Get Out… Scout… & Stack the Cards in Your Favor

Drivel on the benefits of scouting is nothing new… and we’ve heard it all before. I still find, however, that scouting tends to be an overlooked item line in budgets. The obvious benefits of visiting a location a day or two prior to shooting can be huge. Not only does it afford the photographer an opportunity to plan and pre-visualize the manner in which the space can be used, explored, and lit… but it also allows him/her the opportunity to map out the path of the sun, the wind patterns, and the weather.

Assuming that the weather allows for shooting… the sun and wind can often be the most critical and overlooked aspects in planning. The use of the location and the placement of talent tends to not only be determined by content… but also by the opportunities and the limitations that the location offers. If time is tight… you will want to know where the sun will be once your set up is complete and the shoot begins. As the sun moves… so will your use of space and the placement of talent. Sun and wind can also play a key role in informing your strobe/modifier pairings. If the sun is blaring… a high-powered strobe and efficient modifier combo can be critical. If the wind is howling… best have a c-stand, sand bags, or multiple assistants. Weather seems to be a more obvious concern. It’s certainly best to have a temperature controlled vehicle or building close at hand… as well as… watchful hair and makeup artists. No budget for hair and makeup? A light hair spray and blotting tissue can go a long way. Get some and keep them in your bag at all times.

If the budget allows… scout a day or two prior. If not… arrive early and plan ahead. A strong plan can make it or break it in crunch time. Even with a good plan… you will always be improvising and dancing with the changes… so it’s best to have the cards stacked in your favor.

Red Rock Wilderness Observation Park | Jonathan Timmes Photography

Red Rock Wilderness Observation Park | Jonathan Timmes Photography

Red Rock Wilderness Observation Park | Jonathan Timmes Photography

Red Rock Wilderness Observation Park | Jonathan Timmes Photography

Lastly… Don’t overlook or rule out the benefits of planning non-project-specific scouting trips to discover new locations. Over time you will build yourself a library of sites that can potentially be paired with future projects. The images above were shot this past weekend while scouting on a hiking trip with my wife and daughter. Nothing more than an iphone and pen/paper were needed. It took a whole 5 mins to explore these buildings… take these pics… and jot down some notes. The final images that you deliver to your clients are your responsibility. You best own-up because no one wants to hear any excuses. My advice… just get out and SCOUT! It’s up to you to make it happen.

iPhone: Winter Blizzard

By 5:30 this morning, only a few inches had accumulated… so I brewed some coffee, put the car in 4-wheel drive, and ventured out. It was only lightly snowing and the roads were all beautifully plowed.Project Destination: Wolf Trap – Filene Center





About midway through my work… the slight dusting of snow quickly turned into BLIZZARD-like whiteout conditions. As I waded through knee-to-waist high snowdrifts, the only sound that I could make out against the deafening wind was the pounding of my heart. It was exhilarating to shoot in these conditions.Strangely enough, Once I made my way back to my car… the winds stopped… the snow fell with grace… and I cruised home with ease.

Knowing that I would not be able to share the images that I created for the Trap at this time… I used my iPhone to document the adventure.