How to Scout a Location for a Photo Shoot

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  By Jonathan Ma
How to Scout a Location for a Photo Shoot

The importance of location scouting should not be underestimated because it plays an important role in preparing for a photo shoot. Photographers have a limited amount of time when they are on location with their subjects, which means that they should be as familiar with the location as possible. Location scouting should be done in person, if at all possible. Doing so helps the photographer to have a better idea of the geography and backgrounds they can use for their portraits. Proper location scouting also involves getting an idea of the lighting. This is especially important for indoor locations because the lighting will be nearly identical on the day of the photo shoot. For outdoor locations, scouting at a similar time to the future photo shoot would be ideal in order to get the best approximation of what areas would be sunny or shaded. In this article, we will discuss the best way to scout a location for a photo shoot.

Scouting for Light

It can be argued that lighting is the single most important element in photography. For this reason, lighting should be the main focus when a photographer goes to a location to check it out. The best lighting for portraits at indoor locations is usually through window lighting. Window lighting provides a soft, diffused light that can create beautiful portraits. We can see this in the example above of a bride and groom next to the window. The soft light on the bride’s dress amplifies its elegance and beauty. Also, when scouting indoor locations it is important to note where the light sources are and how bright the lights are. Most of the time you’ll want to have your subjects facing the light during the photo shoot. Another thing to note is the color of the light sources. For this reason, I recommend bringing a gray card when you scout the location. Taking a photo of the gray card next to each light source of a different color will help you determine the color of each light source. Then you can decide which color is more flattering for portraits and set up your photos accordingly during the photo shoot.

Scouting for the Best Angle

As you walk around the location chosen for the photo shoot, look for the best angles to take your shots. Bringing your camera and taking a few test shots is a great way to get a clear picture of which angles will work and which angles won’t work. Either make a mental note or a physical note in order to remember that spot on the day of the photo shoot. Remember that the time spent scouting is your chance to experiment and try new things. So don’t be afraid to get up high or down low to get a unique angle on a scene. It may work or it may not work, but what’s important is that you’ll know for sure which shots you want to take during the actual photo shoot.

If you are shooting an event such as a wedding, it would be good to consult with the event planner in order to find out where things will take place. Where will the dinner be at? Who will be on the stage and when? What type of performances will be happening? Is there space in the front of the auditorium for the photographer to take pictures from? Even better, invite the event planner to meet you at the location so that they can show you firsthand how the event will be organized and where everything will be located. Scouting the location with the event planner provides you with the chance to ask any questions you may have and clear up any concerns.

Scout for Backdrops

When scouting a location for portraits, one of the main goals is to find a clean and suitable backdrop for your subject. Look for areas that aren’t very crowded. In urban locations, walls with designs, murals, or graffiti can be great options for backdrops. For portraits in nature or parks, look for stairs, bridges, or benches. The general ideas are to look for places that the subject can sit on or lean on. This creates a more natural-looking portrait.

Happy shooting!

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Jonathan Ma

Jonathan Ma is a freelance writer and professional photographer. He grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest of the United States. The natural beauty that surrounds this area has helped him to learn to appreciate art and photography. Jonathan's favorite styles of photography are nature and sports photography. He enjoys learning and teaching others what he knows.

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