Secrets for Finding Unique (and FREE) Spaces for Your Photoshoots

Scouting new and exciting locations is a major part of keeping your photography fresh. Discover these tips from pro photographers on how they uncover captivating photoshoot locations-for free.

Last year, TIME magazine named Julius Shulman’s Case Study House no. 22, Los Angeles “the most successful real estate image ever taken.” Shulman photographed the Stahl House in the spring of 1960, shortly after it was finished by the architect Pierre Koenig. The now-iconic picture was meticulously staged, from the models recruited to pose as homeowners to the furniture on loan from the Van Keppel-Green firm.

The photograph was included in the Case Study House Program by Arts & Architecture, and the magazine made a deal with some of the homeowners included in the project. If they agreed to allow their houses to be part of the project, the owners would pay for the building materials at a reduced cost. Once the production was over, normal life resumed for the families who called these houses home.

The “quid pro quo” approach to securing locations is a creative one, and it didn’t end with Arts & Architecture and Julius Shulman. Today, photographers find and acquire spaces in all sorts of unique ways, from renting outright to swapping favors. We asked seven lifestyle photographers to share any tips they have for both finding spots and gaining access to them. Below, they share their wisdom and some behind-the-scenes stories from their shoots.

1. “Offer your high-level, expensive services for free in exchange for using their space.”

Zurijeta (Jasmin Merdan)

Image by Zurijeta (Jasmin Merdan). Gear: Nikon D700 camera, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, Manfrotto tripod. Settings: Focal length 35mm; exposure 1/5 sec; f7.1; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This lab was actually part of a factory that made medicines for a pharmaceutical company. We had a deal: we would use the space for taking pictures, and the company would get our pictures as well. It was a win-win situation. There were two of us-me and my friend, also a photographer-and each of us used a different room and worked with our models. When we finished in one room, we’d switch.

What tips would you give to other photographers about finding locations to shoot?

A good and successful image isn’t necessarily an expensively produced image, and vice versa. This is maybe the best advice I can share with other photographers. The best trick for finding a free space is to deal with people who might need your services as a professional photographer: an agency, a new company, or maybe a building owner. Everybody needs a good photographer. Offer your high-level, expensive services for free in exchange for using their space.