4 Stages of Producing a Successful Location Shoot

At any given moment, a person could walk into TRG Reality and see a slew of different jobs happening at the same time. Photographers snapping pictures of models and products, photo retouchers beautifying images in Photoshop, the marketing department editing brilliantly written blogs: in short, there’s always a lot going on in the studio. But there is one particular job that transpires primarily in the background, though it is just as crucial as all of the rest. Without further ado, TRG Reality presents the hauntingly beautiful and mysterious tale of…“4 Stages of Producing a Successful Location Shoot.”

Ok, so, this may not sound like the most glamorous topic in the world of photography, but don’t let that diminish the extensive amount of work, effort, and general hutzpah we put into narrowing down that perfect location for our clients’ project shoots, as well as ensuring thateverything runs efficiently and smoothly. There are four main factors that we take into consideration with every project we do: determining the parameters of the shoot, the location searchpre-production, and determining logistics.

As mentioned, the first step is determining the parameters. In order to do this, we will take a close look at our client’s budget to see what we will be working with for the project. Additionally, we will spend time familiarizing ourselves with the size, scale, and intricacy of the desired project design. From here, we will decide whether or not the shoot should take place in the studio or on location. We will then spend some time getting familiar with the product itself to help ensure we have a better understanding of our client’s vision. Depending on what that product is will be a vital determining factor when considering just where we will be shooting. For example, we had a popular hand sanitizer company who required three different sets for their shoot, including an office break room, restaurant, and classroom. We were able to build all of these in the studio, but for their fourth set they needed an office lobby with an elevator. While we absolutely could have built a façade of an elevator in a lobby, the cost of doing that versus the cost of finding and shooting an elevator on location made the decision a no-brainer. The location served our exact need at a fraction of the cost.

The next factor that we investigate when producing a successful location shoot is the location search. Now that we have decided your project will work best on location, it’s time to find that perfect space. The ways in which we go about this include, but are not limited to, going door-to-door in a particular neighborhood or part of town that catches our eye, sending out fliers or leaving letters for property owners, cold-calling, tapping into social media sources, and of course checking in with our previously used resources. If the shoot is to take place in the outdoors, we may look in one particular area and avoid certain others depending on lighting, weather, etc. In some cases, our scouts get very lucky with finding an ideal location. Recently we were looking for a location for a lighting company, and the first house we went to actually had the exact product we were photographing installed the same week we went to scout. We had no idea, but it worked out perfectly. The client didn't even need to supply the product for the shoot; it was already there. Unfortunately we don’t always get that lucky, so using the other aforementioned methods has helped us in those less serendipitous times.

Truth be told, the hardest part of location site searching is the actual search. About 70% of the time, we post criteria on social media sites or reach out to friends and find something relatively quickly. The other 30% of the time is often full of awkward door knocks and explanations that “we are from a photography studio,” that “we are looking for somewhere to shoot,” and that “we are definitely not there to ‘case the joint.’” It certainly pays to know as many people in as many industries as possible. 

Once the location has been established, the third factor we thoroughly examine to help ensure a flawless shoot is pre-production. During this phase, we will fully scout the location that has been selected. The producer or photographer will go to the location and photograph every single angle of it. Think of creating a panoramic by doing a "click, turn, click, turn, click turn" in every area that would be a possibility for the shoot. The goal here isn't to establish the exact angles that the final images will be shot at, but to really survey the space and see what it has to offer. The scouter will also draw a schematic of the yard or surrounding areas, as well as note where the sun rises and falls and at what times. This will be helpful in determining the order of shots and what areas will have the best lighting at what time of day. 

After a shot list is created, we will look into what equipment needs to be rented, hiring a set designer to redesign the space to meet the client’s needs, and possibly hiring a crew to remove and replace furniture items. We may need to hire a producer if we are out of state or arrange to send someone from TRG directly. We will also spend time informing the property owner(s) about all of the ways the shoot will impact them and their property, such as how many people will be present, the time frame, where to access power within that location, and other familiarity items that will help us get acquainted with the day’s space. 

Determining the logistics of the shoot is the final essential step in making sure the project runs smoothly and that everyone is feeling at ease. We will check and recheck weather contingencies, and we will make sure everyone knows exactly where to park and load equipment. Creature comforts are just as vital to a shoot’s efficiency as the technical aspect, so we will also make sure everyone knows the location of the nearest restroom, where the tent area will be set up, and where we have arranged Craft services for the day. Additionally, we will speak with the property owners on how they wish to be compensated. When we are shooting in the studio, it's a lot easier to grab an extra body to help move things, or ask someone to run out and grab lunch, or go up in the prop loft and find a lamp to fill an empty space, but when we are on location, we are limited to the props, people, and recourses that we bring with us. The more we can think about those things ahead of time and the more we plan for every possible scenario, the more successful the shoot will be. In a nutshell, we want everyone – client, crew, and property owners alike – to feel safe, relaxed, and up-to-date on all of the day’s events.

Glamorous? Perhaps not, but all of these steps are vital in ensuring our clients the very best experience we can offer. We pride ourselves on the connections we make with clients and property owners, and though it may seem like a lot of tedious work to take care of everything mentioned above, we believe that making sure everyone is comfortable and informed is just as impactful as the final product itself.