1. Many photographers, both serious amateurs and professionals, need shooting locations other than the studio, or as alternatives to the studio, for portrait, fashion and product photography, to name a few. Whenever you need such a location, the most obvious point to remember is that you must know where you will be shooting and that it fits your assignment before you leave your home or studio. Plus, you wouldn’t want to waste the valuable time of your client or have to pay for a model’s time, as you travel throughout your area looking for a shooting site. This requires that you reserve some time prior to each shoot to scout for locations.
2. The most efficient scouting method is to find locations, which you can use for multiple shoots. Of course, you don’t want to shoot different assignments with exactly the same foreground, background or general ambiance; therefore, these “prime” shooting sites must provide you with sufficiently different backgrounds, maybe by simply pointing your camera in a different direction. The same location could also look quite different at various times of the day. For example, the same beach could be used in broad daylight for a swimsuit shoot and an eveningwear shoot at sunlight or during twilight.
3. That is why you should conduct your scouting trips at different times of the day, and night. A site may not inspire you at all when bathed in direct sunlight, but becomes dramatic, mysterious and magical in the low light of dawn or dusk.
4. Purchase a small, pocket notebook in which you can create a location guide, with descriptions of the shooting environments you find as well as how the sun’s angle changes during the day and what ambient light is available at night.
5. Look for shooting locations that could complement your subject as well as create an interesting contrast. A classic example is shooting objects of elegance, such as jewelry products or jewelry on the arm of a model, in an inelegant environment. Shoot a portrait of a country person in the nitty-gritty city and vice versa.
6. A common error of many photographers is to select shooting locations that are so spectacular that they deserve to be captured in separate landscape images. The mistake is that the location becomes the center of attention instead of the portrait subject or model. Instead of framing shots with the incredible beach sunset in the background. Turn 90 degrees and use the expanse of sand along the shoreline as the background (a plain background) and the beautiful color of the low sun as a creative light source striking the subject or object from a side angle.
7. Safety should always be your first consideration during your scouting trips and the locations you choose. A dilapidated building may seem like an interesting location, but you don’t want to make yourself liable for any potential injuries to a portrait subject or model. Look a bit harder and you’re likely to find the “decaying” environment you want without putting yourself or others at risk.
8. Part of the safety equation is obtaining permission if you do find a location you like that appears to be private property. This applies to the country as well as the city. Just because the farmer’s large field has no crops in it, and you would sure like to pose a subject next to that old farm implement in the grass or the weatherworn outbuilding, is not an invitation to climb a fence and trespass. Ask permission, be prepared to show that you are fully insured as a photographer and offer to send the farmer, or any property owner, a few images of the property.
9. When scouting locations, add information to your notebook about the likelihood of intrusions: people and traffic in the background. A nearby construction site could create dust clouds drifting into your shooting area and plenty of equipment noise that would make it difficult to communicate with your subject or model, and interrupt your thinking.
10. Use a GPS device during your scouting trips to save the latitude/longitude of the exact shooting spot, the direction you are facing and other pertinent information. You may want to transfer some of this information into your scouting notebook.
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Photo by PhotographyTalk Member Chimere