Environmental portraiture requires that your subject be shown in the context of her, well, environment. Knowing full well the amount of gear that I need to haul to a location, scouting it in advance is vital. For me, it gives me a pretty good idea if I can actually haul said amount of gear to the location. If I’m huffing and puffing before I even get there with a backpack and camera in hand, then I should definitely rethink the minimal amount of gear I’m bringing on the shoot.
I haven’t been location scouting for long, but here are a few key things I’ve picked up on my expeditions:
- Shoot with the lens you intend to use for the actual session. Off the top of my head, this will help you compose the scene and simulate a number of camera settings to see how it affects exposure. I used this scene below in the Color and Motion series (part I) because I just loved the texture of the tree roots and the tonal contrast between the sunlight streaming through the trees and the shade.
- Scout the location at around the time you plan to do your shoot. Knowing the quality of light that you’ll be getting on the day itself is important. For one, the position of the sun in the sky could very well make or break a picture. And since I use off-camera flashes to light my portraits, I need to know beforehand what sort of light I’ll be up against because small flash can only do so much. It could mean the difference between keeping the highlights in check or having your background blown out (which is not necessarily a bad thing).
- Bring a bottle of water or two. Trust me on this.