I've had several people ask me how I pick locations for my shoots. Today I want to share a little about that using my recent shoot with Maya from The Dragonfly Agency.
I chose to photograph Maya at the UNT Speech and Hearing Clinic. Maybe you're thinking "that seems like a strange location" or "why there?", but let me explain.
The first thing I look for in a location is variety. This is especially important when shooting new faces (models who have only recently been signed to an agency and don't have a lot of experience) because they have little to nothing in their portfolio. They need a wide range of shots to fill their book and showcase their talents.
Let's start with the outside of the UNT Speech and Hearing Clinic:
The entire building is a crisp white. This allows for a few things: firstly, you can have your model put their back to the wall and it will create a studio-like-feel, or you can chose to have them face the wall, allowing it to act as a reflector and bounce the sunlight toward your model. This is a great option for when you don't have an assistant, but need to direct light onto the model's face.
Below I had Maya put her back to the wall and face toward the sun. This image was taken at 7:38AM so the sun was up but not too harsh. I love shooting at sunrise because it allows me to position my models toward the sun, without it being too bright or uncomfortable. The white wall disappears as the background and you're able to fully focus on Maya.
In this next image, I simply had Maya stand beside the wall with her back to the sun. What I really like about this is, you get an extremely simple background that is anything but distracting. The wall helps shade Maya but still lets in enough light to get a nice backlight and glow around her hair. Look at where her feet are: this is where you want your model to stand. It's directly on the shade line from the wall and it lets the perfect amount of sunlight through.
This method is simple, it's aesthetically pleasing, and it's a very easy thing to find. For this specific type of shot, a wide variety of walls or buildings would have looked great. I chose white because it forces the viewer to focus on the model and on her clothing; which is the goal when shooting fashion.
As I said before, variety is a must when shooting new faces. When I schedule a shoot, I pick a key location and then I use street view on Google Maps to view areas close-by. The day of the shoot I arrive at least 30 minutes early and scout various other location within walking distance.
The UNT Clinic was my key location and I put that exact address on the call sheet because my model can easily route to it without getting lost. It's very frustrating for a model if they are driving around looking for a location without an address i.e. a field, open parking lot, etc. So make sure you're giving them a physical address even if you just meet them there and lead the way to the real location.
Here are a couple spots we found within walking distance.
Because we had already used a clean background for the first shots, I wanted to incorporate some pops of color and foliage. I had Maya change into a solid white dress and we put her hair up for our more natural shots.
Something as simple as a ponytail can really change the look, but make sure it's a good mix of messy and put together; you don't want it to look like you forgot about doing her hair.
Final Thoughts: have fun with your locations, always be early, never stop challenging yourself to be better, and always keep your eyes peeled for fresh locations. I have Evernote folders full of location options and addresses I've driven by and thought would be cool – don't get stuck using the same five places over and over.