you’re looking for a horizontal orientation….a tight crop of your face….or something with a lot of open space to the side….I can accommodate that!

(3) We can incorporate your college choice in the images. For example, Joey will attend the University of South Florida. So we featured a USF hat. I’ve also done college banners, pom poms, confetti, etc. for other clients. It’s a neat way to let everyone know which college the student has chosen.

If you still want to have senior portraits taken during the summer between your junior and senior year, that is totally fine! But consider either waiting OR doing an update. You won’t be sorry!

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This session obviously took place at the beach. Big Talbot Island, to be exact. But if you scroll down, you’ll see that I also did some fitness shots of Joey at his gym. The beach pictures were in my comfort zone. Totally! I love shooting at the beach!

Honestly, though, I haven’t done much fitness work. But I LOVED it! As a runner, I admire pretty all forms of fitness. I know how hard it is to train and meet goals and stay inspired. We were able to shoot at the gym where Joey trains, which made him more comfortable and added meaning to the pictures. I’m not going to lie….the lighting was a bit challenging. But I brought along plenty of options/tools, and I love the way the images turned out! I’m a big fan of black and white images, and these fitness shots were great candidates for b&w conversions. This is something I’d like to do more of in the future. I’d love to hear your feedback. Please let me know what you think!

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