Become a Better Location Scout with these 7 Tips

PHOTO:  Ryan Tauss

PHOTO: Ryan Tauss

Whether you’re shooting head shots for a portfolio or a music video for an up-and-coming artist, location is always key.  No matter how good the natural lighting is your image won’t be effective if the backdrop isn’t compatible with your subject. Similarly, no matter how compelling your backdrop is, your image won’t be effective if there isn’t adequate light source.

Location scouting can be a job all on its own. Photographers spend hours looking for the perfect place to shoot. There are several factors that go into finding the perfect location. No two projects are the same, and your shooting locations should reflect that. When you’re location scouting for a new shoot, keep these seven tips in mind to make the best choice for you and your client(s).

1. Visit the location prior to shooting, at the same time of day you plan to shoot:

Just like everything else, research will make you more efficient in the long run. By scoping out the space before hand, you will be able to get a feel for the amount and direction of natural light a space provides, what tools you should bring with you and how long you have before the sun leaves the space.

2. Make sure you know where your power is coming from:

When scouting a new location, always check to see where your power source is. If you are shooting inside a fully equipped set, there is likely nothing an extension cord can’t solve. But a growing trend has sent photographers out to shoot in abandon warehouses and buildings. If this is the case, you should check to see if there are any working power sources. If not, you may want to consider a different location.

3. Listen:

Listen to your surroundings.  This is particularly the case if you are shooting a video. You may have found a space that seems perfect, but the camera will pick up subtle nuances from the band practicing next door, or traffic rushing by outside. Noise can play a role in still photography, too. If your subject can’t hear the direction you’re giving, there will be a noticeable drop in the quality of the images you capture.

Videographers can affix foam sheets to the walls to make their own semi-soundproof room. These foam sheets will absorb the reverb and prevent an unwanted echo.

4. Seek permission:

Remember, while shooting in public parks and various outdoor venues looks appealing, many times you need permission. And getting permission usually means paying some sort of hourly fee. But it’s best to get permission up front. Shoots that seem the most cost effective can become expensive quickly, if you are hit with a fine for shooting in a space that is off limits.

5. Consider a location with multiple unique shots:

No matter what you are shooting, one space that offers several unique shots will allow you to be more efficient with your time. A rehabbed space that offers multiple, different looking locations will allow you to change the vibe of your shoot by simply turning around. You will save time and energy by not having to trek your equipment across town.

6. Keep a photo library of all the sites you visit:

Whenever you go to scout a new location, take photos of the space so that you can return to them later.  Even if the location is not the right fit for your upcoming shoot, it may be perfect for a shoot in the future. The next time a client comes to you requesting a specific backdrop, you will have a library of potential locations already at your fingertips.

7. Consider the length of your shoot, and nearby amenities:

It sounds silly, but if you are planning on being on set for an extended period of time, it will help if your location has amenities such as bathrooms and a kitchen. If you are shooting in a remote field, you may want to consider renting a trailer. If you don’t, you could end up wasting valuable time waiting for your subject(s) and crew to make trips back and forth.