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Location scouting is a vital part of preparing for any photoshoot and regardless of the type of project you are undertaking it can make the difference between a chaotic and unproductive session and one which yields incredible results with the least of hassle!
When you go to a potential location for a photoshoot in advance and check out the environment, the lighting, the atmosphere and all the other practical details that will influence your work this is called ‘location scouting’.
Location scouting involves exploring the travel options and the suitability of the site however it’s also an important part of the process of previsualization.
Getting to the Location.
One of the first things you need to establish is whether it’s feasible for you to get to the location on the day of the shoot. You should be finding out if there’s nearby parking and if you will be able to carry your equipment to the site. Are there any parking restrictions at certain times of day and if there is a fee for parking how much is it?
You want to have everything to do with the travel arranged in advance so you don’t find yourself stuck or getting behind schedule on the day of your photoshoot.
Type of Equipment.
While you are scouting out the location always keep considerations about the type of equipment you will be using in the back of your mind. When you leave the comfort and security of your studio you are going to have to be more flexible than when working in a controlled environment!
When you’re at the site ask yourself what specialized equipment you will need for the shoot. For instance, if there are dense trees and shrubbery you may need a reflector whereas if you’re shooting in a very bright location, with large areas of concrete and glass for instance, you may need a scrim to reduce the harshness and intensity of the light.
When you’re planning what equipment to use try to let the location itself guide you and leave any preconceptions behind!
Some photographers have pre packaged kits designed for different types of locations. This means that they can just add the odd item after they have scouted the site which in the end saves time in pre-production.
The Lighting – Crucial To Scout in Advance.
While you are scouting the location you need to try to get an understanding of the lighting of the site. The best times to shoot are generally at the beginning or the end of the day, known as the Golden Hour. During these times of the day you’ll get a lovely mellow light which is the most flattering for models and with the longer shadows it also helps to create more dramatic landscape shots.
Try to scout your location at the same time of day as you intend to do your photoshoot. While you’re on the site take some photographs so you can make a note of the camera settings which work the best. This will save you time on the day of the photoshoot because you can just quickly adjust your camera settings to the ones which worked best during your scouting trip and then make any tiny adjustments that need to be made.
While you’re on site you should also be looking out for any potential obstacles, such as trees, which might cast awkward shadows into the shot during the day. The longer you can spend on site the better you will be able to predict how the lighting conditions will be when you return to do your photoshoot.
Remember too that the weather will significantly influence the lighting on site. Overcast days produce a very rich lighting in photography which is generally preferable to the harsh sunlight at midday when the sky is clear. All this needs to be taken into account when you’re scouting the location and planning ahead for the photoshoot.
Practical Legal Considerations.
Your scouting process should always involve a little bit of research as well as on site inspections. For instance, if you’re shooting in a private space you will probably need to get permission from the owners. If you contact them in advance and your photoshoot will not intrude on their business or activities then they will usually be happy to accommodate you.
Even in some public locations you might need to get permission from the local authorities – especially if your photoshoot is commercial in nature. You can easily find out the regulations regarding permission by contacting your local municipality office and explaining your intentions. Again, in most cases they will be very accommodating and if there is any problem with that precise location they will often suggest a more suitable alternative.
Take Notes and Document Your Findings.
You should always take a notebook with you while you are scouting a location to write down what you find. You might think that you can remember all the details but more often than not you’re likely to forget something which could spell disaster!
To make taking notes easier you can prepare a checklist of questions on your computer and just print off a copy to take with you on your scouting trip to save you time and streamline your workflow.
10 Practical Questions To Ask Yourself During Your Location Scouting:
- Is the site crowded at certain times of day? Are there pedestrians or members of the public that could interfere with the photoshoot?
- Is it easy to access the location and is there nearby parking?
- Are there restrooms and other facilities nearby?
- Are there restrictions or legal regulations that you need to be aware of?
- Is there somewhere that the model or client can change their clothes or will they have to come dressed for the shoot?
- Will it be practical to do makeup or hair styling while on site?
- What is the temperature like on site? Are there strong winds that could make you and subjects cold? What was the weather like?
- Is there a site representative or public relations officer that you need to contact on the day of the photoshoot?
- Are there buildings, trees or other obstacles that might block the light or cast unwanted shadows?
- Is there any artwork in the background scenery that you might need to get permission to include in the photoshoot?
Scouting the Location Before the Shoot.
In some genres of photography scouting the location in advance is absolutely crucial, such as wedding and fashion photography, however in other genres like wildlife and street photography you can work in a more spontaneous way.
Doing a thorough examination of the location before you arrive to do the shoot will not only make your work more productive and efficient but it can also help to avert events that could ruin the day!
If you’re working with clients, such as for a wedding, you need to have pre knowledge of the location to maintain a professional image and have all the bases covered in advance. Knowing that the location does not have toilets or facilities where your models can do their makeup are important to know so that you can plan the photoshoot properly. Every detail matters in the end, so always be as throughout as you can be whilst scouting out a location for your photoshoot.
Do you do location scouting before your shoot?
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