Finding the Perfect Spot- How I Scout Out Session Locations
This is something that I have done so much over the years of photographing. I literally do this more often then I actually take photos! Ever since I could drive I loved going on explorative road trips. I would get in my car with just a general direction I wanted to head in. Living in the north Olympic Peninsula I am a little limited on going north, I can go maybe 2 miles before I hit the ocean. So I would spend my time on the other three. Over time I would learn all the back roads to a location. Track down hidden spots that I heard someone mention. Look on my google maps and follow forest service roads and then try to drive them. I live for dirt roads! If I am on a dirt road for the first time I am full of excitement to see where it will take me. I stop often. Maybe take a few photos since iPhone is great at geotagging and remember locations and even dates of when I was a place. So I have a mental rolodex of locations in my mind.
I took this practice and I put it into my photo sessions. If there is a certain location I have shot at many times, say Lake Crescent. It can get hard to find new spots and I have to get creative. Sure some spots couples want photographed at because its “iconic” which is fine. I’m happy to oblige. But I love it when a couple gives me a general idea of where they want to go and then trust me and my creative eye to take them to amazing spots that might not be as photographed as much. So maybe we’ll do Lake Crescent, but we’ll do a pull off and then cross the highway to a waterfall instead. Or we’ll go to a different beach or dock.
At this point I have photographed couples are nearly every spot you can think of, but recently I found a NEW spot. It’s tiny, but with the right conditions and the right couple could be amazing! Now rather than giving into the thought that everyone wants to go to the same spots over and over, and my work will be boring. It’s up to me to talk to my clients and give them the reassurance that I know the area so well that there are other options that might be more to their liking.
And one thing most people don’t think about is how the weather will change a location. Below I have put together several examples of locations on Lake Crescent. Some spots are the same but because the weather was different it gave the session a whole different feel. See if you can spot the differences!
More info below photos..
This can go for ANYWHERE in the world! You read that right. I could book a session anywhere in the world and be confident when its time for the session that I know where I’m going to take my couples. Why? How? Well I’m going to tell you!
1. Arrive early!
If you’re doing a session at location that you haven’t been to yet, even if you are flying there, I highly advise getting there a day, or even two before the session and scout out. When I was in Iceland I had nearly 2 weeks before my session to scout out and it paid off. That is a special circumstance that I was there THAT ahead of time. But still, if you’re going somewhere new, give AT MINIMUM a full day to explore. Not having any pressure to perform and just let your creativity run wild.
2. Google Earth is your best friend!
Before you get to the location to explore it, do a virtual tour via Google Earth: here. Say I want to do an elopement in Banff National Park (which I do SO BADLY!). I haven’t been there yet. But I had spent hours crawling it with google earth. Try finding roads and seeing if I can follow where they go. Same goes for hiking trails. Use the 3D option and see what all you can find. I really wish it could get closer, but it still is very impressive what you can see. I have been to Yosemite 6x already and each time I go there I still use Google earth after to see if there is a location I just happened to miss or something I want to check out the next time I go back.
3. Instagram is better than Google images.
Search geotags. Search a location and scroll for longer than 5 minutes. See if you can find a location other than the typical popular spots. Then go back to Google earth and see if you can find it. I like to make a game of this actually. There is a spot in Glacier National Park that I am obsessed with getting too that I have saved in my instagram. I have spend so much time searching for how to get to that certain spot. Because maybe it’s a spot that your couple would want to go that isn’t packed with tourists? Ya never know what spots will be popular and which won’t until you get there. But having a list will help you know where to go when you arrive so you can be like “yeah, this spot looks super remote, but it’s actually PACKED all the time!” Because as helpful as Instagram can be, it can also be incredibly deceiving.
4. All Trails is where it’s at!
I personally like to hike. But I just don’t get to do it nearly enough because usually when it’s summer time and all the hikes are open now that the snow has melted, I’m balls deep in shooting or editing or something else. So I don’t give myself enough time to go on 5, 10, 15+ mile long hikes. But a lot of my couples enjoy getting away from the crowds while still getting a nice backdrop. This is where All Trails is a great tool to use. You can search which trails allow dogs. Exactly how long it is, how hard, and thanks to people leaving reviews you can find out if there are things about the trail that might not be in the given description. Is there a new fallen tree that forces you to go around or go through a river? All trails. Is there still snow? All trails. Want to see what the trail looks like last month or even last week? All trails. I use it constantly on my phone.
So if you’re a photographer who needs some help finding amazing locations, enjoy everything I just shared and get searching! If you’re a couple wanting to get married but you’re unsure of where, allow me to help you find the most perfect location for you to say your “I Do’s!