If you’re a photographer and you need to choose the perfect location for your next shoot, many factors go into this decision. Finding the right shoot location is key because it can make or break your photos. We’ve put together some tips to help narrow down your search so that you have better luck finding just the right spot.
1. Find a location that suits your style
You don’t want to shoot an edgy street scene in the middle of the woods. Make sure you find something that works with what you do best, so research accordingly before committing.
This is also where having previous photos to look back on can be helpful if you’ve done shoots like this one many times before – it’s always good to see how others have shot similar ideas and locations for inspiration.
If I’m shooting mostly lifestyle type images, then finding a place near water will probably work well because they’re usually softer and natural-looking (nature definitely mimics life). If I were doing more fashion or boudoir, though, perhaps something urban would be more fitting.
2. Research your location
If you’re in a new city, search online for for ideas (images + street view). It can be helpful to have some examples of what others are doing so that you don’t get stuck on the same “go-to” locations repeatedly.
Make sure it’s somewhere people won’t mind being asked to leave after they’ve already gone through all this trouble finding an awesome place for photos (it happens more often than not).
It should also be somewhere where there aren’t random strangers walking around looking at everything while trying to enjoy their day – especially if yours will include lingerie shots like ours do sometimes. A lot of these images require more privacy.
3. Make sure it’s somewhere you can get to easily
When we were in London, the underground was our best friend. We could stay out all night and not worry about driving home because public transit is easy (and relatively cheap) there. This also makes bringing props like extra clothing or set pieces more doable if they’re bulky or difficult to transport on your own.
If you plan on using a hired van for transportation, make sure the location isn’t too far from where you are so that cost doesn’t go up drastically with distance travelled – this may be a good thing, though, depending on what kind of budget you have.
4. Make sure it’s somewhere you can take all your gear
We prefer to shoot mostly outside, but sometimes we’re in an inside location where there are no windows at all – this means that our photos will be very dark without any light sources (unless, of course, we bring some with us). If possible, find locations with huge windows, so the sunlight comes streaming through or even skylights. This also makes shooting during different times of day much easier because each hour is full of various lighting opportunities.
If you plan on bringing a lot of equipment like ours does for location shoots, then make sure whatever you choose has enough room for your setup as well as space to work around that if necessary.
5. Try to avoid places with other photoshoots going on
We found this out the hard way (multiple times). It’s great when you can find a space that already looks like it could be in an editorial spread, but if others are working around you, then all of your photos will get ruined because they’re trying to do their own thing. This means less time for them and, more importantly, less time for us (and our clients) who want to use that same location after.
Not only that, but we’ve had people come up while shooting asking what we were doing – not so much because they care about what site or magazine it is for, just purely nosy because everyone wants to know everything these days. It’s nice to have some privacy while shooting.
If you plan on doing this for a business, try and find places where people don’t normally go, so it doesn’t look suspicious. We’ve done shoots in alleyways before with no one around at all. You can also ask your photographer if they’ll be able to block the view of passers-by by standing somewhere or holding something up – most are more than happy to do that sort of thing since it benefits them as well.
6. Don’t choose too many locations
We like to do this because it feels more productive, but sometimes we go on location scout trips that last for hours and end up only using the final location anyway. In all seriousness, though, try not to get stuck on locations that aren’t working out just because you don’t want to stop looking – these are your photos, after all.
Make sure you have plenty of it. This is especially important if you plan on shooting during the golden hours or outside.
If your photographer can’t give a good answer as to where they’ll be getting their lighting from, then chances are they didn’t want to scout ahead and find a location that will work – these days, we use both natural light as well as speed light’s almost every time.
8. Location scout with your photographer
This is a great way to find out ahead of time if the location you’re considering will work for what you have in mind. It’s also really good to put yourself there physically before arriving – it makes everything much easier when shooting.
Tip: Some amazing locations during one season may not be so great at another (for example, an outdoor pool might look beautiful while filled with water but could literally ruin all photos come winter because no one wants ice surrounding them). Be sure to ask about this sort of thing too.
9. Lights, reflective surfaces & windows
We like to bring our own lighting equipment because it means we can use whatever location we want without worrying about getting enough light. This also gives us the freedom to shoot whenever and wherever is most convenient for everyone involved. Most importantly, though, you’ll get photos that are much more unique.
10. The atmosphere
Once the location is chosen, make sure it has a nice atmosphere. We’ve shot in places that were beautiful but felt cold and unwelcoming – not exactly what you want when trying to create stunning images of your clients.
Bring other lighting if need be (we like these types because they’re small and easily portable). It’s also alright for there to be people around as long as everyone feels comfortable with how everything will go down.
11. Consider the weather
You don’t want your clients to be freezing or soaked when they arrive because you found an amazing outdoor location for their shoot. If it’s looking like there might be some nasty weather in the forecast, consider shooting indoors instead (and ask your photographer if this is okay ahead of time). It can easily ruin a photo session if people are uncomfortable – no one wants that.
12. Avoid locations with distractions
As much as you want to look pretty for the camera, make sure there are no distractions behind your clients. They can’t exactly do their job well if they’re worried about not looking good in every photo because of something behind them.
13. Talk to the owners ahead of time
If there are other people or businesses involved, make sure you get their permission before shooting. No one wants to be surprised by strangers taking photos on their property without warning (and I’m pretty certain that they don’t want this either).
14. How far are you willing to travel?
If you’re looking for a photographer in your area, chances are they’ll be just as willing to save money and shoot closer to home. If this is not the case, though (and if it’s totally fine with both of you), then consider taking a trip somewhere that has amazing photo opportunities. You can do some really unique things when travelling.
15. Be open to trying something new
It’s totally fun and might be just what you need to get out of that comfort zone. If your photographer suggests it, they probably have some great ideas on making it work, so go for it.
16. This is your shoot
It’s important to remember that this shoot isn’t just about you. It’s also for the photographer so they can create beautiful images of everyone involved ;). If you love and hate things, make sure you tell them ahead of time – it’ll help a lot.
17. Bring snacks
You never know when someone might get hungry or thirsty during a photoshoot. Bring some munchies with you, we don’t like hangry crew.
18. Bring music that inspire you
I think most photographers will agree that having something artistic playing in the background really adds a lot to photos. Music work just as well and might help bring out feelings that could lead to beautiful images down the road.
19. Don’t forget any of your clothes/accessories/props
I’m pretty certain that nothing would ruin a photo shoot faster than forgetting something important at home. Remembering all of these little details will help everyone relax more while also making for great photos down the road.
20. Ask if you can drop by for a quick trial
A trial session can help weed out those problem areas ahead of time, so no one feels uncomfortable during their actual shoot. It’ll save a lot of headaches later on.
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