Finding the right location, props and lights for your stock photoshoot
In this previous blog we've discussed how to find the right model for your future photoshoot so it's time we move to the next step, finding a good location, props and lights setup.
At this point you have already established a contract with your models so you’re in search for the perfect location. Since you already know what you will be shooting and have discussed this with the people you’ll work with now all you need is a good place to make it happen.
Depending on what you have in mind this can range from the park to the football stadium, from the mall to a glass and steel highrise, from the downtown to the outskirts of a city and from the kindergarden to the university or, the photographer’s old friend, the photo studio.
Let’s take each of this locations and discuss pros and cons for each in regards to expenses, light and props as well as timing.
The park - it’s maybe the easiest choice. For one it’s free, so you don’t actually need a budget to shoot there however, there are some downsides to it. Changing wardrobe would be a challenge for your models and might make them feel uncomfortable, so unless they are good friends with you you might not want to bring them to the park. It may look a bit unprofessional and, well, on the cheap side. However, including the park as part of a longer shoot is feasible and you can bring your models already dressed up and made up. If you really insist on having more outfits, you can find portable, pop-up changing rooms at online photo stores and camping stores.
Natural light is best in the mornings and evenings as it will not be strong and shadows won’t be harsh but you are dependant on the weather, which will be an important factor. Of course, you can still shoot in the rain but you’ll need a lot of umbrellas and fill lights. Bring at least a reflector if shooting in the park, to fill in the shadows, or compensate with flash lights.
The football stadium, the steel and glass high rise, the mall - these will require a budget and approvals to shoot professional images. It would be very hard and inadvisable to shoot without one. For example, you can look for new, vacant office buildings and ask the real estate agents for a daily fee to rent some space. It should be easier than getting permission to shoot in a corporate office already in use. Once you get approval you should scout the location for how the light is at the time of the day you wish to shoot and plan your lighting setup in advance. Take advantage of the location to the max and discuss with your models as many changes of wardrobe as you need. Bring a photo plan of what you want to shoot to avoid downtime and awkward “what do we do next” moments. It’s always good to do some improvisation on the spot, but make sure you have a plan first.
The university/kindergarten - these are special locations, you will also need approvals to shoot here but they can yield great images. However, shooting large groups of people or large groups of children can be challenging. Lights have to be planned in advance as well and spare lights are advisable for such complicated shots. You’ll have more chances with smaller, private playgrounds or after-school centers.
The streets of downtown or suburbs - you may or may not need permission to shoot on the street. In downtown you can probably just go in, take your shoots and get out without trouble. Factor in the fact that these areas are busy with people so make sure you choose the right lens to get the desired effect. Telephoto and luminous lenses are always a good choice to separate your subject from the background. Extra lights here will be hard to mount and use so keep it as simple as possible.
Shooting in suburban residential areas may require a permission. People living here may be disturbed by a group of people shooting images around their houses so make sure you have all the permissions you need beforehand. Talk to the people on the street as well to know the area better, it will allow you to plan everything to a tee.
Shooting in a studio - now this is the most common and the easiest to handle shooting experience. There are usually no variables here, you have a lighting setup or two that you will plan for by taking test shots, you’ll have the wardrobe on rack of clothes and a hair stylist and makeup artist that can stay with you for the duration of the shot. You can rent a studio if you don’t have your own and get acquainted with the lights and props beforehand.
Hotel rooms and vacation homes are great locations where you could shoot in peace and try different concepts, from family/couples to glamour and forward to business travel themes. You need to have some budget available for this type of shootings, but you’ll get nice, clean interiors and a worry-free environment, as long as you keep it inside the rented space area. Don’t think that you can shoot in a hotel reception or at the pool, just because you have a room booked there. Always ask for permission in this case.
Small, cosy restaurants and coffee houses would usually accept to let you organise a photo shooting inside if you give them some photos for their own promotion in exchange. Try that, before renting a place like this, because it could be expensive.
If you’re into sports & leisure themes, think of billiard rooms, bowling arenas, tennis courts, golf clubs, but always ask for permission to shoot there, before renting some space. �
You can think of other good places to shoot e.g.: a house up for sale that you can rent for a day, a gym, a supermarket, a hardware store, an electronics store, a cinema room, the pool, the beach, the forest and so on. As long as you have a good idea about what the end result should be a location is always possible to find.
Don’t forget to factor in the fact that you might need to contract a makeup artist and hair stylist, depending on the style of shot you’ve planned. Book them in advance to make sure you’ll have no bad surprises on the big day.
Also, keep in mind that you, as the photographer who organizes the photoshooting, should take care of all the logistics, including transport to and from location, lunch breaks, printed model releases and property releases and so on. For a successful photoshoot, you’ll want to keep the models happy.
Written in collaboration with Viorel Dudau.