This article is a guest post series from IFB Contributor, Monica Murgia.
Taking photos at your home or in a studio is a great and practical way to start getting comfortable with your camera. It gives you control over the lighting, temperature, and duration of the shoot. However, always shooting photos in the same place can make your images static and boring.
Sometimes, if you're lucky enough to land an awesome photo opportunity, it often requires travel. Shooting on location is the perfect way to spice up your portfolio. It adds variety to your images while showcasing your unique abilities as a stylist. Plus, as a fashion blogger, you're at an advantage for shooting on location frequently since you have to be out and about to photograph your outfits anyway. In this article, I'm going to share some tips with you about how to shoot on location and make the most of your experience. My most recent travels took me on location to Milan, Italy, to shoot for the boutique Coming Up Roses, so I'll be drawing inspiration from that!
Equipment You Should Bring
When shooting on location, access to electrical outlets and backup supplies are either limited, or nonexistent. Having your camera die or run out of memory in the middle of a shoot is devastating. I prep by bringing the following:
- My Olympus EM-10 with at 14-42 mm lens
- My iPhone
- 2 fully charged backup batteries
- 1 backup memory card
- Innoo solar charger
- AYL portable bluetooth wireless speaker
- USB cords to charge my devices
If you’re shooting exclusively with a smartphone, be sure you have enough space to shoot a few hundred photos.
How to Pack Your Equipment
Hauling heavy bags of equipment, accessories, and clothing is a buzzkill. Aim to pack minimally. The equipment I use is lightweight, and I carry it in a backpack for mobility. The bag has ample room for additional outfits and props.
If you’re shooting several concepts for the same editorial, here are some tips for packing:
- Take breaks in between concepts: It’s too difficult to carry everything around all day. Shoot one concept at a time. This allows you to pack less and have break times. This strategy provides you with more energy and focus on poses and lighting.
- Collaborate with a local business: Find a boutique, cafe, or other business you’d like to feature in your shoot. Contact them and ask if they will allow you to safely store items in much gear.
Always Have Flexibility
If you’ve never been to the location, do some research prior to your arrival. Pick a few areas to visit before the shoot to see if they fit your vision. If you’re shooting in a foreign country, you’ll also need to be sensitive to the culture. Business hours vary. Certain items may not be available for props. Public transportation may be less reliable than imagined. Be flexible with your vision and scheduling. Here is how I adapt:
- Plan shooting during off-peak hours: Early mornings and evenings are great for having streets and sidewalks to yourself.
- Stay curious while en route to your destination: A checklist of places to go is good, but keep your eyes open. Travel is about discovery. You may find a better photo opportunity while exploring.
- Don’t panic: Planned everything perfectly only to get lost? Don’t panic. Often times the best shots are totally spontaneous. Instead of getting upset, try taking a few photos right where you are.
Plan Around the Weather & Time of Day
It’s important to check the weather for the day and time of your shoot. Consider the type of atmosphere and lighting you’d like for your photos. Maybe a cloudy day compliments your concept or the type of clothing you’re featuring. Work with the weather and not against it.
- Avoid heavy rain: Heavy rain can damage your equipment and clothing. Reschedule your shoot if the weather looks bad. Also consider when shooting in light rain, the weather can suddenly turn worse. Pack some waterproof bags to be safe.
- Monitor the temperature: Excessive temperatures will make your editorial wilt; but with some planning, you can work with the weather. While I was in Milan, it was extremely hot. I had to shoot early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the models sweating in the clothing and makeup. We started shooting at 7:00am to avoid the heatwave. It ended up being a great time to work. The streets were empty. The stores were closed, and many of the safety doors were adorned with graffiti. I wouldn’t have gotten the shots of Neira and Malin during regular business hours.
- Natural lighting: Shooting outdoors is fun and challenging because the light always changes. Consider what type of effects you’d like for your editorial and pick the time of day that works. For example, I wanted to take some poetic shots towards the end of the day. I was able to get a great photo of my model, Neira, walking into the sunset.
Bring Along Some Props
A few fun, well placed props can completely transform the shoot. A great prop compliments the style of your shoot and acts as an icebreaker for the models. When the models are comfortable in front of the camera, the shots will always be better.
I selected this pink lantern from Coming Up Roses, and styled my model Susan’s look around it. It perfectly complimented the dress and scarf she wore. As we shot in the neighborhood, I placed her in front of buildings that added color contrast – like the green front of Gelateria Gusto.
For the evening portion, I used balloons for props. I took hundreds of wonderful photos from this part of the shoot, because everyone was genuinely having fun. The models were laughing and playing around with the balloons. Their joy was contagious, and people smiled at us on the streets. The shots were very candid and natural. It was so much fun I couldn’t resist being in the shoot myself!
Try Out Black & White
It can be tempting to only shoot color photos. But there is something very glamorous about black and white editorials. On the second day of my shoot, I only took black and white photos. We were exploring Corso Como, a posh neighborhood in Milan. I wanted to capture the sophistication and old-world charm of Milan in the photos. The store facades and regular bike traffic were perfect backdrops. Color photos wouldn’t have captured the same feeling. Consider shooting in black and white if your editorial is more focused on communicating a feeling or idea.
These are just a few ideas to keep in mind while shooting on location. The location, weather, props, and equipment will vary on each shoot. With practice, you will learn and refine a process that works for you.