Location photography: 6 tips
As part of working as a freelance photographer, I frequently shoot on location for clients. In fact, 90% of my work is done on location, whether it be product, interiors or portrait work.
As I don’t have a studio of my own to work out of (an effort to keep overhead costs down), this usually ends up being the best option for both the client and me: they get a photographer that comes to their location/place of business, saving them time and hassle, and I can keep studio hire/rental costs down, and increase the profitability of my shoots.
However, the very nature of being on location presents quite a few challenges that tend not to rear their head s much in a more controlled, studio environment. I thought I’d share a few tips and ideas that I have gained over the years working on location.
1. Do your research
It doesn’t matter how simple the shoot or brief may seem, it is always worth doing a little research before packing the car and heading out to the location/site. This can be as straightforward as making sure you have the right address, a contact number for the client in case you break down/are stuck in traffic (and checking traffic conditions before you leave!)
This should also to extend to knowing which direction the building/site faces (if you are shooting architectural or interiors), and what the sun will be doing at the time of the shoot. There are several great apps available to track the position of the sun and strength – check a few of them out here.
2. Pack more gear than you think you’ll need
As much as it seems unnecessary to bring your full lighting kit when heading out on location, it will save a lot of stress when conditions or requirements change while on a shoot (as they often do). For example, I was on a shoot for a client that was scheduled to be outdoors, using mainly natural light (and a bit of flash fill). However, the weather turned ugly so the whole shoot was moved indoors. Having my lighting kit in the car meant I could adapt to this situation and still get the shots the client needed.
(Also, don’t even put the keys in the ignition until you check you have packed some gaffer tape!)
3. Be flexible
Even the best laid plans can come undone, and when they do it’s important to keep a cool head and focus on what you’re meant to be there for: to get the best shots you can! Most clients will understand that things sometimes go wrong, and if you remain good-humoured and work as quickly as possible to find a solution, things won’t seem as nearly as dramatic as you intitally thought.
4. Use the histogram rather than the LCD in bright situations
When shooting outdoors, particularly on a sunny day, it can often be hard to judge exposure ( and whether to expose for the shadow or highlight areas), and it is in these situations that the on-camera LCD screen tends to
Using the histogram display in conjunction with the LCD enables you to make a more accurate judgement of the exposure of a shot. I would often underexpose images when shooting in bright sunlight,
5. Take power leads
This may seem obvious but I have been caught out many times without enough length or number of power leads to serve lights, assuming that the power sources on location will be easily accessible and abundant (never assume this
6. Be prepared to improvise
Having all required props, lighting gear, and other things on hand is a luxury that is unfortunately not afforded to the location photographer. Imagination, creativity, and quick-thinking are often required to achieve the same result on location.
(Here’s an obscure but helpful tip: if you are having trouble with practical fittings such as fluros interrupting the infrared signal between your light and trigger, try fashioning a piece of gaff tape into a kind of ‘shield’ over the sensor on the light head so that it protects it from the ambient light above, but still lets the sensor ‘see’ the on-camera trigger – has worked for me many times!)
Hopefully these tips were useful and might assist you next time you’re heading out on a location shoot.