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Why finding the perfect location for my photography matters to me!

Finding the perfect location for your project and why it matters. Does it really add something, and is it worth the hassle? I am starting off with a question because when I look at the work of some of my fellow photographers specialized in dance, circus or even sports, I often realize that the place they chose to shoot in, doesn't really matter.

If you are familiar with my work, you have probably noticed that the surroundings, the environment, the background are sometimes almost as important as my model, and that's what makes my pictures and to some of you, my style… And please take note, I didn’t invent anything, this has been done before.

Maria & Santiago Giachello Fondation Bemberg (Toulouse - France)

Florencia Chinellato Musée des Augustins (Toulouse - France)

Claire Teisseyre Darwin (Bordeaux - France)

Anna Romanova Palais de la Bourse (Bordeaux - France)

My images when I started were thought and made to be printed big or seen on a big screen.

If you shoot at really wide apertures, if you love blurry backgrounds and shoot tight on your dancer, then the location may not really matter to you because no one will recognize it. This approach is more Instagram-friendly. For those of you who follow me on IG, I recently asked you whether you preferred the tightly cropped version of a photo or the wide one with all the architecture behind and I was not surprised to see a lot of you liked the cropped one.

But you know what? That’s my thing, I love architecture, I love wide spaces and I am also often inspired by the location first, the location is the element that will make my ideas come to life. I can focus on specific elements, like a statue, I can play with lines suggested by anything around me. The succession of pillars or columns, tight corridors, or a hallway can help me tell my stories. And for a long time, I was obsessed with stairs but I am trying to stay away from them now.

Lyria Van Moer Meinau (Strasbourg - France)

Laura Viaud Place Amédée Larrieu (Bordeaux - France)

Pauline Perraut Estanque Grande del Retiro (Madrid - Spain)

Fanny George Presqu'île Malraux (Strasbourg - France)

Vanesa Montoya Port du Vieux Montréal (Montréal - Canada)

Everything I now put in the frame has its importance. Sometimes I just like to show famous landmarks and places in a different way. I will share a photo of a familiar location you might have already visited or know but you will see it through my eyes. Once you go past the technical aspect of the making of your pictures you have to focus on what you wish to create. How can it help your story, how can it carry your message? Does it enhance what you want people to feel when looking at your image, will it enhance the pose, the movement of your dancer, the look of your athlete? You can also work the other way. If you have a specific project in mind and you have already listed all the elements you need to create your image you only have to find the location that will tick all the boxes.

Here are a few other examples taken from my work:

A common pattern in my work is Symmetry.

Samantha Vottari Royal Palace of Madrid (Madrid - Spain)

Use any building that has a backdrop! Something, I’ve done a bit too much in the past...

Silvia Bonavigo Piazza del Duomo (Milan - Italy)

Anjara Ballesteros Basilique Saint-Michel-Archange (Menton - France)

Follow and study the light, where does it come from, play with it!

Marie Lou Lagrange Eglise St Pierre des Chartreux (Toulouse - France)

Imitating shapes and forms of objects around you might help too:

Fanny George Presqu'île Malraux (Strasbourg - France)

You can also use lines in wide spaces and light to guide the viewer's eyes!

Charlotte Lemay Cité de l'espace (Toulouse - France)

Wherever I travel, wherever I am, I take notes, with my phone, I take pictures of streets, places, and monuments. Before I visit a new city, I do a quick search on google at all the famous places in town and make a list of the ones I might be interested in and visit them depending on the time I have. I now have my personal database with the places I’ve worked in and the ones I wish to work in in the near future. I really suggest you do the same. I am not looking for something specific all the time, sometimes I am just trying to find something different and inspiring. Whether it’s the architecture, space, colors, textures the way the light behaves inside, potentially any place can be interesting.

When I work outdoors, I have to think about the best time of the day to shoot there, when there are fewer people around. But the main difficulty when shooting outdoors. Is to know in advance before your session if there will be any activities there ( a festival, a special event, or if it might be under construction).

Once you have your list, all you have to do is find the perfect place for the project you are currently working on. Be sure to have several options, and if you don’t, extend your search for this specific project. Now that you know what, how, and why, you have to confirm the where.

You are going to send tons of emails and then make hundreds of phone calls. Try the tourist office or the appropriate service at the city hall to know if you need some kind of permit to shoot where you want. It's as simple as that… If it’s private property, the process is the same, just get the name and number of the person in charge, you should be able to find all this information online.

I never shoot without a permit and insurance now, and this is one of the major changes that happened since my last video on the subject. Being kicked out of a place is not worth it, I don’t have the time for that anymore, plus some of the places I am showing you as examples are not accessible without a permit. Now it all comes down to your project, what you will actually shoot, with who, how the images will be used afterward and what they can do for the location that will welcome you.

Because yes, it ain’t free… Nothing is…

So a lot of these places will ask you to pay and let me warn you, it ain’t cheap. It could start at around 50 euros per hour and up to 2k euros per hour, there are no rules.

The only way to get places for free is to create killer images (your portfolio will have to be top-notch so only show your best work) and explain exactly what you wish to do and how big your production is, and if they like what they see, they will ask you if there is any way for them to use your work online.

Of course, if you are Instagram famous it helps…

For the use of your images, it’s up to you to propose something… Personally, I would only allow a simple share on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, with the mention of all the people involved in the project for each post. If they want to use it somewhere else, on their website, or even print it… They will have to pay! If they ask for the full rights of all the pictures that you made inside, you know the answer, it's a big "NO". Don’t send raws, only send your selection to them (in web-friendly compressed format), and of course, have all this written down in a contract that both of you have signed with all the people involved before the session.

Don’t be discouraged, you will often be rejected, or have a simple “No” as an answer if you ever get one. That’s why you have to create a long list of locations to have multiple choices for your projects, to increase your chances of getting a "Yes". This takes time, I know, but I believe it can be worth it.

And that’s only one part of the truth…

Of course, this can’t only be the only way to work in such places… The other one is simpler to explain because I have almost nothing to do. You guys may not know it, but I am a full-time photographer, it’s my full-time job, so now, on some of my client work, I don’t have to do anything to find a location because they have found the perfect place already for a project they hired me for.

When the location is really inspiring, and if unfortunately I am not allowed to film a Behind The Scenes video or even sometimes share the images (it happens!) Then I try to negotiate a few hours for me for a personal shoot. Depending on the relationship you have with your client and the importance of the shoot. If you feel it's not appropriate, do not do it.

Uva & Cesar Abattoirs (Toulouse - France)

Eloïze Rignon Musée des Augustins (Toulouse - France)

Charlotte Lemay Cité de l'espace (Toulouse - France)

Casey Wood Capitole (Toulouse - France)

Of course, if you have the money you can pay to shoot there, I said this earlier it ain’t cheap most of the time. I don't think I will ever pay for a location unless it's for a project that could potentially boost my career. I am better off waiting for a client to pay for it or someone might fall in love with my work along the way (it has happened in the past).

Don’t underestimate networking, and I am not talking about stalking people online to like your page. It still happens in the real world, you’ve got to get out there and show your work and be around these people that might help you or hire you for bigger projects. I know this will be hard to apply in the weeks to come, I am currently forced not to work due to this stupid virus. It has been almost 2 weeks now and our government in France told us it might last 2 more weeks starting next Tuesday. Looking at the situation worldwide, you can easily guess this will probably last at least another month.

So to all of you who are working your asses off in hospitals to save those who are infected, to all of you that make sure that this situation doesn’t get worst… Thank you. To all of you who unfortunately are isolated and alone, hang on, we will get through this. If you happen to have the opportunity to help someone in need, please do so, without putting your life and the life of others at risk of course.

To all my fellow creators and independent artists… This is going to be really hard for us, not knowing when this will end makes it difficult for us to anticipate and find solutions to compensate for the loss of income. If you guys have any tips, solutions, anything that can help, please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Stay safe, and until my next post, please, take care!


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