Scouting for Location Shoots: A Step-by-Step Checklist

Professional photographers try to be prepared for the unexpected when photographing wildlife and landscapes. Part of that is planning ahead for a location shoot. Here’s a step-by-step checklist to help guide you to a successful day in the field:

  1. Set aside the time and day for the shoot. You’ll have to prepare differently for shooting on a long July weekend at a tourist-packed location than a quiet Monday off-season.
  2. Once you know the day, decide if you’ll need to spend overnight in a hotel or whether a day trip will be sufficient.
  3. Look at a map of the area. Determine how much ground you’d like to cover in the shoot. Will it involve a two-mile hike carrying all of your equipment? Or will your camera and lenses be easily accessible in the vehicle parking lot? This will determine the size and weight of the equipment you’ll want to bring.
  4. Check the weather forecast. This will help you plan your method of transportation, clothing and camera gear necessary.
  5. Gather as much information as you can about the specific locale you intend to shoot before you get there. If the location has a dedicated website (such as a town or a national park), check it out first. Look closely for details that may look interesting to photograph. Determine distances between the locations you wish to shoot.
  6. What animals and plants are local to the area? Pick up a brochure or guide for local wildlife to get you acquainted with what you might see. Often, gift shops will have these when you get there, as well, but try to gather as much information ahead of time.
  7. Look at postcards in nearby stores to see what other photographers have shot there. Can you capture an even better photo of the same subject?
  8. Take a notepad with you to jot names of specific animals and birds as you’re shooting. If you’re on a birding tour, for instance, the tour guide may be calling out names of birds very fast, that you may not remember later. Even typing them into a cell phone can be handy.
  9. Before you leave home, inspect and clean all your camera gear.
  10. Travel with a buddy if possible. Not only can you split the weight of the equipment you carry, but a friend may point out things around you that you might not see while you’re engrossed behind your lens.
  11. When you return, try to upload your photos into your computer as soon as you can and label the ones you’re likely to forget.
  12. Clean your gear. Let your lenses and camera bodies dry out thoroughly to prevent mold from growing and to extend the life of your equipment.

Do you prefer to shoot photographs in crowded places or by yourself in the wilderness? Leave a comment below with your experiences and any other tips you have found useful.

Image credit: