Location scouting can sometimes can be easy and sometimes very, very difficult. From looking for appealing or decent light and then finding an nice composition. And sometimes with lack of time you may need to accept a less appealing composition and make it work with what you have.
If you've just jumped into this part of the blog series I highly recommend you read the past parts as this part is spoke with the assumption you've read the past parts, as well you've learned the important part of timing which can be figured out with what gear you have and location you're shooting at. Check the index.
Locations vary on your needs of your vision, and how strict you're with your vision. I know for my journey in natural light adventures from May 2015 to today, I was not picky. Every shoot I did was purely casual lifestyle or/and fashion style shoot. No mood boards. Just meet up at a location, me and a model can shoot at during the times I think is best for the shoot, as well help with some wardrobe decisions.
Would I have loved to spend more time on prep such as finding the most perfect location, wardrobe, makeup, and hair based on a mood board? Of course. But budget was not there to do so, even if I could have collaborated with a makeup and hair stylist, it wasn't enough to really prep every aspect for my standards of bigger more prepped shoot. When I want (and can) to really prep for a shoot its all or nothing in my opinion. But most of my casual shoots were for my personal projects, not clients, so its entirely different approach than a client shoot where I would place the cost of expense to them.
Build The Foundation Skills of Finding Locations
What I did is went local first. For years I went to a local park but this time I wanted something more, and different for my work, so I ventured into more urban areas in my city. I meet up with a model locally, walked around with the model until I found a composition/lighting I liked and boom, tried it and sometimes it works out sometimes it doesn't. As long as I am, and you are shooting you will do better and better. After shooting a few months around the city I had favorites spots, other spots I just simply got bored of, and tried other spots to play with. It's sometimes trail and error, especially with little to no prep.
Try it. Go walk or drive around locally to find an interesting location to shoot at, either with the model or even alone. One day I did just this when I started to shoot more outdoors cause I needed more locations than a simple public park (which I was very bored of using). I drove around town, took some snapshots of interesting locations for reference and kept it in a folder, just in case.
Eventually I simply never looked at those references and simply kept those locations in mind for shoots, which I did.
Now on client shoots it was different. I had a set of 3-5 or so locations around the city I knew were safe and had appealing compositions/lighting during my time frames. So it was just move from A to C locations and I got my shots for the client.
One of my favorite locations is shooting by a graveyard, using the long black fencing as my leading lines and repetition composition. Like below.
Once you've mastered this skill then location scouting locations ahead of time may become an easier task. But again it depends on your needs and how strict your vision to the location is, as well funding. Lack of funds to rent out a beautiful private location isn't generally possible without funds or very small funds. But in some cases if you're fantastic at people/networking skills you can charm your way into a private location at times, but don't ask me haha I haven't achieved that skill yet as I am fairly introvert.
Location Scouting Ahead of Time.
So let's say you want to do a big more prepped shoot. You have a few options.
- If possible, walk around to locations that has a sense and mood of your vision. Take reference photos, or heck do a test shoot, testing out the location to the fullest potential.
- If not possible to walk around the location, and no to little budget I'd recommend scouting google maps as much as possible. From street view most especially and photos pinned to the maps.
- I don't currently use this option but I know they exist. Location scouting websites. Where they house reference images and geo info on that location. Sometimes, some are free, and some aren't depending on the location's popularity. Check that out too, I personally prefer finding my own locations I feel fit for my visions most of the time, at least for now until I start to shoot on bigger budgets then I'd explore these websites or even hiring a location scout (which aren't cheap either).
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Keep in mind the posts in the index are in order, so if you're jumping in reading the series at 3 or 5 you should really read from 1 to above to ensure you did not miss anything.
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