When I first started shooting people I went out and bought myself a snazzy background stand and a background, another flash, a stand, more umbrellas then had a great mini-movable studio. I also had ‘creepy’ written all over it.
The problem with equipment and a home studio is that if you want a model to come to your home you need to step back and think about how awkward that may be for them, yea awkward huh? If you don’t have access to a professional studio don’t despair, there’s plenty of fantastic outdoor locations right down the street from you, literally – it’s all about looking at everything as a potential photo shoot location.
How to Find great outdoor photo shoot locations
You need to be willing to put the time in to explore to find some great locations.
My three favorite methods are:
Using Google Maps to Find Locations to Scout for Photo Shoots
One of the first locations I found was 15 minutes from my house. I hopped on Google Maps, centered it in my neighborhood, switched to satellite view and zoomed in on interesting looking areas.
I didn’t know there was a reservoir 10 minutes away! I went to scout the location and found it had everything: an access road, stone wall, overgrown field, log wood fence, and a hill. Realistically that could feed a 3-4 hour shoot with a model no problem and with it being an outdoor location it’s comfortable for both the model and photographer.
Photo by Tim Swaan
Driving around to Scout Photo Shoot Locations
Take the scenic road home – from everywhere.
No matter where you are: the mall, work, your aunt’s house, your latest shoot, don’t take the highway! Take the routes or the alternate roads; that’s where you’ll find the most beautiful views for landscape photography and best spots for a quick shoot. You’ll also learn about places in the area, like parks, schools, wildlife sanctuaries and state recreation areas.
But won’t I be wasting gas? Um, yea. But is a tank of gas worth it for a great location and dozens of fabulous shots, for me it absolutely is.
What if I get lost? Grab a GPS, most phones can install one. Also, invest in a map and learn how to read it.
About getting lost though…I’ve always had a theory that if I get lost I just need to find my way to a road with yellow lines, which will inevitably take me to another road with yellow lines and a number and eventually I will find a number I recognize. You can always find your way back home, the trick is taking good enough notes and paying enough attention to where you are to find your way back to a great potential shoot location.
Minimal Equipment Necessary
Always have your point and shoot, if not your SLR, camera with you whenever you drive anywhere. That way you can stop, snap some shots and add that new location to your potential location list. Always jot down nearby roads, notes about how you got there so you can find the place again and provide a reasonable set of directions to a model or makeup artist to meet you there.
Ask your Fellow Photographers about their Favorite Photo Shoot Locations
No really, just ask.
Ask people who are in your area on Flickr or Model Mayhem where a particular shot of theirs is from. Tell them you really like the area and would love to shoot there. Photographers closely guard their locations but a little common courtesy and offering up a great place you know about can go a long way.
If you tell a photographer about a great location it doesn’t mean they will be there every weekend blocking your shots – don’t worry!
Great tips – I asked a local photographer on Flickr about a great model shot he had with a really interesting gazebo where the gazebo was – turns out it’s in a public park not far from my aunt’s house. I never would have known such a killer location was so close had I not asked.
Us photogs may guard our locations from the general public but it’s nice to see people share publicly accessible locations!
I just created a new service for location sharing. Its free and you can share your locations with other members and see what other are sharing to. The service relies on google maps and geo coordinates to tell you exactly here you should go.
Check it out this example of a location profile: