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Outdoor Engagement Location Scouting

Lesson 33 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

Outdoor Engagement Location Scouting

Lesson 33 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

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Lesson Info

33. Outdoor Engagement Location Scouting

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

In this lesson, the instructor discusses the importance of location scouting for engagement photography and provides tips on how to effectively scout a location. He emphasizes the use of natural light and positioning of the subjects to work with the existing light in the scene. He also introduces the use of the Sun Seeker app to determine the positioning of the sun during different times of the day. The instructor demonstrates location scouting at a train station and explains how to analyze the light direction, quality, and backgrounds of different scenes.


  1. Why is location scouting important for engagement photography?

    Location scouting helps photographers familiarize themselves with the location, anticipate any potential challenges, and plan for creative and effective shots.

  2. What is the benefit of starting with one light in the lighting process?

    Starting with one light allows photographers to maximize the use of existing light in the scene and avoid overpowering the natural ambiance.

  3. What is the purpose of using the Sun Seeker app?

    The Sun Seeker app helps photographers determine the positioning of the sun during different times of the day, allowing them to plan their shots accordingly and utilize the best lighting conditions.

  4. How can photographers work with the existing light in a scene?

    By positioning the subjects in areas where the existing light is favorable, photographers can create a beautiful and natural-looking light on their subjects without the need for additional artificial lighting.

  5. What are some factors to consider when analyzing a scene during location scouting?

    Some factors to consider include the direction and quality of light, the backgrounds and framing elements, the presence of any distractions, and the focal lengths and shooting techniques that would work best in the scene.

Next Lesson: Meeting the Clients


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Posing Guidance for Him


Posing Guidance for Her


Foundational Posing


Posing Touch Points


Couples Body Language


Posing Three Point Check


Posing Tips with Demo


Lesson Info

Outdoor Engagement Location Scouting

What we do is the lighting process starts with number one, location scouting. Number two, we start with one light, always start with one light first and build. You'd be amazed at just how much you can do with one single added light to a scene and the correct positioning of your subjects to use whatever existing light is there. Manual zoom, or sorry, manual power, manual zoom of your flashes. You're gonna use spill control using things like our grids, our MagMods for control of your little speed lights, gel for balance and effect if you need to, and only then, after you've done that whole process, would you add a light if you need to add a light. Does that make sense? Start with one. Let's talk about location scouting, the train station. We're gonna go ahead and bring this up on the computer. What's up guys? Okay, can we switch over to the, there we go. What's up guys? We are here at the butt crack of dawn, can I say butt crack on Creative Live? My bad. It's in context, as in butt c...

rack of dawn. We're here though, for a purpose, and that is to pre-scout before we start shooting. And the whole thing is that we go to locations all the time that are completely new, that we have never shot before and we also go to locations that we've shot 100 times before and either case, we are always pre-scouting. The whole reason why is, depending on, even if you've been to a location many times before, oftentimes if it's a hotel or even if it's an area just like this, things change. Sometimes they close down certain areas. Sometimes you have other events and activities going on in those areas. And what happens is during a shoot, it's kind of like the wah-wah kind of moment when you take the client over to this area to get a shot and you can't do it because maybe it's roped off. Maybe it's no longer available. Maybe it's under construction, or. Has it happened to, before you take a client to a spot to shoot and you no longer can shoot there. It will happen once and only once. You will never make that mistake again. And especially if you have like five, 10 minutes to do something and you're like, oh crap, we just walked over here to do that and now we can't. (audience member mumbling) Oh, crap. Or anything else. The other thing with pre-scouting is that it kind of helps in being able to get a little more creating during your shoot. A lot of times with the shoot, especially if the client is running late today, and we actually set up a shoot today where our clients are running late, specifically just to demonstrate what to do when your client, we didn't do that on purpose, it's just that's the way it's happening right now. When your clients are running late, how do you stay creative and in the moment when you still don't really understand the location itself? If we're going to a completely new venue, we try and show up the day prior to scout it out, or at least a few hours prior to that day. One of my favorite little apps for pre-scouting, let me find my phone here, is Sun Seeker. And there's actually a couple different versions of this app so you can pick whatever one you like, but go to the app store, I think it's also available on Android, and basically Sun Seeker is gonna allow you to pull up, on your phone, a 3D view of this entire place and it demonstrates where the sun is going to be during a sunrise and during sunset. So while you're scouting, you can actually look at Sun Seeker and say okay, during this time, this place is going to be great light. During this time, I probably want to be at a different position. We're gonna talk about how yesterday, when we were here pre-scouting, we said this is going to be an amazing location in the morning because of the way our sun coming through. I want to talk about this scene, this scene in particular, is very unique because we have two options. This is a old railroad station that is no longer in use. We have an option of either shooting this direction down the hallway, or if we flip around, we can shoot this direction. From looking at it, it looks virtually identical. Going one way, going the other way, how do you decide on which way is gonna be the best way? There's a few simple things that you can quickly identify in a scene like this, and one of the things that we want to talk about a lot in this class is identifying natural light that's existing and present in the scene. I love flash, I love flash, don't get me wrong, I'll add flash, I'll add constant lights, I'll put up four strobes if I need to. But, I'm also kinda lazy, if I don't have to, if I can use the existing light in a scene, I will. And rather than trying to fight that existing light, I want to just position my couple and position in a place where I can work with that light. From that direction, I actually see that on the walls, the sunlight is coming in basically from the backside. The walls themselves has really good light on them, but then the background of that street and the cars behind it isn't really something that's very pleasing. If I were to shoot this way, well this side is very, very bright, and so it's kind of more blown out on this side. But here's the cool thing, is that when we look towards this side, we see that we have these strong highlights hitting the back walls and these columns. We also have light entering from this side, and so if I position my couple anywhere near this area, not only do I get a backlight, I also get two fill lights coming off of those columns right there, so I actually have light coming forward on their faces. And that's what creates this beautiful light that you see on us, and the way that I kind of scout locations is I use my hand and I just walk around with my hand out. The cool thing about this is when people see you doing this, they're gonna naturally clear a path for you because they think you're a crazy person. Not only do you get to see the light, everybody also leaves the location available to you. I'm totally kidding, people do think you're a crazy person, though, when you do that. But, the best way to kinda do this is to sit here and turn with the light and what you can do is you can act-- Okay. I'm gonna close that. (audience chuckling) Here is Sun Seeker. I want to show you guys even when you're inside, this will still work. Even when you are inside like of a hotel, you can use Sun Seeker to identify, we'll actually identify which windows are going to have the light coming through as we walk through in the morning. Isn't that kinda cool? You're like, okay, it's five o'clock, we noted that at five o'clock, the lobby windows actually have back lighting and you're like, oh, it's 4:50, we have 10 minutes to take the couple, where am I gonna go? Let's go over to the lobby where we have that back lighting coming through the windows. It's one of the best tools that you're gonna have when it comes to pre-scouting a location. Pre-scouting does not take forever, guys. If you pre-scout, like a hotel for a wedding, it takes 15, 20 minutes to walk through from side to side. And it's gonna make a dramatic difference. Here are the tips. Start with Sun Seeker, it's nine bucks. I wish I got an affiliate payment or something for that, but no, we don't. I think they raised the price on it, it was like, we started talking about it, other photographers started talking about it, and then they raised the price from like two bucks to nine, those rascals. Identify our light sources, we're gonna talk about that and break it down a little bit. We're gonna look at the light direction quality. That's again, kind of going back to what type of a look and effect we want to get based on the lighting patterns. Do we need to modify, do we need to soften? Look at the backgrounds, your angles. Think of the focal lengths we want to use and what possible stuff that you could shoot in that scene that might fit something on the mood board that they're kind of asking for. For those that have the course, I broke down these video timelines just so that you guys have them in the PDFs. Rather than having to kind of scan through and see everything, you guys can actually have this in your PDF that takes you through the video and guides you. Let's look at this scene, and I want you guys to pause for a second and you guys, I would highly recommend that all of you go and take, these are just iPhone pictures. I just take iPhone pictures as I'm location scouting. What I would recommend is that for right now, until you get used to this process, actually draw on it, put it into Photoshop, put it into whatever and actually draw on it and point to things. Kind of describe it as you go. For right now, let's look at this one. This is our primary light direction is coming from that sky, so basically we're getting this bright open sky, right, off to the left side. That's our primary light coming in from left to right, going straight into this wall. We know our flat light direction if we want it, is shooting against this background wall. Here we have a good fill light direction. This fill light is just coming in from light that's behind us, we're getting a good fill that goes forward, it looks nice, great. Be aware of passing cars, so you know that, okay, if this is busy street and I'm popping off shots, I probably need to be aware that I want to shoot between the cars that are going by, and you're gonna look and observe in your frame to make sure that you don't have those. We have nice, simple background framing elements in these doors, where we have lines in the doors, we have squares, we have those kind of objects that we can use to frame our couple and create interesting images. We have this beautiful background highlight. Our eyes, when you see a photograph, are your eyes not drawn to the brightest place of a photograph? So as you're scouting a scene, should that not be what you're looking at, is like, oh, there's a nice little highlight right there. If I put the couple right over that spot, it's gonna naturally, it creates essentially a natural vignette in your frame. You're pulling the attention right into that centerpiece. We have a great background here, and this has lines, repeating lines with the architecture. We know that with this scene, and granted, not all of our scenes don't look like this, right? That's why for the foundation side, we're just shooting in that small little tight space against the red brick to show even in a bad place, you can make good images. Even against a simple wall, simple background going against the light, we can still do anything we want to. But if we have a great background, well, this is good for telephoto shots, shallow depth of field, we could even boost the depth of field, we can increase the depth of field so we have more in focus. We can also shoot tilt shift, that's what the TS is. It'd be great for a tilt shift effect in this look. I'm thinking of those things as we go into it. When I come back to shoot this, and by the way, we didn't plan for that shoot to go late, it just went late. They arrived like 30 minutes past when we were supposed to be starting, and we were trying to film for the whole class. It was kinda stressful, but I was like, you know what, we know what shots we need to go, we'll just run with it. Let's go on to the other one. I want to show you this side. Why is this side so crappy? This parking lot actually fills up with cars once it's around nine a.m., so we got there at like eight. This is when the photo was taken. It fills up with cars around nine. We know shooting that way, we're gonna get a parking lot in the background. We also have this weird tree right there. Let me actually go to the next slide where I have this pointed out. Who puts a tree like right, why is there a tree like right there? It's the weirdest place for a tree. Like at the end of a hallway, you're just gonna put a tree right in the middle? Are they worried people are gonna run through and they need to slow down or something? I don't understand why there's a tree, anyway. There's a tree, poor background elements, we have a store and a movie theater on that side, we have this train, kind of cargo stuff on this side, we have a tree, we have that. We know that that's not a very good direction to shoot and if we want to shoot that direction we need to be careful with what we're including in the frame. But we have this beautiful stuff, look at this. The direct sun casting super strong highlights off these sides, if you get them close enough to that light, it becomes a main, you pull them back, it becomes a fill. By the way, we have great directional light that's gonna bounce off this and come towards our subjects. We also have a primary light direction going straight through. This light that goes straight through, if we position them right, can't we get a hair light, a main, all that stuff, we can get a fill, we can get all that. There's our fill light directions coming in from both sides. The fill light is coming in from just the sky. We're getting fill on each side from the sky, basically. This is kind of the shots that I'll take to kind of like point out notable things. That's kind of a cool frame, thing that I can use later on. Oh, look, this fills with people, we need to be aware of that. This is a nice direction, that's me showing the background and where I probably want to shoot.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Pre-Shoot Videos
Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Presets Installation Guide
Gear Guide
Favorite Software
Lightroom Presets

Ratings and Reviews

CPR Photography

I think Pye Jirsa is one of the best, if not the best, instructor for photography on Creative Live. He is very personable, smart and approachable. He has a perfect blend of personality (comments, laughs, tangents..) to the amount of instruction. He asks the questions for you, because he knows you are thinking those questions right then. He's very good about identifying settings, gear, etc.. and not leaving us in the dark about how he "got the shot". He goes into great detail. His instructions flow, but are linear, which is helpful. He's very organized, and you can tell that he really put a lot of work into his presentations (slides, video, test shoots, live teaching, graphics, etc..) I have been listening to him for like 10 hours straight, and still haven't gotten tired of him. He keeps things moving, He's very funny too. Nice job, I've learned so much. :)

a Creativelive Student

This course was AMAZING. I'd say int he past year or two I've fallen into a slump. Uninspired by my surroundings and uninspired by my clients. As a result, it showed through my work. My posing suffered as well and more than a handful of times some of my shoots became more than awkward. Then I bought this course and watched most of it in the course of a day. I walked away inspired, blown away, and renewed. The next day I walked into an engagement session confident. I gave my couples a quick overview on posing and then we just had fun in front of the camera. Immediately afterwards they texted me about how amazing their shoot was and how relaxed I made them feel about posing. The photos turned out fantastic to say the least. I've since shot several more engagement sessions and each one of them has been amazing. If anything, this course should inspire photographers to think outside the box and provide you with the necessary skills to take incredible engagement photos. Thank you Pye and Creative Live! I cannot speak more highly of this course. I should also state I purchased Pye's Natural Light course on SLR Lounge: this course is a wonderful addition to that. If you already own the natural light course and are hesitant about purchasing this one, don't. Buy it and reap the benefits!


This is by far one of the best courses I have taken. Pye makes learning fun and easy to understand. I feel like I have learned so much throughout the course, that I have truly advanced my photography skills. I am so excited to get out there and try so many of the techniques that he showed. I would love to take another course of his. The pricing for the course doesn't even compare to how wonderful the education truly is, I really got more than my money's worth on this one.

Student Work