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  • Writer's pictureDave Pidgeon

The importance of scouting a location

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

High school golfer stands on a bridge at sunset.
This portrait illustrates how important it is to scout a location before a shoot.

LOCATION: Conestoga Country Club, Lancaster County, Pa.

EQUIPMENT: Canon 5D Mark IV | EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM | FJ Westcott FJ 400 strobe | FJ Westcott Octa L box with silver interior, beauty dish, no diffusion

THE STORY: If you're thinking about getting into portrait photography (and, honestly, any genre of photography), then here's one singular important lesson that's going to elevate your portfolio.

And your experience as a photographer.

Ready? It's profound but simple.

Show up to your location early.

If you plan to shoot a portrait at 6 p.m., so up to the location at 5 p.m. And I believe that to be true even when the location is some place that's familiar.

Light changes. It changes throughout a day and it changes throughout the year, so that the sun at 8 a.m. in May is different than it is in March.

And, you never know when inspiration will cause you to rearrange your plans.

That's what happened when I had a high school athlete portrait session scheduled for an early Spring evening at a local golf course.

The original plan was to begin shooting at one of the tees. But then, I showed up early, and changed everything.

When I arrived an hour before the shoot, I spied this bridge that was perfectly placed at an angle to allow a sunburst in the backdrop (plus a wide blue sky).

The challenge, though, was to find a way to create this portrait in a way to keep a God-awful maintenance shed out of the shot. That was no easy feat.

But because I arrived early, I could plan it with enough time before the client arrived, making their experience nice and easy.

A few practice shots, a few experiments with angles and focal length, and I knew we'd nail this one.

Dave Pidgeon is a seasoned writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. You can reach him by email at

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