Good planning for a photoshoot is vital to a successful, stress-free experience for both the photographer and the clients/models.  Along with reviewing a moodboard, creating a timeline, and other important planning steps, be sure to thoroughly scout each photography location prior to every shoot.  In addition to planning for shoots with predetermined locations, scouting is also vital for finding new scenes and locations for your next shoot. So in this article, we’ll review how to scout photography locations in two parts:

  1. How to scout predetermined photography locations
  2. How to scout new photography locations

How to scout predetermined photography locations

Scouting predetermined photography locations is an important for every shoot,  Here are ways to scout a location prior to arriving.

Google Maps

The satellite  view of Google Maps will give you critical information like driving directions, parking, general direction of the sunset, foliage/shade and more.  This is the first step to scouting a location.

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Google Images

The next step to scouting locations is to do a general Google Images search.  The goal is not to find images to recreate or copy, but rather to understand the different opportunities available at the location.

When viewing other images, pay close attention to the time of day and the lighting situations.  Some scenes look incredible at certain times of the day, like golden hour, but may not work in harsh sunlight.

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How to scout new photography locations

Discovering new location is the second part of location scouting.  Here are some tips for doing so.

Set Goals

As you set out to find new locations for a photo or video shoot, you’ll likely face countless possibilities that will make your job very overwhelming. Before you set out for a location scout, always have a goal or understand the story you’re trying to tell. You’re never bound by your locations, they’re simply backdrops that help tell a greater story.

Here are some things you will want to know or document when scouting locations:

  • Various detailed photos of the scene
  • Lighting
  • Pricing and availability
  • Capacity limits
  • Access to amenities (power, restrooms, etc…)
  • Parking
  • Safety
  • Contact information

It’s All About Timing

Locations can change and it’s wise to go check out the scene or scout for new scenes at the planned time of the photo or video shoot. This will help you plan accordingly and keep you from encountering any unpleasant surprises.

The time of day, week, year or season will dictate how many obstacles you will encounter and need to be prepared for. For example, if you have chosen to shoot at an historic landmark, you will want to visit at a time when there will not be a lot of traffic or tourists.

Timing and weather go hand-in-hand, so make sure to check the forecast. Snow, rain, sun, and wind can help or hurt your planned shoot. So, it’s critical to check the forecast as you’re scouting.

Look at the Light

Always, always, always pay attention to the available lighting. Interior shoots will almost always have limited levels of available light so make sure you have the necessary lighting equipment to help out. If you’re using larger light kits, make sure you have space and access to power outlets.

If your scene is outside, it’s important to take note of the time and the direction of the sun. Are you standing in a location that provides full sun, partial sun, or full shade? This is very important to know because bright light can be harsh on people’s skin and light-colored surfaces can be blown out.

Make sure to take a few test shots so that you can go home and preview how it will look.

Always Take Notes

Over time, scenes can lose their magic and most people don’t want to continuously use the same predictable backdrop. New scenes and inspiration can be found almost anywhere. Fortunately, we do live in a digital age where there are a few general solutions that help us find locations like Google Maps, but most current solutions don’t come close to providing the detailed information a photographer will need.

Most of us have the best possible scouting tool available on us at all times, and that is your handy dandy smartphone, which almost has everything you would need to start scouting and logging locations today.