Location scouting • Frederick, MD child and family photographer
Have you ever thought about what goes into location scouting? It’s far more than just finding a pretty place for pictures. For instance, did you know if you don’t have proper permission, your photo session can actually be shut down, and in some cases you can be fined? In this post, I will tell you the steps I follow when looking into new locations to make sure it’s smooth sailing when it’s time for your session.
First things first, I make phone calls! Photography permissions are not always clear on websites, so I find it best to call the location in question. We have beautiful parks where we live, some of the most beautiful are our county parks, and I have gotten requests for family sessions at a couple of them. I have seen photo sessions taking place at some of them while I’m there with my children. You would think if you see it happening it’s ok, right? Well, it’s always better to be sure, so I called the county. Sure enough, it is not allowed to do photo sessions in county parks where I live, only city parks. Now that takes off quite a few beautiful locations for me, but I’d rather take you to a place where I know we are allowed to photograph, than go to a park where it’s prohibited and get shutdown during your session. That would not be good for anyone, and it would also be pretty upsetting.
Along the lines of permission, that can vary greatly too. Some parks flat out give permission, while other parks require registration, no props, or fees. The two parks I photograph in most are state parks, they require my business to be registered in their database. It’s a simple process for me, I renew it annually, and I know we are safe to do a photo session there. If a client and I were ever approached by a ranger during a session, he’d be able to check the database after being given my company name, and verify I’m allowed to take photos there. Yay, we are all good! If a location requires a fee, that is usually something I’ll ask my client about. Are they willing to pay that fee on top of the cost of the session, or would they like me to suggest a place with no fees?
Once all this research is done for what’s allowed and what’s not, then comes visiting the location, usually many times! If it’s a new place for me, I will generally go on a nice sunny day and spend about an hour or two there. My focus will be finding the most flattering light, seeing how the light changes over time, what direction it moves in, and trying to find interesting spots at the location for pictures. Once I have a good sense of these things, I’ll go back on a day that’s very cloudy. Does it get too dark to photograph in? Is it just going to look like a dull background? If a location is surrounded by hills and trees, should I consider a different time of day? Sometimes you lose light a lot earlier or faster at those locations. If I can bring someone with me to practice with, even better!
Eventually I’ll be confident enough in a location to use it as a regular spot. Once I do, there is still plenty of follow up. These locations don’t always stay the same. Parks on the national, state, and local level all have their own agendas. There is maintenance, repairs, and just simply changes. For instance there is an open field I love with tall grass in the background, one day, they mowed it! I always check locations in the week leading up to my sessions. Could I do anything about the mowed field? No, but at least I was able to let my client know ahead of time that their pictures will look somewhat different than examples of my work they’ve seen there. It’s still a beautiful location, just different.
These are just a handful of examples of what you can run into when looking into a location for pictures. If you aren’t sure where to go, ask your photographer! A professional photographer will have done their research and will be sure to have the OK before taking any clients to a location for pictures. Beyond that, ask your own questions. It’s not as simple as just showing up at a location for photos. Make sure your photographer has permission, if they don’t, or aren’t sure what you mean, then you might want to look into someone who is running their business more legitimately. If you book with me, you can be sure I’ll check into locations ahead of time, and will let you know if any concerns arise!