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Back in part 1 of my location-scouting guide for photographers, I covered the basics of what location scouting is, when and why all photographers should do it, and what to look for in a photoshoot location! In part 2 of the series, I’ll walk you through:
How to scout for locations
How to share location information with your clients
My San Francisco Color Guide for all of you Bay Area residents (and visitors, of course)!
So, whether you landed here by accident or you found this blog intentionally, welcome to your Complete Guide to Location Scouting for Photographers, Part 2!
Personally, I always want to make sure my clients will like (or love) the backdrop or setting of any given location. It’s important to me that the locations I find fit their branding, or the overall feeling they want to achieve in their photos.
Before I location scout, I take some time to consider the general feeling that my client wants for their shoot, as well as the type of backdrop they might prefer (beachy, woodsy/nature, garden/floral, city/urban, colorful/fun, etc!). I simply ask them! Then, I dive into what I believe is arguably one of the most exciting parts of being a photographer: location scouting!
My tip for you: plan ahead! I typically keep a list of locations I found online that I carry with me, so that I can go in person and get a feel for the location and lighting. Like I mentioned in part 1 of the series, I also make sure to stop by the location close to the date and time of the photoshoot, so as to get the most accurate feel for lighting and setting!
If it’s been a while since you’ve visited a specific location and your client wants to have a photoshoot there, make it a point to still stop by. People and cities have a habit of repainting walls, starting construction projects and switching up landscaping. The last thing you want is for a location to look completely different than you expect!
As an example, there used to be a pink wall in Rockridge (Oakland) that I loved to use for shoots. One day I drove by and the shop with the pink wall had moved out, and the new owners painted the wall beige! So sad, for so many reasons 😆
Because you’re scouting for photography locations, it’s always a good idea to bring your camera and take photos of cute corners and backdrops that you think will work well. Once you’re home, you can upload and edit your favorite backdrops before saving the edited versions to a folder with the name of the location. You’ll be able to easily reference that specific location any time you want!
Keep a running Google spreadsheet of places you’ve visited that would work well for photos.
Organize your spreadsheet by type of place (i.e., garden, urban, etc.), or area (East Bay, SF, South Bay), or both if you’re super list happy and overly-organized like I am! 🙂
Take that list and use it to create a location guide to share with your clients! You can include photos of your locations, as well as highlights of each backdrop and area, and descriptions of the settings. (If you need some help building out your own location guide, I’ve got you covered. My San Francisco Bay Area Location Guides contain curated collections of my favorite tried and true photography locations and backdrops in the Bay Area (divided up by region), plus exact addresses, highlights of each location, sample photos from my own sessions, ideas on what to wear, and insider tips! Shop the guides here!)
Carve out time to go location scouting and exploring periodically! You can take a friend or fellow photographer and go and search for hidden gems that are off the beaten path. It’ll inspire your creativity, and make it that much easier when your clients ask for location suggestions in the future!
Don’t know where to start? Try searching the city or area you plan on visiting, and click on Google Image search to see what comes up. Google Maps is another great way to find universities, gardens, parks and more dense urban areas, too. → I usually zoom in a bit and explore the map to see if anything interesting stands out, prior to switching to satellite or street view to get a closer look!
Use the Sun Seeker or Lumos apps to see real time data about where the sun would be at different times of the day. The Lumos app will even let you plug in a future date to see where the sun will be at that day and time. This is super helpful if you can’t go location scouting at the same time of day as your photoshoot! While on location, use the 3D view on either app and hold your phone up to the sky. As you move your phone around the sky, it will show you the arc of where the sun was/is/will be at different times of the day – it’s a total game changer!
In my experience, I’ve found that clients need a little bit of help when it comes to locations. Even when they know what they like, they don’t necessarily know what works well for photography. My clients have enjoyed seeing sample backdrop options at different locations, or taking a look at a previous photoshoot from the same location. It helps them to visualize the space better, and see which backdrops they really enjoy in photos!
Once my clients have picked out their favorites (after I send my Location Guide with different locations and sample photos from each one), I make a note so that we can visit those spots on our photoshoot. This is such a small and simple way to go the extra mile in your photography and location-scouting process!
As I mentioned earlier in this blog, I personally use a Location Guide that includes all of my favorite local spots, and I share that guide with all of my clients who don’t already have a photoshoot location in mind. This guides them (pun intended!) through the backdrop-choosing process, while also giving them real-life examples of photos taken at each specific location. Clients typically select a spot from the Location Guide, which is great since I already know those locations well and know that they work for photo sessions!
Here’s a guide to my favorite colorful spots in San Francisco!
I’ve gone ahead and done the hard work (and driving) for you! If you’re a Bay Area local OR visitor, I’ve put together a free guide with 5 of my favorite colorful backdrops and locations in the San Francisco for your next photoshoot! Click here for your free copy!
If this stuff is your jam, make sure to join my VIP list to get more tips + tricks, special discounts for future releases/launches, and all things color delivered to your inbox!