Why scout locations?
Driving around aimlessly costs time and money. So we scout. Scouting to me is done with a left brain approach looking for things that I think the right brain would like.
intel data is collected about a particular location then that allows my mind (some would say right brain) to open up and become and look at the location with a creative twist.
Here is a brief rundown of what I like to know.
1) Are there any events occurring at that location or nearby on the scheduled day of the shoot?
This will affect traffic, foot and vehicle and thus parking and potentially privacy.
2) Is there available power or is this a battery-powered only location?
Typically I assume all outside shoots are without power, but it's worthy to note that SOME locations are close to available power.
3) What is the foot and car traffic like for the location - at the time we will be shooting there?
I want to know the typical traffic for the area. Take note of the time you scout it (your scout pics should record that).
4) Does the location support the theme?
Some locations go great with certain themes. Some are very neutral. Just about anything can be made to work and this is a rather subjective question unless you are working on a specific order, such as "find a private location outside with paint chipping off a concrete wall or building" or some specific.
5) Are there any security considerations for the location?
Are we in the ghetto, an alleyway, outside a Federal building, are the natives getting restless? All of these things help me to predict whether there may be precautions or distractions that have to be dealt with or prevented.
6) Is the location close enough to vehicle parking or does it need to be hiked?
This can sometimes affect what gear is brought along.
7) Are there on-site bathrooms or nearby?
Should be obvious.
8) Proximity to a supermarket or food, believe it or not this can be important.
Another obvious thing. If not, it's good to know as brown bags still work.
9) Does the location require a permit? If so, where does one get one and what is the cost? If not a permit, is it a private site and therefore who owns it?
If it requires a permit that has to be factored into the cost of the shoot. If it's private then a property release is to be used (actually I try to get everything in writing as much as I can even if it isn't deemed necessary). It's nice to be able to pull out a signed document when security comes along and you tell them to take a hike.
10) Are there any alternate shoot locations nearby (just in case)?
Sometimes despite the best planning something has affected the shoot location, unexpected people, events, who knows? It's good to have options plus it adds the element of spontaneity to a shoot which can be a welcome element, you know right brain stuff.
11) If outdoors, does the environment pose a threat to equipment? Such as in a desert (sand, heat) or near the ocean (sand, saltwater)?
It's good to know what kind of danger to equipment may occur.
12) Last but not the least, how is the light for the location?
Sometimes certain locations get killer light that can really help to develop the feel of the shoot. Sometimes the light is a detriment because of the time of day. While light can be made from a flash, incorporating the sun's light as a second light to counterbalance my own light can result in some great photography. So observe light always and take photos of the location.
Ideally, each scouted location would have ample pertinent photographs. I keep a hidden folder on my website with scouted locations for future reference. You don't have to but I usually use Google Earth to get a satellite view of the shoot area, if it's outside. It's good to know exactly where things are and all of the routes to and from the area.
If you've anything to add that is something successful that has helped you scout, chime in. Or not.