My name is Nina and I am a Surrey-based photographer and photography trainer. I am often asked how I find great locations for my outdoor shoots so I thought I would create a blog which gives some guidance on how I find my locations.
Location choice is very important but I also want to make clear that you do not need to pay for grand locations – you can absolutely shoot at places close to your home. Here are my top tips for how to find, and get the best from a new outdoor location:
1. Keep travel time down
So how do I find great locations close to my home?
My starting point when looking for a new location is considering my travel time. For reasons which will become clear as you read further down this post, I like to be able to get to the location quickly, ideally no more than a 15-minute drive. I photograph in Surrey, which does have a lot of green space close by, but I have discovered many hidden gems by taking my time to really explore. There are a couple of great ways to get you started:
1) Google Maps. Just type your postcode to see an aerial view of your surrounding area. Then click the little yellow man/ woman bottom right and you can view streets PLUS any Photosphere images. The Photosphere images are taken by the general public out and about on walks so you can get an idea what the woodland looks like for example. To see exactly how to do this you can watch the video below.
2) Use Shot Hotspot
This does exactly what it says on the tin, it shows you locations which are well known for taking great photos and all you need to do is enter your postcode. It uses information from sites like Flickr and Panoramio to build up an idea of which areas are the best for certain genres of photography. It divides the sites into Urban, Wildlife, and Landscape and features images taken by other amateur and professional photographers.
2. Visit your favourite locations in all seasons
Get to know your favourite spots like the back of your hand
It will take some work but I promise it will be worth it! Successful outdoor photography comes from doing your homework: knowing your location and the light inside out. This goes back to my earlier point of having a location which is close to where you live. I visit my locations at all times of day, all times of the year, and I now know them like the back of my hand. Of course, it’s ideal to photography families in golden hour, but this isn’t always possible because of the unpredictable UK weather and young children’s early bedtimes. You need to be able to work your location to its best when there’s light rain, bright mid-day sun, or no leaves on the trees. Yes, it takes time to get to know a location this way BUT your clients, and you will benefit.
The Autumn and Winter examples shown here are at the same location (within 10 feet of one another) but at different times of the year. The trick is to know where the light is the best and know at what time of day you should be photographing to deliver the best images for your clients.
3. Have a plan to deliver variety
Plan your photoshoot route
As with most photographers, I like to present my clients with a wide variety of images to choose from. This doesn’t mean hundreds of photos, but a set of images which have very different backgrounds, whilst still remaining cohesive.
I find it really important to have a number of different options at one location, which are within a reasonable distance of one another (with families I consider this no more than 5 to 10 minutes walking especially if they have small children and a buggy). As I have done my homework, and know where the light is good at what time of day, I follow a pre-determined route which I know will deliver 5/6 different looks. I also share this with the family to manage their expectation of how much walking will be involved.
I hope you have found this blog post useful and to give you some ideas on how you can scout for your own outdoor locations close to your home. Happy shooting!
About the Author
Nina Mace is a family photographer and photography trainer based in Camberley, Surrey, UK. She had spent 15 years working in marketing & brand management and switched to photography professionally in 2012.