The Secret of Awesome Location Scouting

Location scouting is chock full of hidden opportunities!

If you’re an “on-location” photographer (i.e. you don’t shoot in a studio) you’ll come to find that you spend a LOT of time location scouting. The location can often make or break an image, so finding a great one for your clients is a big deal.

But location scouting can get a bit tiresome, even boring at times. You just need one small shift in mindset, and suddenly it becomes way more awesome…

Upload from August 29, 2011

Turn scouting into a photowalk!

A photowalk is simply walking around, taking photos. Aren’t we photographers so creative when it comes to naming things???

Anyways, location scouting is a perfect opportunity to whip out that camera, and take some shots. Best of all, it’s going to make your location scouting, and your photography, stronger!

Here’s how.

Scout Better

When you’re activitely shooting during your location scouting, you’ll force yourself to slow down, walk it out, and pay attention to the details. You’ll end up finding more opportunities, and know the area better because you’ve taken the time to shoot it already. This will translate into better photos of your clients, since you’ll be more confident with your location!

Get Better Compositions

Even when you’re taking portraits, you need a strong background composition to create an engaging image. If you can practice those compositions without the subjects, it will be super easy to just pop them in when you’re actually shooting!

Learning composition requires a lot of simple practice. Get out there with your camera, and find a way to create an interesting image out of apparent chaos.

So shooting the spots during your photowalk, and finding the great compositions at that time, will make it extra easy and awesome when it’s time to throw in your subject!

Know The Light Better

A great location starts with great light. Often when you’re scouting you might only guess that the light will be nice, but aren’t totally sure. Or you might just forget to consider it all together.

If you’re forcing yourself to actually take photos during your scouting, you’ll have a far better understanding of how the light will actually look on camera.

A key here is to try to scout at the same time you’ll be shooting. Light is so variable throughout the day, you’ll want to give yourself the best idea of what it will really be like during the shoot.

Bonus points here if you’re scouting with someone, and have them stand in for you. Then you’ll really know how the light looks on a person!!

But wait! There’s more!!

Yes, there are even more benefits from shooting during your location scouting.

Create A Library

When you actually shoot all the locations you’re scouting, you’ll create a pretty awesome library for yourself! You can reference it when you’re trying to come up with a spot to shoot a new session. Just scroll through all your location scouting images, and you’re sure to find something that works!

If you don’t shoot, you’ll probably end up forgetting a TON of the spots you’ve found. So shooting during your scouting is going to end up saving you time as well!

Take Cool Photos

It’s almost an afterthought at this point, but you’ll actually be taking some really cool photos in the meantime! Even if you never end up using that spot, you’ll have some great images to enjoy. Always a bonus.


A photographer can never have enough practice. No question.

So taking the time to shoot during your scouting is going to help you improve your skills as a photographer! You’ll get great practice with composition, as you try to organize the details. You’ll also have great practice seeing light, and finding the good stuff.

And last but definitely not least…

More Fun!

Yep, shooting during your location scouting makes it WAY more fun. Location scouting can get a bit tedious after a while. If you make it into a photo walk as well, you’ll get a lot more personal enjoyment out of the experience!!

So next time you’re out location scouting, bring a camera along. It doesn’t necessarily need to be your main camera, anything will do. We took these with the Sony NEX-3, but an iPhone would also work! Anything to just get you taking photos.

Because, as you’ve seen, there are a TON of ways that simply taking photos while you’re location scouting makes the experience precisely 100X more awesome!!

Do you have any more tips to make location scouting more awesome? Share them in the comments now!

Lauren Lim

Hey friend, I’m Lauren! I’m a photography ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I’m downright obsessed with photography, and love sharing it with super cool folks like yourself. When I’m not shooting, or writing, you can find me cooking (and eating!), traveling, and hanging out with wonderful people.

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14 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. Great article, guys! I really like the idea of making a library of location scouting photos for reference. Thanks a bunch! :)

  2. I think a GPS would be uber useful for this purpose. Or a smartphone with it built in. You remember roughly where that cool background was, but not quite? And now that road you took before is closed for construction and how do you get to that place now?
    You could probably create your own google map instead if you didn't have a GPS, a lot more tedious though and not instantly accessible.

  3. how do you pick your locations? Do your clients have suggestions most of the times or do you make a recommendation?

  4. *@Allison:* Thanks for the comment! So glad you enjoyed it!

    *@Evan:* Great suggestion! That would be really handy. Will think on that and how we could implement it!

    *@Joshua:* Occasionally our clients have suggestions, but usually they let us know the general vibe (natural or urban) and then we go find a spot that works for the number of people, time of day, and type of session!

    If they have a specific location then we go and check and see if it will work. Sometimes it doesn't have the right light for the time of day of the shoot!

  5. Hey Lauren,

    Love the article and like your writing style such an easy read! I was enjoying reading this article and I love the idea of taking pictures of locations and creating library. I mean such a simple thing and useful! I usually use google maps to check out for some green spots like parks and then go through the pictures on the map to see if it looks nice. I would say it is quite hard to probably find urban areas through google maps but if you ever use public transport i.e. trains that go above streets or double decker bus that is easy to spot some suitable spots. it might be a bit tricky to take good pics through bus window but you can always get off and give it a thorough look around.

  6. Thanks so much for the comment Sondra! So glad you enjoyed the article!

    We use Google maps as well, it's so helpful! I really like your suggestion of taking public transport—nice to not have to worry about driving so you can just focus on the spots! Thanks for the idea!!

  7. As a professional location scout, having the photographer / assistant and client look at the location personally is a prerequisite for just about any job of any significance. Photos we scouts supply help, but a personal tour allows crew to see where power outlets exist, paths of travel for load in / out and during-shoot logistics, staging of wardrobe, h/m, catering. There are just lots of reasons to be there.

  8. Thanks so much for the comment!! It's awesome to hear the perspective of a professional location scout! We don't usually have to scout with wardrobe and catering in mind, I imagine that is quite the task! Very cool to hear about! Thanks again for sharing!

  9. I just found you guys today via your Dane Sanders interview, and the information you joyfully share is fantastic, thank you from the bottom of my heart!!! Just wanted to mention that Lightroom 4 has JUST been released, and it has a map feature built in. Here's a link to a little video about it:

  10. I loved this! I actually take my iPhone out and open up Maps and "pin" my location using whatever current location I am at. It's been pretty helpful.

    I do have one question: what about permission/permits? I haven't come across this problem yet, but should we always ask for permits and such at, say, a park?

  11. Hey Nana!

    I think there have only been a few times we needed to get permits in advance (shooting in museums for example). Parks and other public places we've never needed permits for portrait shoots. I think permits become more of an issue when shooting commercial work that could be disruptive.

    We have been asked to leave a property a couple times (a parking garage and the grounds of a higher security university research building). Both times we didn't know we couldn't shoot there and after apologizing to the security guards they were even nice enough to let us finish the shoots!

  12. I have just done a write up on location scouting as I am a location fashion and music photographer and do it regularly. Shooting in the Field:

  13. great post, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite experts of this sector do not understand this.
    You must continue your writing. I am sure, you have a huge readers’ base already!

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