7 Rules for Location Scouting

7 Rules for Location Scouting

By Jen Beytin

If each picture is worth a thousand words, you’d better make sure yours are staying on message. That starts with the scouting the right locations to get the images that will make your direct mail work.The right image can often make or break a mail piece, so some advance planning is a necessity before you go out and shoot. For the best results and most organized day, scout locations well in advance of your shoot date—and always plan backups.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind during the planning process:

1. Think outside the senior center
Sure, photos at a senior center definitely get the point across that you’re trying to highlight the over-55 crowd. But is there a more interesting, less obvious location? Maybe seniors in your district like to hang out at the local diner or volunteer at a neighborhood soup kitchen or even jet ski on the lake. Pick locations that say something unique about your district and your message. The same thing goes for family, work and business locations.

2. Look for interesting backdrops
Biotech labs are full of great visuals, as are medical settings such as hospitals and doctors’ offices. Find a recycling center to highlight a green environment message. For blue-collar photos, look for the kind of locations you’d see on Discovery’s “Dirty Jobs.”

3. Consider lighting
Look for ways that the photographer might be able to manipulate the light. If you’re scouting an indoor location, does it have lots of natural light? How about electrical outlets? If you’re scouting an outdoor location, is there shade nearby?

4. Think about logistics
Does the location have restrooms, or a place for makeup touchups? Are chairs and tables for snacks or lunch included? What about ample parking? The number of stairs is also something to consider.

5. Plan for props
Some locations will have all the props you need baked right in, like a school. In other locations, you might have to bring some props to set the right tone. For formal headshots, for instance, we often like to have U.S. and state flags in the background.

6. Control the space
If you’re using a small business location, plan to go there when the business is closed or during a slow period. This ensures you won’t disrupt business or upset customers. If you’re going to a park, find out if you need a permit.

7. Minimize travel times
To help save time, try to find as many locations within walking distance of each other as possible. For example, a park next to a school and/or adjacent to a small business.

Jennifer Beytin is creative director of The Beytin Agency, a Democratic direct mail and digital advertising firm.

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