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Location Scouting

Scouting ahead of time pays off

Amber at Hampton Beach
Hampton Beach

Photographers can never have a vacation because we are always looking at things to see how it will photograph.

What will be undetermined is the weather and exact lighting conditions when you plan to come back in the future. Location scouting is a vital process in the production stage of photography. When scouting a location, you want to pay attention to the time of day. If you don't have a lot of time to review your location through out the day, you will need to imagine what lighting conditions might come into play. Think about what the scene will be at an earlier or later time. Think about the direction of the sun in relationship to the scene. What if it rains? What if it's windy that day? What if it's cloudy or a heavy overcast. Not to mention, if you are scouting in the month of May, how the sunlight angle and schedule will be in September. In the cover image at Hampton Beach, you have to think about the low and high tides. You need to think about all of these things and more to have a successful shoot. This will prepare you in case you have to adapt your original ideas.

An experienced photographer understands how to deal with situations that are not exactly how a session was originally visioned. To adapt and photograph nature's given moments successfully, you have to understand many things. The first thing to think about is typography direction. What I mean by that is understanding directions like a compass will point you in the right direction. Know where your background is in relationship to the East and West, North and South. You also need to understand the times of sunrise and sunset for scheduling your time appropriately. Check an almanac for sunrise and sunset times at your location. The sun angle will also change with the seasons. You will want to take advantage of having better lighting conditions early in the morning or later in the evening. If you are planning a sweet light session, make sure you have plenty of time before the sun goes down completely. I always schedule a session about two hours before I am ready to shoot my original idea at sweet light.

Going with the flow. You can have control in the studio and I can find shooting in the studio to be a bit boring and cookie cutting at times. Believe it or not, this is exactly why I love working outdoors on any given day. The challenges of photographing with natural light can keep you on your toes. Outdoor lighting conditions can be challenging. Evolving with the seasons, time of day, and weather. This is why I enjoy working in natural light. It can spark the creative mind. It causes you to think about how to create the best images possible with any act of God. My point, have a few backup ideas to run with in case things are not ideal for you.

The session starts at 4 p.m. with the sun setting around 7:00 p.m., I noticed the wind was gusting around 25 miles per hour. Now is the time to utilize mother nature's creative beauty. I noticed the ocean slapping up against the rocks. High tide is also rolling in. In order to get to this rock structure, I knew we had to hike the terrain and have it be an in and out shoot situation. Otherwise, we risk being stuck on the rock with with high tide coming in. I didn't want to call 911 and have the Coast Guard rescue us. Needless to say, I got my shoes wet, milking every last second before coming back to higher ground.

Amber changed quickly into this fashion, thanks to some planning ahead of time; Amber brings a tote bag full of clothing options. Amber absolutely loves this dress and she wanted to model with it. I also thought it would work well for this location. She also found a bird feather so this became a personal story for her to be photographed holding the feather. If you noticed, some clouds started to roll in from the North. Clouds add dimension to an image versus a solid blue sky and it can also diffuse the harsh sunlight.

Not exactly what I had in mind because I wanted sweet light. Sweet light to me is the last 60 minutes of the day. If a model can handle the direct sunlight without squinting, you have a wonderful opportunity to photograph with nice light and warm color. I had to settle for diffused sunlight. This is when you have to forget about your vision and create a new story.

The model doesn't always have to look at the camera. I see many photographers not direct a model correctly with various lighting conditions. Stop forcing your models to always look at the camera! Remember to create images, instead of shooting pictures. Think in terms of creating a story when you have some light that's not so perfect for shooting a model looking at the camera.

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