On Location Preparation

On-location preparation is critical to achieve positive location outcomes. With that said, there are many important considerations for on-location shooting. From the perspective of the photographer, planning is essential. It’s so important that there’s usually a strong correlation between preparation and a successful shoot. When possible scouting is preferred, but it’s not always practical to visit a location first; especially when it’s halfway around the world. Under those circumstances, thorough research becomes paramount. My typical research might include such things as:

  • Online media search to see how the location has been photographed previously.
    There’s a lot I learn from this such as the quality of light for the particular time of the year the photographer took the image. I also study the overall aesthetic of the image; is it visually compelling enough to consider choosing that location? And of course, online research serves as a scouting substitute for actually being there.
  • Researching weather and other meteorological conditions.
    I have online resources and mobile apps I use to not only determine the weather patterns for a particular place and time, but also the actual time of sunrise/sunset, the angle of the sun, where it will rise and set on the horizon, and how many hours of daylight I can expect available for shooting.
  • Using maps to calculate travel distance and time between multiple shoot locations.
    Factors I consider are local speed limits, vehicle congestion, road conditions, and alternative routes.
  • And of course good ole fashion books.
    The Lonely Planet series is among my favorites and provides a reasonable starting point. However, I always take their advice and recommendations with a grain of salt because their objective as a traveler is sometimes in conflict with my objective of a commercial photographic shoot.
  • Contacting colleagues for their advice.
    One of the best sources at my disposal is tapping into the wisdom and experience of those who have gone there before me. And unlike books, fellow photographers have information that is very germane to my interests.
  • And finally drawing on my 30-plus years of experience.
    It’s said that experience is the best teacher and it’s certainly true for location shooting. The more I travel the greater I understand the process, and the more productive I become.

Well, that’s some of the things that fall into my responsibility, but there are also things the model needs to understand in advance of the shoot.

  • Expect the unexpected.
    The simple process of shooting outdoors makes it impossible to control lighting in the same manner as studio shooting. This may seem obvious but the rapidly changing nature of outdoor lighting mandates flexibility.
  • Manage expectations.
    Because there are always certain things beyond our control, such as changing weather, it’s important to understand how conditions on the ground can alter the outcome.
  • Be flexible.
    Last-minute location changes, shoot times, and wardrobe adjustments are common occurrences in the field. I plan for this by always having alternate places and times in mind, but the model needs to remain flexible with those decisions as well.
  • Prepare for the elements.
    Occasionally the elements may be so adverse that the model should practice her posing before venturing outside. This was particularly important for a nude shoot I executed one winter in Michigan where the wind chill was just 5 degrees at shoot time. However, her advanced preparation allowed us to get through 6 poses and nearly 50 images in just 2 minutes and 43 seconds (as evidenced by the time record of my digital images).

With the photographer and model working hand in hand, the likelihood of success rises sharply. Patience, preparation, and persistence are essential in every endeavor, especially while away from the studio. Hopefully, this post provides some insight into the planning involved in shooting on location.

on location preparation

“I have to say he’s fantastic– an excellent photographer girls!! I’ve shot with a few “dudes with cameras”! Doug is good for the industry!”

Felicity Harte