How to find a location for your next photoshoot: What you REALLY need to learn about scouting locations

Jan 5, 2020

Location, location, location…

You need new photos and have created a Pinterest board or Instagram collection with all your favorite images that you’ve seen other people do, contacted a photographer, and are already picking out what you’ll wear.

But, my friend, where will you have the photos taken?

No sweat! I’m here to help you with that.

I’m here to help with my Top Five Tips to choose a location and what to consider! Let’s begin…

1. CONSIDER THE LIGHTING – INSIDE OR OUTSIDE

I chose the image above to illustrate how the time of day and the lighting will impact your location decision. This photo taken on the boardwalk at Asbury Park, New Jersey, had harsh overhead light. Choosing a location means understanding how bright — or dark! — it gets at the location and figuring out the best time to shoot there. 

For this specific location, this wall faces EAST into the ocean, so any time in the morning and early afternoon will mean that direct overhead and harsh light will be on the subject. If you know you want this location — or a similarly bright location that faces east, consider a late afternoon session if you don’t want direct light. Not afraid of direct light and want artistic photos? Then the morning is your jam.

Want an INDOOR location? The same principle applies but in the opposite way: When does the MOST amount of light come into the indoor location? For places like Lokal Hotel in Old City, which is a popular location for many photographers, the rooms that face the back of the hotel get very little natural light requiring a lot of off-camera flash (more about my OCF set up later!) and the rooms that face WEST (e.g. 3rd Street) get the most natural light. For places with lots of natural light, like the Line Hotel in Los Angeles seen below, you have the best of both worlds: natural light and protection from the elements.

To consider the lighting without visiting the area in person, Google map the location and figure out the location’s geographical location and which way the windows or setting face (e.g. east, west, et al.).

2. YOUR VISUAL BRAND

When I work with clients for a lifestyle photoshoot, I do an extensive phone call to make sure I understand their visual brand. (Want to know how I define a brand in a way that I’ve not heard ANYONE else define a brand? Work with me and I’ll tell ya! *hint hint it’s a game changer*) In your extensive consult, I ask about colors, vibe, who your target audience is, and other fun questions. Why? Because this is going to impact the location choice. 

Are you wanting to be hired for speaking gigs in a corporate setting? This wall at Asbury Park may not be for you — we may need to find a more conservative setting. Are you a wellness entrepreneur who specializes in chakra healing? This wall above at Asbury Park may be great for you! Are you unsure of what to do and where to go but know you need a LOT of space? Consider the Maximalist Studios, Location 215, and 660 Collective in the Philadelphia area.

Last but not least, colors will create a “color cast” on people’s faces and in the images if the color is strong and overwhelming throughout the location. Neutral rooms are best for all skin tones and yellow tungsten lighting that can be turned OFF to allow for either my flash or natural light to completely light the scene is best!

When I arrive to an indoor location, the first thing I do is turn off the lamps and lights and get rid of brightly colored fabrics that will cast a hue onto people’s faces. 

3. PERMITS, PERMISSION, AND FEES

This may be the trickiest bit of the photoshoot. Sometimes the budget doesn’t allow for studio fees on top of photographer’s creative fee and hair and make-up. I completely understand. That’s where you may need to consider who you know and your living or working environment.

Do you have a friend who lives in an apartment building with a super fun lobby? When I was working for a wealth management company, the building I worked in had an amazing lobby with lots of natural light. I asked about permission to photograph people in the lobby for their headshots. As long as I followed the rules, didn’t show signage, and was not disruptive, I could photograph headshots in the lobby. With a little ingenuity and asking the right person (the key word here is “non-disruptive”), you can find LOTS of locations close to you!

But here’s the legal bit:

If you photograph in a place of business, it’s not legal to do so without the owner’s / owner’s rep’s permission. And did you know that photos on a railroad track are a felony? For a National Park, permits are required and must be obtained by Parks & Recreation. If you want to take a photo on a sidewalk, which is usually considered “public domain,” we have to be sure the interior lights are not on so as not to directly photograph into a person’s private residence where we see personal moments or information.

While I have years of experience making sure I navigate permits, permissions, and fees legally, I always ask, research, and discuss any potential issue with clients and ask that they do, too. Overwhelmed with all of this? Don’t stress! I can advise on locations and make recommendations!

4. HECTIC OR CALM LOCATIONS

Living in Philadelphia has it perks. Want to do an outdoor photoshoot at Philadelphia City Hall around 5 PM during a warm, sunny weekday? It might not be calm — there will probably be lots of commuters and people around. But it’s up to you and what story you want to tell with your photos.

Having people in the background as well as signs and construction cones and sometimes hearing comments while you are getting photos done will occur if you want a city session in a busy area (Rittenhouse Park, I’m looking at you). So if you want an urban session but without the crowds, try a weekday morning sessions — after the commuters have arrived to their office.

The best advice is this: if you know your photo location may be hectic, figure out the best times of day to go. If you want to avoid the hassle of shooting in a hectic location entirely, consider a more rural location or renting a studio. 

5. RESTROOMS

Wait, what the heck do bathrooms have to do with locations?

While I have a large, black pop-up changing tent for people to get dressed in, most times I have to advise clients if they want to change their clothes and hair and make up for a different part of their outdoor photoshoot, they may be more comfortable in a restroom than a dark tent. I also advise that at some point, you may need to use the restroom so if you are looking to do a long session in the city, planning where you’ll change, get a drink (of water — not alcohol because alcohol makes the skin around your eyes extra crinkly in a non-flattering way), and use the restroom. This issue has come up so many times that I promise it is KEY to making you comfortable for your session!

FINAL NOTES

Did I miss anything? Do you have specific tips that you love or questions I didn’t answer? Let me know in the comments below!

Reply...

you said:

LEAVE A COMMENT