Photo by the talented Benjamin Curtis-Beard. What a badass spot!

Photo by the talented Benjamin Curtis-Beard. What a badass spot!

Whether you are shooting a music video, narrative film, or a commercial project - the shooting location will impact every aspect of your image. Chicago has a vibrant urban culture with many great locations to offer - so we’ve put together a few important tips for your next location scout through the Windy City.

Take Notes Like a Field Researcher

Visiting a location for the first time is an exercise in imagination and observation. Not only are you visualizing your project coming to life in the new space, but you need to take down every bit of information to help your future self make solid creative decisions.

Things You’ll Want To Bring Along:

  • Your Camera

  • Notepad or Fieldnotes

  • Tape Measure

  • Light Meter (if working with natural light)

  • Sun-tracking App (like Sunseeker - if working with natural light)

Once You Arrive At the Location:

  • Take as many photos as possible!

  • Jot down the time of your visit for reference.

  • Take measurements of rooms & windows.

  • Scope out light fixtures, linked circuits, and the breaker.

Think on Behalf of Your Camera

Now that you’ve taken some notes on your visit you can start to think about how well it will actually work out when it comes time to put the camera on sticks. Are you able to move things around/out that you don’t like? What about the colors of the walls/counters? Think mise en scène! Make sure you consider how much space you have in the location for things like dollies, stands, and lights. Space will also affect your depth-of-field options as well as what camera angles and focal lengths will be possible.

Now consider all of the lighting aspects. Are you planning on working with natural daylight or do you want to completely eliminate it? Consider if you have enough available power or if the windows have beautiful light shaft opportunities. Your location photos & notes will help you decide how feasible it is to control incoming light or how to use it to your advantage.

Minimize Sleep Lost Over Murphy’s Law

You don’t want to show up with a shooting plan that falls through due to something unaccounted for. Many times there will be a producing team or location manager to make sure the location is as controlled as possible, but if you are on your own then be sure to spend extra time going through all the unknowns. Back up locations can be lifesavers when Murphy attacks. No matter how thorough you have done your homework, always expect the unexpected. Especially with a limited budget, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

We live in a big city and there are many locations to consider here in Chicago. If you are doing the scouting yourself, check out this scouting guide by Raindance for more information on actually finding locations to consider. Good luck and don’t forget to take those notes!