What makes a great location?

Time for a technical/handy blog post that aims to help you find inspiration anywhere to shoot! When I began my photography, I found myself going to the same spots, but always finding somewhere new in that space to inspire a shoot. The location can either be a second thought, or the priority of the shot. I find that my thought process varies from needing a specific location to shoot in, or finding something that would work with my concept. 

When I look for locations, I am looking for certain things:

1) What atmosphere am I going for?

2) Is there decent lighting? Will that fit the atmosphere?

3) Can I/the model get there? Will it be safe and comfortable

4) Will I need to expand the frame? How much space is there to shoot in?

5) Am I inspired?

So lets break these down!….

1) Atmosphere?

When I plan my ideas, I always try to set out with the atmosphere I am hoping to capture, I think about what story I want to tell, and how the location may benefit the story, helping the audience see what we see in our imagination.

 a simple location, that was just a bushy area in a field near my house. But I could see how the light filtered in so perfectly, keeping the background perfectly dark, whilst letting the rain-covered leaves glisten. 

2) Lighting

Very similar to atmosphere, but more of a technical perspective. I like to consider how the lighting in the location may work with the pose of the model, and what will be most flattering if its a portrait of a face. I never used to think about this, but looking back at my older work, I wish I would have had the model face another way, or shot when it was cloudy- details like this can really make the final photo, we are always seeing light, but when do we consider how lighting affects how we perceive something?

a portrait session I did for a budding model/a dear friend of mine, shot in the patio door of my house. This set up means light can just filter directly onto the model, leading the most beautiful light.

3)Safe/ Comfortable.

My biggest priority when on location is that the model is safe on location. I also say that I will never put a model in a situation I wouldn’t be comfortable doing. Sometimes this can’t be applied, but 99% of the time, I will try and get into the location first. This will help in a few ways: a) I can see if it is safe for the model to go there, feeling around to see if there are any hazards like nettles or holes in the ground. b) test the light and how it’ll look on camera if I have a second shooter, I also can now feel light and sense how it’ll look on camera, I also test with my hand to see where shadows will fall. And c) is that I can understand if the pose will work, and whether it’ll be comfortable to hold/do, so I can be more compassionate with working with the model, if I know it is an uncomfortable spot, like lying on dead branches, I will try to shoot quicker and not keep the model there for too long (you do get a lot of models who I now call friends, that are always happy to power through, but I hate putting models through horrible situations, like super cold locations!) It also helps to help a specific idea in mind that you know through and through, so you can shoot exactly what you want, and get outta there!


Visit the location before the day of your shoot to test how it’ll look, and whether its possible to shoot in, that way you’re prepared for the worst! 

an example of one of the locations I shot at on a recent workshop, I got straight in there first to see if it was possible, it was, but I knew I didnt want to keep the model there for too long!

4) Expand the frame?

Once I am on location, I start to think technical- if I am shooting in a tight spot, I know that I would need to use a tripod and expand my frame. In doing this, I am able to get added photos to later add into and around the final photo if I want a larger frame. This works nicer swell because the final photo will be larger size which equates to better quality, which is always a good thing! 

a before and after of a composite 

and finally!

5) Am I inspired?

If you’re not inspired by the location: don’t shoot there! I always want my location to spark something within me, it should allow you to begin to see your concept come to life, where our imagination comes to be reality. In some situations, your dream location may not be as glamorous as you think, but if its going to work for you concept, and keeps in mind all the points made before this one, you’re onto a winner! <3

the fantasy of a beautiful location vs the reality of shooting by the bins of a carpark! 

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