Usually, an on location photoshoot will be described as taking photographs away from the confinement of a studio.

Photographing a subject on location can be a super fun and easy way of playing with your camera while also learning; you’ll also have cool photographs to show for it in the end! You simply need to ask a friend if he or she would mind to be your model for a day, pick out a location and Bobs your uncle, right?

Well, though it can be that simple; to ensure that you take images you are really going to like and be proud of, here are a few simple tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years.

Photograph of a girl in a long emerald green gown standing on a rock surrounded by water

Pretoria – Harsh sun – Natural Light – No reflector

Location! Location! Location!

Be sure to scout a location before the shoot and having a backup location won’t hurt. You don’t want to drive around on the day, wasting precious shooting hours looking for the ideal spot to photograph your model. Also, a location really makes or breaks the look you want to achieve, so it is very important to choose the correct location.

Photograph of a girl siting in the shade of trees

Mozambique – In shade – Natural Light – No reflector


Remember to check what the sunlight looks like when on location. You want the sun to enhance your photograph, not impair the poor model’s eyes and create unwanted harsh shadows. If you have lighting equipment, or decided on hiring a cool Profoto B1 or B2 kit from ODP Rentals, remember to pack the remote trigger! A 5-in-1 reflector also comes in very handy, to either reflect some light where needed or to soften the sun’s harsh shadows using the diffuser.

Photograph of a girl sitting in a room

Pretoria – In doors – Artificial Light – Using a soft box to create beautiful light

Photograph of a girl sitting out doors

Pretoria – Harsh sun – Natural Light – Using a Reflector to diffuse the harsh light


Decide on what you want the photos to look like and think about what you’ll need to achieve it. Once you’ve decided and scouted a location; you’ve got to plan the different hairstyles, makeup looks, all the clothing styles (try to stick with about 3 max) and then accessories. If you have friends that design jewellery, make clothing or know how to do make-up and hair, you can ask them if you could do a test or trade shoot. Something that also works really well for me are mood boards! I stick a few images that inspired my shoot onto a cork board, along with make-up and colour palette ideas. They tend to help me keep focussed.

  • A test shoot is intended for portfolio building and to test working with new people (aka a photographer testing with a new hair stylist, makeup artist, model or vice versa). Typically a test is unpaid and everyone is working for experience and to build their books (aka portfolios).
  • A trade shoot is done in exchange for services. Often a hair stylist or makeup artist will trade for digital images in exchange for their time.
  • TFCD – The photographers Time in exchange for a CD of images for the model.
  • A collection of images that express the overall direction and inspiration for a shoot. Mood boards often contain images for the desired type of hair, makeup, wardrobe and even lighting on a shoot. A mood board helps express a photographer’s vision of the shoot to the entire team.
Photograph of a girl siting outside surrounded by foiliage

Hakdoornboom – Trees providing shadow – Natural Light – Using Reflector to add light to her face

The Model

To meet the model before hand will count in your favour for a few reasons:

  • It will set yourself and your model at ease; breaking the ice
  • Discuss what look you are going for in the shoot
  • Discuss what you are both comfortable with in a shoot
  • Talk about what she needs to bring to the shoot
  • You can also ask the model what type of photo he/she would like

PS:  If you find a model you like working with, you can try to do as many different shoots as possible with her so that you can learn more, but don’t stagnate!

Photograph of a girl lying on the beach with wind in her hair

Jeffreys Bay – Harsh sun – Natural Light – No reflector

Photograph of a girl outside on beach with wind in her hair

Jeffreys Bay – Harsh sun – Natural Light – No reflector

Keep Calm and Shoot On

No matter how much you plan, remember that Murphy has a way of mixing things up! Sometimes things just don’t go according to your bullet point plan so learn to adjust and keep calm, as long as you’re relaxed your model will also be.

I once arranged a shoot with Annabelle, a friend and model at Boss, we specially drove from Pretoria to Sodwana and then Mozambique to shoot for the week. We already paid entrance to shoot at the location and upon arrival I realised I forgot the camera; we had to go back to the campsite, get my camera and try it all over again… The other time I forgot the MAIN outfit. On another shoot on the beach of Jeffreys Bay the wind conditions were so bad that both the model and I got really frustrated making the shoot difficult, but in the end we just laughed at the sand stuck on her lipstick and tried again. You just have to adapt, laugh when you forget the camera and remember to pack it next time.

Sometimes things actually turn out for the better if you just go with the flow and your photographs turn out to be amazing!

Photograph of a girl leaning with her back onto a cliff

Hartebeespoort – In shade – Natural Light – No Reflector

Photograph of a girl sitting out doors with sun shining onto her face

Pretoria – Harsh sun – Natural Light – No Reflector

Photograph of a girl sitting on the beach

Mozambique – Harsh sun – Natural Light – No Reflector

Photograph of a girl sitting on the rocks of the beach

Jeffreys Bay – Harsh sun – Natural Light – No Reflector

Photograph of a girl outside on beach with wind in her hair

Sodwana Bay – Harsh sun – Natural Light – No reflector