When I first started my business as a mom I struggled to prioritize the “extras” without guilt. The extras like culling, editing, and the big one: location scouting. I was always editing in the margins. Culling during nap time. Feeling deeply sleep deprived. I was always trying to find locations as close to me as possible instead of places that made my creative vision come to life. Scouting days felt hectic and impossible. I hated driving around wasting my time with screaming toddlers in my backseat. I needed location scouting to be made easy!
With practice, and a lot of trial and error, I have found a sweet spot of making space unapologetically for what my business needs to thrive. This also means including my family in a fun and positive way. We now lovingly call our scouting trips our “sca-ventures”. It was a few weeks ago driving home from a mountain meadow that my husband squeezed my hand and said, “I really love that we all get to do this with you. It is my favorite part of your job”. I thought wow! All those years I wasted feeling like I couldn’t include them because it would be too inconvenient and, man I want everyone to have this!
So I wanted to share the things we have learned and put in place as a family to entirely transform my scouting experiences:
There are several tools that I use to help me have the best plan in place that I can. I am constantly googling location ideas and writing down a list of the ones that catch my eye. I then go to the Instagram app and search for the locations geo tag under the places tab in the search menu. When you do this if you click and have the photos sorted by “recent” instead of “top” you’ll get a feel for what the location looks like right now. This is GREAT if you are looking for fall leaves, everyone loves to post their pictures of leaves so you’ll really easily be able to leaf peep without leaving your couch!
The next thing I do is search for all the locations on maps and sort them into ones that can be scouted on the same day. The last thing you want to do is get to a location and realize your next one is going to be an hour drive in the opposite direction.
I know this seems really basic, but plan for it to be a fun adventure for your family. (Sorry I mean ‘sca-venture!’). We always bring snacks, and we sometimes, depending on drive time, bring tablets to be used on the way home. Sometimes we pack a full picnic dinner with a blanket. On occasion we even plan a fun place to stop and eat at in the area.
Make a fun playlist in the car so everyone can sing along. On the drive home, roll the windows down and hang your hands out the window! Really focus on the fact that you are adventuring as a family!
Your kids might not find the first few scouting trips fun at all, but eventually, if you put in that little bit of effort to add some magic, they will begin to look forward to the time with you. Over the course of just this year with scouting we have seen Moose, found a new favorite little Italian restaurant, hiked up to snow during when it was still in the 90 degrees at home, etc.
I time our scouting around my family and their needs, not sunset, but my sessions with clients are always at sunset. So, to maximize my understanding of how I would time a session at the location, I use the app Lumos. It is a free app that will allow you to view where the sun will track throughout the whole day. You simply open the app, point it at your backdrop, and screenshot. Then when you talk to your clients later that week you can reference that photo and time your session around where you want the sun to be. This means we aren’t always having to make space in the evening or when kids are tired, we can go when works best for us.
Also, maximize your time during the off season. I do a lot of my scouting in the early spring when I still am not very busy with sessions. During the winter, I pick a few days and weekends to block off to scout. I plan days in March and April for full day scouting adventures. This way I don’t feel stressed trying to make it fit into life and the busy season of photography. And I also don’t feel guilty asking for the space last minute. Any location I like I just add to my list to offer to my clients come summer time.
Some of my favorite pictures and moments with my family have been when we were scouting for a session. We have found and hiked in the most beautiful of places. My kids really love it when they get to play in a river or pond! These are memories worth saving too! Plus, they make perfect images to send to your clients to show them what the place can really look like.
Inside the maps app you can click the arrow on the top right to show exactly where you are standing in the moment. If you click the dot and scroll down to “save to” you can name your location and save it to a list titled “Photography Sessions”. Then when it comes time for your session you can even just send your client a pin right to where you want them to park.
Say that to yourself as often as you need to: “I am worth the extra effort.”
Really, you are taking your kids/family to be outside exploring places they would likely never see otherwise. It isn’t always going to go well, just like a trip to Disney Land can still include a screaming toddler. Be willing to go with the flow, and know some locations will just be a total failure. There will be times that you forget diapers and wipes. Times you’re hiding a peeing child in a bush who couldn’t wait for a bathroom in the next town. And times where your kids say they don’t want to go. You may even wonder why you’re a photographer at all.
There will also be times where all the family stars align and everyone is excited. And then you get there and the location doesn’t speak to your creative soul. This is all okay. Just cross it of the list. But let your kids run around in it first.
In all those times remind yourself “I am worth the extra effort”. You are an artist! You will keep growing and succeeding the more you step into that role with confidence and self-love. It’s worth ALL of the effort.
Happy scouting !
For more inspiration from Amy Wright, follow her on Instagram!
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