How to Source the Perfect Shoot Location


Finding the right location for your shoot can be a difficult task. In fact, sometimes it can be harder than the shoot itself! As photographers, you spend so much time trying to find the perfect location for the client's specific needs that you may risk overlooking simple aspects of a location that are equally as important. On Shutterstock Custom assignments, our photographers are often tasked with finding the perfect location themselves. You become both the photographer, and the acting location manager,  who is responsible for fulfilling the client's objective. That’s why we’re sharing a list of tips and tricks for finding the perfect location for your next photoshoot.


Determine if you are looking for an interior or exterior

The first thing you should do when you are tasked with finding a location is to make note of whether or not you are required to shoot indoors or outdoors. Though it seems simple, on Shutterstock Custom assignments this detail may often determine whether or not you are able to complete the shoot in the first place.

When you are surveying a space, ask questions

When you arrive at a potential location choice, ask yourself questions and make sure you can answer them before confirming your shoot.

  • Is the space available on your shoot day?
  • Is it ready to shoot? Ensuring there are no trademarks in the space.
  • Do you need extra photography equipment to make it ready?
  • Can you create the mood that the assignment is looking to capture?

Take some test shots before you confirm

If you can, visit your location before the shoot to take some test shots in the space. This is a great way to confirm that the location is the right fit, and gives you a better understanding of the environment you’ve selected.

Confirm that you have the rights and releases to shoot in that space.

Always, always ensure that you have a signed location release. If location releases aren’t signed on our assignments, we can’t deliver assets to the client. If you are sourcing a location from a third-party site, ensure you are disclosing your intentions to shoot there in full. Do a full walk through of the space to ensure that there is no commercially licensed or branded artwork, books, or photographs in the background. For a full list on copyright material to avoid, check out this article.


Once you’ve found the right space, get the approvals you need

Not every client shoot requires locations approvals, but you should always confirm if this is necessary before you select your location. Some Shutterstock Custom assignments require client approval before you can shoot, so ensure you receive approval before you pull out your camera equipment and arrange other logistics. If you don’t ensure you have approval before you shoot, you risk delaying the shoot and discouraging the client.

Determine whether or not you have a location budget

It’s important when you receive any client work to determine if you have a location budget. If you have a budget, be sure to provide the client with a few choices that match that budget restriction. For Shutterstock Custom assignments, you have to stick within the budget as our team does not assist in location vetting or booking. If you don’t have a location budget for your client work, chances are, you’re expected to use your assets to find an appropriate shoot location. Time to get creative!


How much space do you need in your location

Every shoot you do is going to require different attributes, and that may include the right size that you need to fit in what you need to shoot. If you are doing a food shoot, for example, you probably just need a nicely lit kitchen and a space that can fit a few people. However, if you are doing a lifestyle shoot that requires a variety of rooms, you may need a larger space. Make sure you have the room to setup your equipment comfortably, with enough room to shoot.

Determine the technical requirements for a location

The location you select needs to match the requirements and guidelines your client expects, and that includes lighting, time of day, and shoot layout. For example, if your shoot requires natural light, ensure there is ample light available and that you are shooting near a window that streams light in. This is pivotal, and can not be replaced with artificial lighting.


Ask for help!

We encourage this on Shutterstock Custom assignments above-all. If you are questioning whether or not a space is a right fit for an assignment, go to your Project Coordinator. They are there to support you on a shoot and will be able to confirm if you are questioning a decision. If you are working for any client, having their buy-in before you start shooting is a fantastic way to start a great client-photographer relationship.


Finding the right location can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Use the resources you have access to, and keep a log of potential locations you find that could make great shoot locations. You never know when an opportunity might come up.

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Guest Post by Tysen Potter
Tysen is a Project Coordinator at Shutterstock Custom, with a focus on building and executive producing large scale productions.  His time before Shutterstock was spent amassing multiple years of experience working as a video producer and editor on productions across varied industries.