good photography locations

How to Choose a Location That’s Right for Your Photography

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Making a Location…Just Right

Today we're looking at how to select good photography locations. Why? Because there are several considerations (believe it or not) involved when selecting the right one for your next shoot.

Let's face it, you’ll need a location for probably 80% of your photo shoots, except if you are strictly a studio photographer of course.

good photography locations

Image by Anja

However, locations oftentimes pose a bigger problem than one can anticipate. For every project I’ve done, I’ve spent days and days scouting for a location, sometimes only to find something that looks great but is unusable or vice versa – frustrating!

The bigger problem is trying to judge the location before you head out to use it and it turns out that you haven’t anticipated something. That can cost you precious time and money. Let's look some more detail into the critical factors here.

Visual Appearance

Of course, visual appearance is something that should be the first point in the checklist when it comes to locations.

Make sure that you scout the location properly and from various different angles – there's not often only one way to view a shooting angle. The beauty of one location isn’t always seen from first glance either (keep this in mind).

Do some exploring inside and out, and then judge.

Image by strikers

Additionally, when you explore multiple locations, it is wise to snap a few geotagged photos with your smartphone from each one and keep them. They will definitely come handy for some next shoots if you don’t use them now.

Light conditions

Secondly, you’ve found the perfect location, so where can you setup your scene?

Have you noticed the light and the way it will change with the time of the day? Where does the sun fall, where does it create shadows?

All important factors to consider…

Photo by Zach Dischner

Make sure too, that you take note of every location about the light. I can't stress how important this is. You can use applications like The Photographer’s Ephemeris to calculate where the sun will be, at what angle, at a given point in time.

When you have that information at hand, it is so much easier to plan almost everything, from scene to light, to a combination of natural and artificial light. The more you know the more you can use the scene to it's fullest potential!

Permits

Locations like beaches, national parks, and most of the property require special permits for you to be shooting there with photography equipment.

I know you’ll say that it is not possible to shoot without equipment, but oftentimes you won’t need permits if you keep your set small, say just a model and a camera, without any external flashes with big softboxes.

However, if you bring out the “big guns” you’ll most likely need a type of permit from somebody. Make sure you have everything in order in the field because you don’t want the police or local security removing you or worse, arresting you.

Image by Andreas Breitling

Image by Andreas Breitling

Access

Bear in mind you’ll need to actually get there with equipment, models and so forth. If it's remote and requires 3 hours of hiking to get there, it is probably a location that won’t work (even if it's the most stunning backdrop you've encountered).

You need a location that can be accessed by everybody with all the equipment that you’ll need to use, easily.

Photo by Luke Detwiler

Safety

As usually, safety should be the priority (make sure you have the appropriate employer's liability insurance too).

Locations often can be dangerous without you even knowing it. If you're shooting at old factories, they can contain sharp rusty metal, plus lots of things that can fall down and hit somebody and so forth. They're often fairly hazardous, so just be extra careful!

Rural areas, on the other hand, can be filled with dangerous animals and plants. So be vigilant and always consult or bring somebody that knows the area well to be on the safe side.

If you are shooting for longer periods of time in the sun, make sure you can provide proper shade for rest and lots and lots of water – this can be easily overlooked. Sun can lead to heat stroke quite fast if you aren’t careful.

Remember too, this applies to everybody out there with you – not just the models.

Frequency of People

This applies to locations in urban areas where people frequently walk by.

You need to be aware of the people passing by at all times – this is really important for your models, as random people walking by or observing can make them feel uncomfortable (especially if they're new to the job).

Moreover, the frequency of people increases the risk of light stands, tripods and so forth being turned over, resulting in gear damage. Additionally, it increases the risk of theft too.

It's wise therefore in situations like this to bring somebody over that will keep an eye on things during the shoot, sort of to act the role of security.

Photo by Thomas8047

Summary

Picking a proper location can be the crucial part of the workflow for one particular photo shoot.

You need to be careful about every aspect when picking the right location for your next job. Make sure you have everything in order and under control to avoid inconveniences which can ruin a shoot, and possibly the relationship you have with the model or the agency that provided the model.

Bottom line, be thorough, triple check every angle before scheduling a shoot somewhere.




How to Consider Good Photography Locations – Top Takeaways

  • When scouting a location, we're talking about doing through research – golden and blue hours, angles, wind/weather and accessibility.
  • Remember that if you are shooting in certain locations, to consider any documentation you may need from local authorities in order to use that spot commercially – especially if you have a large amount of conspicuous equipment!
  • Keep in mind the safety of both your models and the public. We're talking gear, how accessible the location is and how busy it is with passing foot traffic.

Further Resources

Further Learning

Taking your Portrait Photography up a level to where you’re currently only dreaming it should be is only one course away.
Introducing:The Art Of Portrait Photography“. Here you can learn the essentials of how to create a stunning portrait and understand all the background knowledge there is to getting it right.
If you’ve been scared off before, you don’t need to be now.

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Profile photo of Dzvonko Petrovski
Photographer who loves challenging and experimental photography and is not afraid to share the knowledge about it.

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