Finding the Right Location for a Photoshoot

No, this one isn’t about finding a place for your business, it’s about finding the right shooting location. Studio shots are great for controlling all variables but sometimes nothing beats a real life location. Finding the right location to photography is all about legwork. While new applications are working to get photographers to share their favorite scouted locations, these apps are in their infancy and rarely have much information except in large metropolitan areas. For now, the best way to find a great site for a photo shoot is through word of mouth and actually going to look for yourself.

This article covers finding a location and the variables involved. I’ll be covering how to make a catalog of on site shooting locations in the near future.

Many of us have a few favorite spots for on location shoots but finding a new spot can be challenging.

What kind of location do I need?

Deciding the type of background is a big step. This is mostly artistic direction but you still have to consider more than your personal preferences. Has it been done a million times before? Did the client make a specific request? Can you change the client’s mind?

Do you really need train tracks or would an open field with high grass be better? A brick wall with a little graffiti or a ramshackle factory?

Finding a spot

Now that you have an idea of what type of location you want, you have to see if you can find it. Sometimes a location will pop into mind easily if you are familiar with you area. Other times it may require some work.

Take a day and drive/walk your area. Take test shots of everything that looks like a possible location. File these away for later use to make future location hunts easier.

Try applications like ShootLocal to get ideas from others in your area. The internet is of course a great resource as well. Beyond searching by text for possible locations, try a map application such as Google maps on the satellite setting to narrow down areas. With satellite maps you can easily see areas near you as wooded, ponds, parks, warehouse districts, bridges, train tracks, etc.

Once you have some potential locations it is time to narrow them down.

Ease of Access

How easily can you and your clients access the location? No matter how fabulous the location may be, it isn’t going to work if it requires a bride to climb a rusted ladder to get there or a couple with a new baby to crawl through a barbed wire fence.


Is the location safe for you and your clients? Condemned building interiors may look incredible but they are condemned for a reason. No one wants a photo shoot ruined by someone falling through the floor. That great field that the light hits just right at golden hour loses its appeal if guarded by a two thousand pound bull named “Cranky.”


Is the location big enough/small enough? You may have found a fabulous little stream with the perfect canopy of trees overhead but it won’t work if you need to cram a group of 10 into the scene. Likewise, a great industrial scene may not have enough interesting detail for the space behind just one person. Make sure your location fits with who/what you will be shooting.


Do you have permission to use the location? Other than public spaces, someone owns every square inch of land and buildings. Make sure you have permission to be there from the property owner. Likewise, even some public spaces require permission if you will be photographing there.


When can you use the location? Is it sheltered so it can be used in rain? What about wind? Rooftops can be unusable on windy days as can dirt roads. If your location is likely to be affected by weather you’ll need to have a contingency plan.


When is the light right for your chosen location? Does it work most of the day or can it only be used in the morning or afternoon due to the direction of the light? Is it a location where you can set up additional lighting if the day is cloudy or it is an indoor location?


No matter how fabulous a location might be, if it is an hour from any other shooting location it might not be the best selection. Especially if there is only one type of environment at the out of the way location.


2 thoughts on “Finding the Right Location for a Photoshoot

  1. Pingback: Keeping Track of On-Location Shooting Locations « Photo Liz

  2. Pingback: Staging a Photo Shoot 101 | PMDA

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