Location Scouting

I would like to share with you how I develop my photo session concept and choose locations for my shoots.

Exploring and “hunting” for interesting locations is an important part of developing photo shoot concepts. Choosing location depends on many factors, the most important being the purpose of the photo shoot. For example, if it is for a vendor’s portrait, location will most likely be connected with their business. I would start thinking how the shoot can stand out among other professionals in their sphere. If it is a patisserie chef, I would start thinking of getting all the yummy ingredients and shoot the process of preparing his famous sweets. If it is a local farmer who produces amazing peach jams, I would probably go to his peach trees field and shoot the process of him picking up the peaches, which will end up in his jam. So many ideas start appearing in my mind and I need to think them all carefully, so that I can choose the most suitable option for the client.

If it is a young model and she is making her first steps in the modeling industry, I would try to shoot her as naturally as possible, in order to highlight her natural beauty. Sometimes photo shoot concept will come straight in my mind just by seeing the person and imagining her in a certain environment and styling. When the location idea does not appear so easily, I need to brainstorm, start thinking of locations I passed by recently, saw in the magazine etc. You should not get excited from a location, unless you have actually seen it with your own eyes. It is better to check the location in advance, so that you can avoid confusion, when you arrive there with your customers – better be well prepared than sorry.

It can happen that I come up with the perfect concept of the shoot, but I don’t know where I can find this idyllic location. In some cases Google Maps might be helpful, as it happened in my photo shoot with talented jeweler Lena Grebenshchikova. Even though it was already winter and everyday was getting colder and shorter, I understood that I imagine our photo shoot only by the wild Northern beach. Ideally, I wanted it to be close to Amsterdam, but at the same time, not to be crowded, which is not difficult during winter. After surfing on Google maps through the Netherlands coast line, I thought that I found a perfect place. Small city, easy connection by train that stops close to the beach, and according to Google maps, if we would follow the left side of the shore it would be pretty empty and wild. The location was agreed. The next part was to think of styling. Both Lena and I agreed that we like cozy warm sweaters, big waves, wild wind in the face and her stunning jewelry.

Choosing location according to Google maps is risky, because you might be disappointed when you arrive to the location. The area, light and atmosphere might all be totally different than you have imagined. I did not have a lot of time to double check the location of Lena’s photo shoot, as it was getting colder every day and weather prognosis was showing us, that if we are not going to hurry up, the week after it would be raining non-stop. When we arrived at the beach, I was happy to realize that my expectations were totally met. The beach looked just as I imagined. The weather was perfect for the shoot, and we had enough time to shoot during the daylight, as we arrived quite early. Just to mention, you always need to think of the timing of the shoot. Most common advice you will hear is that best timing is either early morning or evening for the soft light. I do agree on it, but only for certain seasons. You also need to take into consideration the time of the year and length of the day. For example, if it is summer time and you arrive at this sort of location at 12:00am the sun would be way too strong, shining on the top of the model’s head, creating ugly shadows (black eyes and big nose) and generally photos would look boring. Arriving during winter at 12:00am is the perfect timing, as the angle of the sun during winter is not that strong, plus most likely it will be cloudy during the Dutch winter.

With Lena we were shooting in the dunes, by the sea shore, in the water running away from the waves. We found an amazing beach bar, all the chairs and tables were covered from a thick layer of sand that was brought with the wind.. Just perfect! We shot everything that we wanted and when we finished… It started raining – you can never be sure with the weather, sometimes it’s pure luck!