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Finding the right setting for a photo shoot can be a challenging task.
We reveal how thousands of location properties can be narrowed down to a choice of just one – and how they make sure it’s the perfect photo shoot location for you.
Educated decision-making is what really sets a location agency apart, and is key to finding the right location for a client. This is why we ask very specific questions when a photographer first makes an enquiry: it means they are not held up too long with us, and we can quickly get the essential information that allows us to find a great match. Equally, if we know exactly what the photographer is looking for ““ type of location, number of shots needed, general look and feel ““ it enables us to be truthful to our location owners, since we would not ask them to take on the work without first being absolutely sure what a photographer needs.
We work with lots of clients, from magazines such as Vogue and Tatler, to campaigns for the likes of Burberry and L Oreal. We find it helpful if the photographer knows the stylist they are working with. Obviously this isn’t always possible, but familiarity with each others practices and personality often makes the day of the shoot run that much smoother. We usually suggest the photographer or stylist go and do a recce of the location before they book. This is a great creative aid.
Having worked in the industry as art directors, we have knowledge and experience from both perspectives, so we are aware of the hitches that can occur during a shoot and the things that we as an agency can do to make life easier. Helping with parking permits, being ready for any last-minute artistic changes and helping a photographer to stretch their brief in order to offer more choices, are just a few of the ways in which we help our clients.
What’s more, being property owners ourselves, we are very much aware of the measures that need to be taken to ensure a property remains intact after a shoot. We ask our owners to provide dustsheets to place equipment on (to save any damage to floors) and tennis balls for tripod legs (again to reduce the risk of damage). It proves a great help and puts the whole team at ease.
If a shoot involves a large amount of furniture, it’s a good idea to take a shot of the room as it was found, so the stylists can look back at the end to see where to put things. It takes the stress out of the shoot, especially at the end of the day when everyone is tired and looking forward to going home.
The most important thing to do when calling a location agency is to give a really clear brief. We have a few hundred of locations in our library, so when a photographer calls us, they need to have an idea of the following:
It’s great when a photographer sends us a tear from a magazine, or a sketch, or even a collection of images that sums up the look they are trying to achieve.
We recently had a brief where somebody wanted to emulate a shot from the Watchmen comic, so we were sent a cover from the magazine. It would have been much more difficult for them to describe to me what they wanted, but with the image of the concept in front of me, I was able to find exactly what they were looking for. As an agency, we do our utmost to make it easy for people to find the features they are looking for, in the area they want.
Send us a reference picture to give us an idea of what kind of aesthetic you are hoping to achieve.
Making a visit to a location prior to the shoot can make or break that shoot, and we find it’s one of the most common errors made by photographers when dealing with our company.
It’s important to be aware that, although the photos on the website give a good impression of the space, size and style of the house, it is always a good idea to visit it in person. We do everything we can to personalise the service, but when a client calls us, they should always have a definite idea of the queries they might have in relation to the property.
If they’re worried about the size of the rooms, they should ask us about them; if they’re not sure about the light, parking facilities, the hours of shoot day, all of this information is just a matter of a phone call. Having that knowledge before the shoot makes the day run much more smoothly and prevents unpleasant surprises. Our locations vary hugely from large Georgian houses to railway carriages in the back of a garden.
We find that the most popular shoot locations are the more versatile ones. There are so many large period houses in London that have great ingredients for a shoot such as huge windows, period features and original floorboards. What’s more, their owners don’t mind the properties being painted or decorated. Most property owners will allow you to bring your own props, but if you do want to redecorate, you should be specific about that in your enquiry, and we will be able to provide you with one of these particular locations.
We advise giving as much notice as possible when booking locations so we can provide the most efficient service, but we do know artistic direction can change at the last minute and we work hard to accommodate this. Clients can book up to a day before if such a situation arises. As long as they are lucky enough to find the location they want (and it works out with the owner), then booking at short notice is something we will readily accommodate.
First things first, visit the location and see for yourself!
Clients can call on us for help or advice, whether it’s for organising catering, or tips on where to go for production. We have access to a great network of contacts and like to draw from this where possible. The most common error photographers make is thinking that our properties are strictly location houses. Some of them are, but most are lived-in private homes.
We have a close working relationship with the owners of our properties, and they are all well versed in hiring their home out for shoots. However, it is important to be mindful of the fact that the place you are shooting in is somebody’s family home.
Because Saturdays and Sundays are family time, we would advise against shooting on a weekend. Fewer properties are available and the standard hire cost is increased to 1.5 time the normal day rate.