Shooting on location versus in studio not only provides variety, it also gives you the possibility to offer different styles and themes to clients with little effort. Whether they want something traditional, modern or unconventional, you will be able to accommodate their taste all by finding a location that fits. And the best part is you will never get bored from shooting in the same old studio space over and over.
It is a great idea to gather a variety of locations that you can use. Make a list and start scouting all the places that you think might work. Besides the obvious – hotels – there are bed & breakfasts, little inns, apartments or penthouses. I have even shot in restaurants, a vintage furniture store and in old barns. A little scouting can find you some unexpected places you may love shooting in.
Finding the light
When I look for hotel rooms that I might work in, I look for how much space I will have, how the light is (try to figure out how the light will be at the time you are likely to shoot), I look for usable background outside the window. Most likely a higher level provides a better view and more light. Being up higher can also shield you more from onlookers or even give you the possibility to use a balcony undisturbed.
Google it for photos
Sometimes your client may suggest a place where you have never been, or you need to travel to your shoot. In those cases you may not have a chance to look at the location first, but even pictures online or Google Streetview can help in getting an impression and you prepare.
The same is true if you need to book a location out of town. Hotel booking and travel websites as well as the location’s own website may show images that can be of some help. But be careful as many places show images that give the impression of rooms being large and with a great view, and in reality you may find disappointment with a small room with no view. My best tip for this is to look at Trip Advisor for real guest images. This is usually very helpful. Also look to see if the hotel lists the rooms sq. footage.
Stop by to say hi!
Another option would be to stop by the hotel and ask if you may view the room. Usually they are more then happy to show you several rooms. In many cases it is advisable to be sensitive when explaining. What you are using the room for – some locations might have objections which often arise due to a false impression of what you are doing. Especially privately owned locations might want to know exactly what you are doing. I then call it a “fashion or portrait shoot for a private client”, and this will put doubts to rest. Especially since many places fear that you will arrive with a whole entourage and a truckload of equipment just how they’d expect it from a commercial shoot. Larger hotels usually don’t care what you are doing as long as you stay in your room.
I include my location fees in my packages and I typically shoot two – four sessions over the time I have the location if I book it for the night. If I just have one client I try to get a day rate to save on cost. I have shot at some locations for free and some for as little as $50 and a few as high as $1200 per night.
Whether you incorporate location fees into your packages or have your clients pay them depends on your pricing structure. You can also set a maximum location fee that you are willing to pay and have the client pay anything in excess. I had clients that wanted their boudoir session in a hotel’s penthouse that is several thousands of dollars a night. In my packages such a special location request is to be compensated by the client.
To portfolio or not to portfolio
I have been asked before if I use hotel images for my portfolio and website and the answer is yes but I am cautious not to show anything that is signature to the hotel or mention the hotels name. Some hotels may not have an issue at all but some bigger corporate owned hotels may not want their name affiliated with boudoir.
Ask me anything
I could talk all day about shooting on location so if you have any questions just comment below and I will answer for you.