Location scouting is a big part of being a natural light photographer. It’s also one of the reasons I love shooting outside a studio. Every new location is an opportunity to capture something different – the backdrop is dynamic and can look completely different just by turning in another direction. Location scouting is also about seeing the potential in what might otherwise look like a pretty boring place. It’s about framing a space and making it look its best, the same way you work to make a client look their best. And most of all, location scouting is about going, experimenting, taking photos and being in the space you’re considering using for a shoot.

Today my friend Brittany and I scouted two locations for her engagement session coming up next weekend. (Check out her Tumblr wedding blog, too!) To say we are excited about her session? Understatement! Combine Brittany’s amazing sense of retro fashion and eye for detail (along with her love of photography) with my vintage processing and our love for natural surroundings and you’re sure to get way more ideas than you can shake a Polaroid picture at! Thanks to a wonderful co-worker, we were able to scout a wonderful farm – absolutely can’t wait to shoot there for the first time, and we also scouted my “secret field.”

Things that help when scouting locations:

  • iPhone compass app (comes with every iPhone) – use this to determine where sun sets (or rises) so you know what angle your light will be falling on the client. Today it was so cloudy we couldn’t find the sun, so I’m grateful for the app and the ability to look at the land with the angle of the sun light in mind.
  • Camera and couple of lenses. Ideally you take some photos of the space where you’re going to shoot to remind yourself when you come back. This is also a good way to test a location. Some spots look ideal but you download the photos and realize they don’t work. Other spots look “eh” in person but you download the photos and realize you’ve got a winner on your hands.
  • Way to write notes. Usually I travel with something in the car to write notes on, particularly when I happen across a new potential location. I write notes about the time of day, the types of shoots that might work well in that location as well as what the light was doing at that time of day.
  • GPS – The best way to explore a place like Pungo and the backroads is to just get in the car and go. Get as far back into the little roads as possible. If it’s just you, a motorcycle rider and you’re on a one-lane road, that’s a good thing! Even better? When it’s you and someone riding a horse! But it’s easy to get lost – so my car’s GPS keeps me feeling confident that I can get deep into the Pungo/Creeds area without fear of never getting back home. It’s like your own little breadcrumb system.
  • Closed shoes. Don’t laugh, but I wear flip flops 365/12 months a year. I take them off when it snows. 🙂 But when scouting locations, it helps to wear closed shoes to protect your feet so you can really explore the property. Today we ran into several patches of suspicious ivy as well as glass and other debris. Totally worth it!
  • Bring someone else with you when possible to see how the light plays off a person. I usually bring my daughter and today Brittany helped, too. Love the first photo of her – she is always dressed right like this, totally retro-beautiful!

Here are some of the photos I shot today while we were scouting out locations. Unfortunately it was so cloudy that the light was really flat. And I wasn’t shooting for perfection. But you get the idea. We discovered that the purple weeds are blooming like crazy out in Pungo and they’re beautiful. I can’t wait to get back to these locations in sunlight. So excited!