After receiving semi regular questions from photographers about how to find great locations for shoots and weddings, I thought what better than to dedicate a blog post to the topic. Having photographed over 200 portrait sessions, I get it. I really get it. Needing to find beautiful, unique, inspiring (not to mention…free) locations time and time again can be stressful. I’ve put together three tips that will hopefully help ease this stress.
1. Create Your Location Listing.
The location listing is an easy way to keep track of all the great spots you have photographed before that you would like to return to, as well as spots you want to try for future shoots. It’s beyond simple. All I did is create a new note in my phone and enter the locations. When I’m out and about in the car, I can immediately take a second to pop it in my note when I see a new location that I want to remember.
Note: it can also be helpful to include if there is a site fee for any given location.
2. Get Out There and SCOUT!
To find great spots to shoot, you have to be willing to put in some work scouting. Back in the day when our business was beginning and we didn’t know what existed in our area, we spent a lot of free afternoon weekends in the car driving to new, unexplored areas in and around our city to build our location listing. Yes, it’s time consuming, but we would always make it a fun time with some coffee, music and good conversation.
A great resource to get some ideas going for where to scout is this site called “Shot HotSpot
“, which you can input your city and it will push back with a bunch of potential options.
And remember, elements of any given location can change. That awesome wall of reclaimed wood you found in an obscure neighborhood got tagged with spray paint? Happened. That huge oak tree in the middle of a field was cut down to make room for an upcoming housing development? Happened. Last year’s beautiful golden field has been overtaken by ugly weeds this year? Happened. If at all possible, do a drive-by the location you are planning to shoot if you haven’t seen it in awhile…just to double check if you will need to make other plans.
Note: Try to scout at the time of day that you typically do your shoots. Even the most interesting or prettiest locations might not work if the light is dreadful. In my opinion, light always trumps location.
3. Ask Your Clients.
It is a great idea to ask your clients if they have any ideas related to the feel of their shoot or any specific locations they might have in mind. We send a questionnaire out to our engaged couples prior to the shoot (using WuFoo
) that asks them questions about what they like to do for fun, where they like to hangout, how/where they met and got engaged, as well as what ideas they might have for our time together. If I think we can pull off one of their suggested locations, then that’s a win. If they suggest a place that I know won’t photograph well, has poor light or I know will be overrun with people/other photographers, I will refer to my location listing to suggest alternate options with a similar feel.
Because education without action is a waste, I want you to take action. Right now. Pull out your phone and create yourself a location listing note. Include as many ideas as you can now and then add as you discover new places.
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