Lets talk about something a little bit fun, scouting locations if often over looked by some photographers, which is sad as it is a vital skill set that a photographer needs, and this is not limited to landscapes, but portrait photography as well.
Scouting locations helps you see what you have to work with such as light , safety as well as the general details in the area.
some things that you need to take note of when you do go out to look for locations should be:
1 – Scouting at the right time of day, this gives you a good idea of how the natural light will impact your location.
2 – take some photos of the location, helps you get an idea of what you have to work with
3 – evaluate the area, meaning check things like safety , cellphone reception , available power and such, make a good evaluation of the area insuring it covers everything you need
4 – use google maps to drop pins with notes so that you know which area is where, would suck not being able to find a great place when you need it
5 – check the pricing and availability, some locations need money to gain access to them if this is the case you need to know how much it would cost so you can adjust your price accordingly, as well it helps knowing when you are allowed into a location and the restrictions around the location itself
6 – parking and dressing rooms, you need a place for models to get ready or you need to know if they should arrive ready, parking is essential as you do not want to stop in the middle of no where and leave your car standing while you hike 5 km away, a location should have proper and easy to access parking, or at least safe parking
7 – light o mother of light, always check the light of a location , some light conditions such a reflective light could make or brake anything that you have in mind, knowing how the light works at different times of day would safe you so much time when planing a shoot to a scouted location
8 – talk with some locals if you can find them, they know the in and outs of locations and some times this can be extremely handy for knowing if a location has gang activity or things as such, a location might only look as good as it does at that time, locals knowledge is a good source to tap into
9 – examine the elements, such as sun , rain snow , wind and other elements these will directly impact the location you are scouting, knowing if the location has extreme wind all the time or things like that help you plan which time of day or even which time of year would have the correct conditions for shooting at the location
10 – decide where to setup your gear and which angle is your primary focus, having a good location is key but also having a good angle in mind saves so much time, once you have the shot you want sure anything else goes, but stick to what you have in mind
11 – revisit the location, this is impotent as you might never know that a location is even still around after a few weeks, with construction and other elements some locations might be great now but be gone in a weeks time
12 – keep notes, keep as many notes as possible on a location, everything from the above in notes would make it much easier to know what goes on at a location and makes it much easier to explain to clients and models that you have this location that looks like this that has these things going for it at these times of the year
13 – do not spend to much time at a location that clearly does not offer you anything that you or a client might be looking for, this is impotent as spending a day trip out to a location that has nothing to offer but looks kind of good on photos might be a good way to waist a entire trip for basically nothing, know when to give up on a location
Example of a location scout
here let me show you an example of a area that I scouted out a week or so ago.
I found this location by accident while having a little road trip, at first I drove past and did not think much of the location itself, though on my drive back I decided to stop and have a look at the location, I was greeted with the following sight .
Now when you look at this photo you will notice that both side have some interesting light going for one I am looking more at the right hand side compared to the left hand side, the light on the right hand just looks to blend a bit better with the graffiti, not only that but if I had to bring a model out she would fit in much better compared to the blue and green left hand side.
Though lets have a look closer first at the left hand side and see what we have to work with for that part of the location.
Well not very surprised at the light has this blue and green glow, which will make skin look a bit crap when I bring a model out, though it has some interesting characteristics, for one the right hand side graffiti has a nice look to it, maybe a male model would fit in here a bit better compared to a female model.
this side is nice and clean as well, surprising for a half abandoned bus stop place as they are normally extremely filthy, the left hand side though, personally I do not think it will work very well for a shoot with a model it lacks punch.
Well lets have a look at the other bus stop thing and see what we could work with on that side .
Looks good, it does however have a much more red glow to it, the time of day also means that the shadow from the left hand side helps keep the bounce light from below in check.
For this side the colors are much more prominent as the graffiti stands out much better compared to the blue, this side is also nice and clean.Plus I am noticing that on this side both the right hand and left hand side of the frame could be used without to much of a color balance problem though the right hand side does have some writing on it sadly which would need to be photo shopped out.
Though over all this side works better for what I have in mind, I also played around with some angles to see which one would work best for placing a model, decided on this angle.
This angle for me I think would work great at a different time of day though as well perhaps when its cloudy since the highlight at the top left hand side of the frame could create some distraction from the main subject.
As well looking from this angle hides the right hand side and gives it a tiny bit of depth, might need to change the angle slightly more though for a first scout to this location think I have a good idea for what I need to bring with as well what angle I will have to play with to get a good look going.
As far as the location itself goes, parking is nice and close which is a plus point means I would always be close to my car and gear, Location has free access also a plus point, light is kind of ok in mid day though will return at sun down and sun rise to check the light again, as far as elements go light winds when I was scouting though nothing to dramatic.
negatives though are no dressing rooms or toilets which means models will have to come dressed as well, the negatives can be worked around though so they are not that huge of a problem
safety for the location is relatively good as well it is at the entrance to a town with a gated community not that far off which do have guards as well the police seem to petrol the area every so often
I dropped a pin for the location on my phone and will be adding it to my locations list, think this location could be good for a model shoot maybe a shoot for a model looking to expand there portfolio with a more urban style or something, not 100% sure though will find a use for it.
The most impotent thing though is that I managed to find the location now that I have it I can start working on what to do with the location, scouting a location does not mean a photo shoot or anything would ever take place, though its good knowing what you have available when clients need something, or just for personal work.
Remember scouting a location is impotent, it helps you build up a inventory of locations that you have available to suite what clients need, though most impotently it saves you time, saves your clients time and helps insure you do not waist the time of a model.
The location in my example I will most likely not have a use for any time soon though I might plan to use it as a training location for my students, as it provides a good balance between colors as well elements .
Though always remember when you do go out scouting keep safe , keep to public roads, and for the love of all that is holy do not leave your car standing in the middle of a open field or something like that, commonsense goes a long way.
if you have any questions or thoughts leave them below.
have a good one.