How to Find Great Outdoor Locations for Model Shoots | Light Stalking

How to Find Great Outdoor Locations for Model Shoots

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Working with models brings a whole other level of mindset to shooting and we've already covered how to build a rapport with a model so this article will be about finding locations to shoot at.
Studio shoots are great, but sometimes a client will require you to go outside and for many shooters, that also means outside the comfort of controlled light and controllable circumstances.

Day 1, Driving to unload the equipment

Photo By andyburnfield

The days of driving around endlessly, or riding a bicycle aren't over, but they are getting close to it.  Nothing really beats scouting locations on your own, but it's time consuming.  If you're going on walks, drives or bicycle rides I strongly suggest taking a smart phone with you that you can utilize the GPS function of to drop pins and take notes when you pass interesting areas.  Nothing worse than seeing a great location and forgetting where it was.
A few years ago I would have advised you to take a notebook with you, but these days I live on my iPhone and with GPS tagging built right into the camera application, it makes a more than perfect way for me to take a quick snapshot and have the location saved.  Shooting the locations with an iPhone or even a small portable point and shoot will help you frame things out too, and determine if you need wide or long lenses for the shoot.

Family Cycle Train

Photo By Amsterdamize

So where are the secret spots and how do you find them?
There's a way to research for them in unorthodox manner, one you probably have seen but perhaps didn't think to apply it to finding locations to shoot.  Everyone's favorite photo sharing sight, Flickr, has an amazing Geotagging map setup within it.  Enter the city you want to shoot in and start searching what others have shot.  It's far easier to tour a city on the Internet from the comfort of an office chair than driving around for hours on end.  You'll accomplish much more this way.
Blogs, message boards and even social media like Twitter and Facebook are great resources too.





Magic! between the trees

Photo By fatboyke (Luc)

Perhaps the most important part about scouting locations for shooting models is that the location should be complimenting the model, not the other way around.
With that in mind, don't look at everything you see at any given spot, look for the smaller details – ones that will actually show up in the photographs.  You might go right past a baseball field because it doesn't fit in your shoot theme, as a whole piece.  Almost all baseball fields have chain link fence around them though, a great texture when shot on an angle for a model to pose in front of.

Mastrixx Mixxes: 3 of 15

Photo By Jef Harris

What About the Probable Lighting?
One of the other things I look for in outdoor locations is shade, some sort of cover.  Working in direct light is very difficult, so any overhang that's man-made or naturally occurring will appeal to me, because it will soften and help me manipulate the light for the shoot.
Additionally, different objects will change appearance based on the time of day.  A gray cement wall in a parking garage looks washed out and almost white when the sun is directly beating on it, but at dusk it will bring on a blue-ish tone from the setting sun.
If you're at a location, take note to the time and ask yourself if that's when you'll be shooting.  If not, you may need to revisit the location at different times in the day to see where the sun may fall.

Admiral Twin Drive In Theater, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Photo By Cali2Okie (April)

Other not so obvious considerations to shooting on location with models is the creature comforts.  How are you getting to the shoot location?  Is it a 5 minute walk on a dirt path to a babbling creek or is it an hour hike half way up a mountain.  How your model is safely getting to that location is a concern.
Consider the Gear You Will Need
Don't forget you'll need to bring your gear with you, which may include heavy batteries for power packs, or if it's a larger scale location shoot, a small generator.  The hair and makeup can usually be done ahead of time, but touch-ups will need to be done on location for sure, so that's another two people who need to get to location safely, with their gear.
Utilizing a photographer's assistant (PA) to help carry tripods, softboxes, reflectors and gear is almost essential.  The other major concern if you're doing more than one look is where the model will change, and how far is a bathroom.  Bringing water, food that travels well, like granola bars and apples is also highly suggested.
Not all shoots are major productions and for most, it will just involve you and the model, a camera bag with your essential gear and maybe a light stand for some off camera flash.  The principals for the larger shoots can still be applied here too.

Khát nắng, khát gió, khát anh....

Photo By hajul_b_oxi

Locations are meant to be your backdrop, looking at them in that aspect while driving past isn't an easy thing to do, but with time you can start to see shapes, textures and patterns of how you could utilize them in future shoots with models.  Next time you are out and about, ask yourself if you could picture doing a model shoot there, how would the model look in front of, around, above or surround by the environment you're in.  It's good practice that will pay off for you.
Don't Forget About the Law
Disclaimer time.  Don't trespass.  Just because a sign isn't posted doesn't mean you have any right being there.  In all possible situations contact the owner of the land, building or location you plan on shooting at.  Most public parks also have specific photography laws, rules or guidelines to them, make sure you brush up on them.  In some cases you may need to apply for and pay a nominal fee to shoot, including New York City and Washington D.C.  Take the time to do due diligence before going out on location.

About the author

    Mike Panic

    is a professional photographer. See his site at Mike Panic Photography.

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