Importance of Scouting Locations

“Where should we do the session?”  It’s the question you regularly get from your clients, and lately you’re feeling uninspired by your “go to” spots. It’s easy and familiar, but you feel like you’re in a creative rut. We’ve all been there! It’s easy to fall into a routine with your photo sessions, especially when it always works. However, if you’re wanting to liven up your locations, a day of scouting locations can be exactly what you need to shake things up.

scout, location, photography, session, portraits, light

Clients almost never know where to go for their session, and even if they have a general idea they won’t know the best spots for light. (Can you say gazebos?) So they are going to rely on your knowledge and expertise to give them direction. This is exactly why you should always be looking for new great areas to shoot at.

The key to location scouting is to not just look at the pretty elements like the flowers or the architecture. Your main focus should be on the type of light, or the variations of light, at certain times of the day when you would be shooting. We know as photographers that even the most picture perfect spots will look terrible if it doesn’t have great light. So be looking for the style of light you prefer to use. If that is open shade, you’ll want spots that have trees or buildings to provide that. If you love dynamic light, what time of day is going to give you the most to work with?

scout, location, photography, session, portraits, light

It might sounds silly, but take time to pick an area and walk around! You can only see so much from the window of your car. Keep an eye open while you’re out on date nights, family outings, etc to see if there’s a new backdrop that would work for a session. Plus if you have a friend with you, they can stand in so you can see what the light looks like in different spots. Look for places that have unique textures, shapes, or lines that can be used to create interest in your image. It’s also great to scout out new indoor options to have as back up in case the weather ever decides to not cooperate on the day of a shoot or wedding.

Don’t be afraid to use your network to find new places too! Some of the best locations are ones that are kept secret. Chat with local business owners, friends and family with awesome property, etc to find locations that are private/semi-private for your session. Orchards, farms, greenhouses, nursery gardens, book stores, coffee shops, etc… A lot of owners would gladly let you come in if you ask first, be respectful of their property, and support their businesses too. You can always barter to use the location too. Offer to photograph their space for their website in exchange for using it a couple times a year.

Don’t show up to a location without checking it out ahead of time. By scouting ahead of time and pre-visualizing your spots, you’re going to have a better overall flow during your session and be less likely to fumble over where to go next. Nothing makes your clients trust you more than when you take charge and guide them through the session with confidence. Plus you’ll be able to add more variety to your work and start to push yourself creatively. 
scout, location, iris, studio management

Upload your locations into Iris

Once you get a running list going of new places to use, you can upload them into the location manager in Iris Works. You have the ability to drop a pin of the location, add in your notes, and upload an image. Then you can share that pin by sending it to your clients before a session and they’ll be able to click the link to get directions.

So get out there, build up that arsenal of photo locations, and get out of the funk of using the same place all the time.

When was the last time you went scouting for new locations?

Want to easily store your favorite session locations for clients?  Try out Iris today!




  1. Mark McConnell

    This taught me nothing than what I already do. And using a service to manage locations? Really? You know you can drop a pin in maps on your phone and label it for free right?

    • Molly Connor

      Thanks for your feedback, Mark. The Locations feature is a value-added service that our users can integrate into their workflow when communicating with clients. We certainly realize there are other options outside of Iris for sharing locations, but this one happens to work well for our users who are sending an automated email to their clients in advance of a session.


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