You may be reading this and thinking: I need help finding great photography locations, but I have no idea where to start. How do I make the most of my location scouting? Well, I’ve got you and this blog is going to help A LOT! Location scouting is important for every single photographer. It’s something that takes a lot of time, but in my opinion, it’s a part of the job!
Recommending great, less crowded locations that you have found gives your clients a better experience because you’re guiding them and offering a unique add-on that sets you apart from other photographers. It can be difficult to know where to start if you’re newer or if you just moved to an area that you’re unfamiliar with. When I moved from Tennessee to Colorado, I had to find all of my locations myself. Prime photo locations is such a coveted thing, but I put in the work and found awesome locations using these tips! So let’s dive in.
I love to use Google Earth, Google Maps, All Trails, Wikiloc, and Really Good Photo Spots. One pro tip – if you are unable to scout in person, on Google Earth you can set the date and time to figure out the best time for sunset and where the sun is at in general in a live-view. As we all know, the sun plays a huge part in where we position our couples and how the lighting will be, so that has been helpful when I’m scouting for out of state shoots. Drop the little pegman on the screen and you’ll be amazed at what you can find simply on Google Earth and Google Maps.
Try to do a Google search for the places you’re interested in learning more about. For most popular locations, there should be other blogs or photographers who have posted about doing a session there. If it’s more of an obscure location, I would still recommend searching to see what you can find, it just might be a little tougher of a search. This will help you gather some information to use when you’re going to scout in person. I would not depend on these blogs for complete accuracy though because many times the exact location isn’t shared. This is all a part of Leave No Trace! (We’ll chat about this in a few!) For example, I have blogs that share an elopement or session I shot in Garden of the Gods, but Garden of the Gods is a huge park. The areas we photographed at cannot be found by simply arriving at Garden of the Gods. So use these blogs as guides, but don’t depend on them to 100% show you exactly where the photos were shot.
Do you have a location database that your clients can choose from? I highly recommend attaching photos in these spots for your clients when deciding on a location. Then your client has an idea of what it looks like – even if there’s not a couple in the photo. I recommend using Google Docs or Notion to share these location lists with your couples. This is also helpful for you to remember specifics (i.e. how tall the grass was, if there was any fencing, how the sunlight was, etc) whenever you are recommending the location.
It’s nice to take notes so that you can remember all of the details about the location even if you don’t return there for a while. Is there a bathroom at the trailhead? How much parking is available at certain times of the day? How busy is the location? What is the lighting like? Is the road normally accessible in winter? The list goes on and on, but you mainly want to think about your client’s needs and requests. Having notes on each location you scout will help you be prepared for each client’s needs and requests and deliver that much better of a client experience.
I cannot end this blog without talking about respecting our land in order to have as little of an impact as possible. We chatted a little about this earlier in the blog, but I couldn’t end without going into more detail. If you haven’t heard of Leave No Trace, check out their website for more in depth information. As photographers who work in the outdoors for most sessions, weddings, and elopements, it’s our responsibility to do our part in protecting the integrity of the land we are bringing couples to. Let’s do our best to keep this planet just as beautiful as we found it.
The best way to location scout is to make a day of it, bring some friends with you or your lover and have a great time exploring God’s creation. Take a hike or have a picnic, it doesn’t have to be all business when you are location scouting!
As a destination photographer, I run into different climates, timezones, special considerations and I would imagine many of you do too. To find tide predictions, hiking calculator (for how long the hike to a certain location will take), and when that lovely light of golden hour is in your location – check out these websites:
That’s all I have time for now, but I have so many other tips I would love to share with you guys! Think this blog was helpful and would like me to go into more detail with a guide or another blog? Let me know in the comments below. Feeling lost in your photography business? I offer photography mentor sessions! Head over to the link to learn more about mentor sessions.