How to Find the Best Spots for On Location Shoots
Not all scenes or photoshoots can be shot in a studio or with a green screen. For big productions, it’s highly beneficial to bring on board a Location Scout who will have experience hunting locations on a time crunch, and working through legal and logistical considerations. However, if you’re working on a limited budget, chances are you won’t have a Location Scout to take the reins, and more often than not a client will leave the location scouting to you to bring their script or brief to life. Here are some tips you can apply to find the perfect spots for your on location shoots.
For large productions, there will often be a Location Scout responsible for finding locations for the shoot. This is a lengthy process that involves assessing locations in accordance with the script and storyboard, applying for necessary permits for legal compliance, ensuring the location is safe for crew members, and even suitable for logistical aspectssuch as power supply.
The producer, director and cinematographer will often be involved in the process to make sure the location is aligned with their creative vision for the project, as well as being optimal for sound and lighting requirements.
If you’re working on a big production, with a big budget, hiring a Location Scout is definitely something you should consider. Having someone to take these tasks off your hands will give you the time needed to focus on what you’re good at -the photography or filmography part of the project.
However, if you’re working on a project where the client has a tight budget, hiring a Location Scout as an extra member of your crew may not always be a feasible option. You may not even have a client or budget, and simply want to capture undiscovered locations in your local area for your portfolio.
Here are some tips that you can apply when heading out on your next client or solo shoot, to help find the perfect location, and nail your brief.
USE YOUR NETWORKS
Location Scouts with years of experience will have formed strong relationships with fellow Location Scouts, real estate agents, studio owners, government agencies, film associations and community members.
It is entirely possible a Location Scout will be hired for a production in an area they are not familiar with, and this is where leveraging relationships will become essential, especially for time critical projects.
Creative professionals too have networks that they can tap into, from fellow creative professionals and social media networks, to photography and film societies that they may be a member of.
SanDisk Professional Mentor and Photographer, Sean Scott, spends a lot of time on the road around Australia, and isn’t afraid to ask in order to find beautiful locations to shoot for his clients and Gallery.
“One thing I do is engage with local tourism boards I have relationships with to give me tips on the best natural landscapes to photograph in their state,” says Sean. “I’ll often use this as a starting point and go from there to find more undiscovered places.”
HIT THE ROAD AND EXPLORE
In saying this, Sean prefers to take the time to discover new locations for himself. He has set up his 4×4 to be quite the capable mobile camping and photographic workstation for his frequent travels around Australia.
For those of us that don’t have the ability to travel for long periods of time, it can be as simple as taking a day trip, going via the long route and getting lost on purpose.
You may be surprised how many cool, unknown spots you come across organically. You can start to add these to your own database of locations in preparation for when the right brief comes along.
Perhaps one of the most cost effective and time efficient ways to find locations is to utilise free tools such as Google Earth.
With 3D mode, you can become familiar with the location’s elevation levels, whilst the time slider can help assess how sunlight and shadows will fall on the landscape at various hours of the day.
Whether you’re working with a crew orgoing on a solo shoot, a satellite search will also be beneficial to familiarise yourself with the location’s surroundings.
A good Location Scout will cover all miscellaneous factors such as parking, electrical power sources, bathrooms, local supply stores and hospitals. The last thing you need is an emergency on shoot with no medical facilities for miles!
A great thing about the rise of social media is that we have a plethora of inspiration at our fingertips. You may want to put your own twist on a location that your favourite photographer has shot.
- Utilise Instagram’s location and maps feature to see exactly where a photo was taken
- Have a scroll through the Instagram accounts of Tourism Boards such as Destination NSW, NT Australia and South Australia who repost some of the best location shoot spots in the state
- Check out our SanDisk Professional Gallery to see some inspiring works from our Mentors.
- Take a look at the profiles of the SanDisk Professional Academy Mentors to see their highlights and portfolio. Don’t be afraid to reach out if they’ve been to a location you want to pinpoint!
BEFORE YOU BEGIN...
When deciding on your perfect location, make sure you haven’t overlooked any approval or permit requirements.
For private properties you will need permission from the property owner before shooting, and have them sign a location release to cover your bases.
In Sydney, for larger scale filming you may even need to lodge a filming management plan to notify them of the filming to take place, start and end dates, crew size, disruptions to the surrounding area and more.
If the location is on public land and you are shooting for a commercial purpose, you may need to apply for a permit. There generally aren’t requirements for same-day wedding photography or hobbyist photography, but it is recommended to visit the relevant government website for more information.
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