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How to get Location Scouting Still Photo Gigs? (2 replies and 3 comments)

4 days ago
skiphunt 4 days ago

I've been a photographer most of my life. I've shot off and on for more than 30 years. Everything from 4x5 view cameras, to medium format, 35mm, and every flavor of digital. 

I've shot everything from studio product to fashion to news and lifestyle. I've even got an image in the Smithsonian archive. 🙂 

Recently, I've wondered about these people who get paid to do film location scouting for films and TV. Is this more often just someone getting generic snaps with their smart phone? Or, is there any value anymore in having decent photography skills?

What's the going rate for location scout photography? How does one go about looking for gigs like that? Seems like something I'd really love doing. 

If you're hired to get some creative location stills... do they usually just find someone local? Or, are the location scout photographers sent to find interesting possibilities?

I remember you had a podcast with a stills photographer, but that was strictly the set photographer. Are the scout stills photographer and set photographer ever the same person?

Here's some of my work. I like to use images as source in artistic digital compositions to, so there's some of that mixed in as well:»»»


Jacob W.
3 days ago
Jacob W. 3 days ago

Hey Skip, so not being a producer or anything, what I know about stills photographer is kind of true about getting a job in the film industry in any department -- you need an IN. Someone on the inside who is willing and able to hire you. 

I have worked with a still photographer on a few movies who shot everything from Food Ads to Playboy in LA coming up, and somehow met someone who was in the film industry looking for a stills photographer and the rest is history. Obviously you need the skills and the portfolio, and with 30 years of professional experience, it's obvious you have that!

Doesn't have to be a local hire, normally I would say it isn't, but that all depends. 

I'm not sure how to steer you any closer other than, try and get close into the film industry. Try and meet people and express your desire to be a stills photographer on set. I'm not 100% certain but I think the publicist usually works close with the stills photographer, and could be responsible for their being hired. Also every hire must go through a producer so those are the people it always benefits to know. 

I'm pretty sure stills photographers will work on a weekly base rate. And it's going to be a rate that is very fair.

It's worth noting, Atlanta and LA are hotspots for film in the US currently. Hope this helps. Apologize it's not a one way ticket to pack your camera bags and hop a plane fore a major motion picture film set. I hope you navigate your way there, truly no cooler place to be than on a film set, especially at an incredible location!

Jacob W.
3 days ago

Also worth noting, for location and scouting, I just recently was on a show where we had a 360deg. backdrop on an entire sound stage, so the backdrop was easily 30ft high by 500ft long, circular around this entire stage. The picture was of a stretch of jungle taken in Panamà during a location scout. We used this as the backdrop for the jungle we built on stage. The picture - be it very very important for the set, was taken by the art director on the location scout with her iphone using panoramic setting. So, sometimes you don't use your very expensive Nikon...

3 days ago

Thanks Jacob!

Lots of good info here. I appreciate it. 🙂

I'm definitely not of the common "shutterbug/pixelpeeper" ilk who thinks you have to have the latest pricey tech to get a valid image. In some situations it's advantageous, but I'd say smart phone images have really come into their own in the last couple of years. I can easily see a day when it's my only preferred image captuure device.

Pair that with the lates machine-learning technology that can interpolate a very low resolution image up to print quality, and I think eventually those expensive Nikon's might very well become obsolete in the not too distant future.

Part of the reason for my main question is that I know of a photographer who was adequate in skill. Nothing outstanding, but capable for sure. He ended up doing location images and set images fairly quickly and I wasn't sure how he made that leap. I've only met him once, but we've been online friends for awhile. The last I heard, he was mostly getting realworld images that would be used within CGI sets.

I do remember that he was friends with a pop star at the time and got on set for some of her music videos. And then likely met some crew connections for some film projects. And that just kept snowballing into more film-related projects.

So, I guess it's like you've outlined, ie. find someone to give you that first "in". Be easy to work with and do a good job. Then, you're "in".

I don't really know anyone though. I do know one guy who'd been calling himself a "producer" for a good while. Mostly projects that seemed just a notch over student films and always pretty low budget. But, I've noticed over that last couple of years his gigs have been getting a bit more substantial. The last film he poured himself into, didn't end up doing well at all. But it did ok regionally. That still led to another slightly bigger project with some actors I'd heard of... but that got squashed due to the pandemic. I think I heard that he may have landed a new one that's potentially an even bigger project.

I know he's been at it for several years now and it only recently starting to get larger projects. Not top-tier stuff, but steadily better and better. Might be a good time to reconnect. I know he's always been a fan of my work and knows that at some point I was very interested in filmmaking. So, it might be a good fit and decent timing.

I've also traveled solo to 37 different countries. Mostly shoe-string, backpacker style, but I have a lot of experience getting to remote locations, getting images, and getting back in one piece. So, maybe that experience may be of value too.

Thanks again for your insight and any other advice you might think of!

The Byre
2 days ago
The Byre 2 days ago

There is a great deal to location scouting that involves understanding the requirements of the film in question.  It's like casting - you know it when you see it.  I suggest listening to the location mager Dodd Vickers podcast here»

Great photographic skills do not seem to feature.  Knowing how that DoP and the director work does.

2 days ago

I've listened to every podcast including this one. I recall Dodd Vickers mentioning sending scouts out for images... but there wasn't any info regarding how you get on a project as a scout/photographer for the location manager.

Thus, the reason why I asked the question here.

Thanks for replying though.

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