One of the first questions I ask clients once a shoot is booked is to describe the personalities of the individuals being photographed. This information helps me to suggest or decide on a location that will make for a better photograph... for them. I know that many photographers have "favorite spots" that they use repeatedly and that's fine. I choose to try and find something different that might make the photo more interesting. If you are thinking about non-studio locations for a shoot, here are a few ideas that may help.
Are your clients nostalgic? Try photos in their home. I know that most of us look at our home and think, how could this make for an interesting photo? One of my favorite old photos of my late grandmother is her family of 11 sitting in her living room. Homes are familiar. They are where we tend to feel comfortable. Capturing families in their home also allows for memories to be catalogued. I can't tell you how many times I wish I had a photo of something from my childhood. And don't worry if the home isn't perfect. I think that just makes for a real, more interesting image.
Outdoors- Off the Beaten Path
Are your clients outdoorsy? Outdoor, natural light photography can be very beautiful. We have all seen the railroad tracks or field of grass photos. But be careful. Sometimes replicating a shot you've seen can come across trite or cliche. Something that may add variety could be finding train tracks with box cars and sneaking a few shots on or in those cars. It may mean driving or even (heaven forbid) walking a few more minutes but is usually well worth it. Also the angle that you choose to photograph and the time of day along with willing clients make all the difference.
Special Places or Hangouts
Are your clients sentimental? Maybe a shoot where they got engaged, hit their first homer, or drank their first beer could be the ticket. Finding spots like these can be tricky but very rewarding. It can not only serve as a great shoot location but a (hopefully good) trip down memory lane. Just remember to always get permission if you are on private property. It could be very embarrassing to get booted in the middle of your shoot.
I know this could go on and there is way more to say about finding a location. I just wanted to get the wheels spinning and hopefully spark that creative process that is in every photographer. Asking good questions and listening can open up a myriad of location ideas. The bottom line is making sure your client is happy. With the shoot and with the location.