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Jeffrey Byrnes Photographer Fashion + Portraits + Travel

Fashion Photography: Location Scouting

Years ago with my former blog, well before I had a wicked awesome website filled with some of my best work, I was writing about photography. I would discuss trending topics, what I liked, disliked, and occasionally a few tips, tricks, what to do or not to do. Since I have a fairly awesome website and a blog connected right to it, now I am free to discuss anything and everything, like I always was able to, but now I primarily focus on showcasing my recent work or something connected to the work I am producing. Such is the case with this post. The following post is just a simple guide to make life easier. If you are operating with a big budget, this is something that might be useful to you, but chances are you will have a better process in place. 

I have met a few location scouts. One of them was a big time Hollywood scout who went around the world making photographs of locations that would be used for movie production. I had them in mind when I began searching for a location for an upcoming shoot. This Friday I am going to New Haven to do some business. I also have the opportunity to catch up with a model that I am friends with. Brittany and I have worked together in the past. I first met Brittany when I cast her for a car shoot in Boston. Since then we have worked together for a publication as well as development of our portfolios. Brittany is a diverse model that offers an array of possibilities. Her main focus is fitness, but when put in the right outfit, she can command attention from the camera and offer me something that I strive to capture.

We will have 3 outfit changes. 1 fitness and 2 that are more fashion like. Our goal is to produce the shoot in a small amount of time. For each outfit there will be a light change as well. I will have 1 set up for each style. To make this possible I have been doing remote location scouting. “How is that even possible?” one would ask. It is very possible to do remote location scouting.

The digital era has allowed us to produce a vast amount of images and when you do a broad Google search of an area, you’re bound to be presented with more than enough visual information to build a shoot from the ground up. For example, let’s say that I can not budget time or the expense to get to a specific location in NYC, but I know I have a time frame for a shoot. I could do a Google Maps search of the location I have in mind and see what the location looks like from the ground level. This will allow me to see if there are any logistical challenges that would prevent the shoot from happening. If an area seems appealing, taking a few more moments to do another search may yield some images that could further help you decide if the area is right for the shoot.

Detail of downtown New Haven via Google Maps. Screen Capture: Photo Credit Google Maps.

While a Google Maps view will show you an area, some details, some architectural or natural elements that can be an asset to the shoot, it will not show you the lighting conditions that might be relevant to the time of day or the season in which you are shooting. However, if you look at the above screen capture, you can see that the building across the street provides some incredible reflected light. I would spend a few moments examining the area via the website and try and figure out when I would be able to get similar natural light. This is where you can get a bit geeky. There are a bunch of apps that show you position of the sun/moon on any given date and time. These apps will allow you to forecast the direction of the natural light, which will allow you to build your set ups based on this information. This one time, not at band camp, but for a shoot that I was doing for the owner of an incredibly well built Camero, I was tasked with finding some killer locations in Boston. I know Boston well, well enough to say, yes this will work and go right to the spot and know that a great photograph will be made. However, I needed to find some spots that were unique and new to me. I needed to think outside the box. I turned to Google Maps and began searching the city from above. Within an hour I had a list of places that I knew, based on the visual information that was provided, would make a great backdrop. Days later I was able to drive right to the spots and get what was needed with ease. Working with a car is a bit different than a person.

Cars are larger than people, unless you are shooting one of those "smart cars" that look like a soccer ball, and when you place them in front of things such as buildings, cityscapes, certain architectural elements, there is a bit more wiggle room as opposed to doing so with a model or two. While people are smaller and you can create a smaller environment with them, it isn't always easy to hide certain elements from a background, like if you did so with a car. This is why it is key to doing a very thorough search prior to arriving at your location/s. 

Screen Capture: Photo Credit Google Maps.

Screen Capture: Photo Credit Google Maps

For the shoot on Friday, I spent nearly an hour just researching the one location I have in mind. There are a lot things I am considering, such as easy access to the location, elements in the location, such as bridges, backgrounds, trees, benches, other people. I want to ensure that when I arrive I will be able to set up and be ready to shoot. Brittany will arrive with her hair ready for one look, ready to transition into another look, and finally into the third look. The same will be occur for her makeup. This way we will maximize our time more efficiently. To assist with planning, Brittany was kind enough to create a Pintrest "mood board" and show me a few ideas. You know things are meant to be when you both have the same vision even though you didn't get to a certain point in planning and you are seeing what you want to accomplish.   

I will be posting the photos shortly after the shoot so keep a watchful eye for a post showcasing the photos.