Four steps to successful architecture location scouting

Glasgow is famed for its Victorian architecture, however, in the last twenty years or so the city has seen a notable increase of modern architecture being introduced all across the city.  I thought I would set myself the challenge of finding and photographing some of the more modern architecture.  This is how I go about scouting for locations in Glasgow.

Contact sheet of the buildings I plan to return to in the near future

Contact sheet of the buildings I plan to return to in the near future

1.  Use Google Images and Google Maps

I started my search using a simple “Glasgow Architecture” search and identified the buildings I was interested in photographing, before searching specific for specific images of these buildings and mapping my route around town using Google Maps.

2.  Carry a light load!

One of the biggest benefits of location scouting is that you don’t have to carry all your gear with you.  I take my DSLR and a 35mm prime only.  That’s it – no extra lenses, no bag, and no tripod.  There is nothing worse than carrying a load of gear around only to discover what you thought was a great location is not everything you hoped it would be so scouting your locations saves all this hassle.

3.  Don’t worry about the light yet 

This may sound odd but at this stage I am only looking for compositions I like.  I don’t worry about the light – or the quality of image I am taking just now.  My scouting trip is solely for recording ideas for later, interesting shapes or textures on buildings.  It is not until I plan to return to photograph that I concern myself with quality and direction of light.  I usually find that when I am recording these ideas I know what I want the final shot to look like.  For example, I know whether I would like to use a long exposure or prefer a shadow on a specific side of building.

4.  Import images to Lightroom

When I return home I import all of my images into Lightroom and create a ‘database’ of locations I want to photograph later.  I also find it useful to print a contact sheet which I keep in my studio as inspiration for later.

This is my scouting routine, it is fairly simple but by just planning a little I find my shoots go much more smoothly and I can capture the image I hand in my mind when I first clicked the shutter button.

All that I need to do when I return to my location is check the weather on the day and use an app such as Sunrise Sunset to check direction of light and time of sunset.

Conclusion and checklist

  • Search Google Images, Flickr, 500px etc
  • Map your route
  • Take minimal gear – a DSLR and one lens is enough!
  • Record images for future ideas – don’t worry about the light just yet
  • Print your images for later

What is your scouting routine?  Do you plan even more thoroughly, do you know of any tools which may be useful?  Leave your comments below.