Location Scouting Is Key To Getting The Perfect Shot

Picture Perfect

author: Kelly Shoff

Written by: Kelly Shoff

Producer, Video | Motion | Photography

06.17.2021

  • Best Practices
  • Creative

Location Scouting Is Key To Getting The Perfect Shot

It’s the kind of image that catches your eye, it stands out from the clutter, it literally stops you mid-scroll on social media, and you wonder, how did they get that shot?

You know the stuff: A grass blade that has more moves than Simone Biles as it flies out of the discharge chute from a mower. Or an aerial shot zooming across ocean cliffs to settle above the 18th green of a championship golf course. Or the view inside an incubator that’s caring for a delicate newborn baby.

Beautiful blade of grass caught by the camera

Well, it takes lots of planning, plenty of patience, and a fair amount of luck.

Getting Ready For Action

First, the planning. Video isn’t an afterthought at EPIC Creative, it’s part of our DNA, it’s what we pride ourselves on, and it’s all done in-house. In fact, we started as a video production company back in 1989!

For each client, location scouting—finding the perfect location for a client video or photo shoot—is a little different. For some clients, we shoot on location at their facility. If it’s a venue we are not familiar with, we meet on-site well before the actual shoot to do a walk-through, so we can get a lay of the land. It also helps us figure out the challenges: How much space will we have to shoot? How many cameras can we use? How many lights should we bring? Where are the power sources? How is the sound in the room? Does it have an echo? Are there fans or machinery running that can interfere with our audio? If it’s a live stream, we need to know the upload speed and determine if we can tap into their ethernet. There are so many little things to think about, but when those are taken care of, everything else falls into place.

For other clients we have to find the perfect spot. Which means we ask a whole set of different questions: What’s the look and feel of that brand? Is it rural, urban, or residential? Can it be Anywhere, USA? Or do they want it to have a Midwestern feel, an East Coast look, a Southern vibe, or a rugged Western flair with mountains and prairies? Do they want aerials? Will we be interviewing anyone? Are we planning to walk and talk? Are we doing a sit-down interview? Or do we want to hop on a golf cart and talk to a golf course superintendent as we drive around the course? You get the idea. The more we know about what our clients want, the better we can create winning content.

Video isn’t an afterthought at EPIC Creative, it’s part of our DNA, it’s what we pride ourselves on, and it’s all done in-house.

Location decisions also impact the gear we bring, the time we arrive, how long we stay, and how quickly we can turn around the finished video. We go all over the country for our clients to make sure we capture that look and feel they’re trying to convey.

Having Patience And Taking Risks

Finding the perfect location occasionally requires you to step outside your comfort zone and talk to random strangers. Frequently we drive by an office complex, a unique building, a beautiful house, or the perfect Midwestern farm and stop to chat with the owner. Our goal: to get permission to use their property for our next shoot. Some people are flattered and thrilled to be a part of a video shoot. Others simply tell us no, and we continue our hunt. That’s where patience comes in; we truly stop at nothing to find that perfect place.

But what happens when it rains on the day you planned to do a mower shoot? How do you shoot snow plows with no snow? Or there’s a thick marine layer of fog at a coastal golf course? We adjust. We wait it out, we shoot other things, and—in the worst-case scenario—we push everything back a day.

It’s all about having a Plan B, C, and D.

If we’re outside, we also need to pay attention to sunrise and sunset; those are the golden hours for getting great video. We’re constantly paying attention to the angle of the sun and the lighting. When indoors, we have much more control over our lighting but sometimes the equipment we’re recording malfunctions or doesn’t work the way it should. So again we adapt: we shoot a different scene, or figure out alternative angles so no one knows the machine wasn’t working properly. It’s all about having a Plan B, C, and D.

Capturing That Lucky Shot

Other times you get lucky. You just happen to be rolling as two old friends see each other for the first time in more than a year and they hug right in the middle of your frame. Or you’re in a small town meat market trying to capture a bit of Americana, and out from behind the counter come two little boys in an old-fashioned pedal fire truck, and they start riding in circles around the store.

It’s pure magic. It’s the shot you didn’t know you were looking for—but when you get it, it’s enough to build a story around.

We live for those moments. Like the time we were running alongside a mower catching shots of the grass fly out and we got a single blade that twisted and turned, moved towards the lens in perfect focus, then fell to the ground in slow motion. Or that time we were flying the drone and caught the evening sun as it came out from behind a cloud and reflected off a client’s building, creating a dazzling shot.

Yeah, a lot of that is luck. But it’s also the result of planning, patience, and successfully scouting the ideal location.

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