Ask an Agent / Shooting Without a Location Permit

Ask an Agent is a regular monthly column that answers all your dilemmas about the business of photography - a sort of photography agony aunt. Whatever area of the industry you are in, if you have any questions you’d like to ask please send them to Lisa

Dear Ask an Agent,

I’ve been asked by a regular client to do a shoot next week. They want me to cast the models before the shoot but rather than scout the locations, which will be cafes and shops, and get permissions beforehand they want me to just find them on the day. Do you think this will be ok?

Jerry Llewellyn

Hi Jerry,

Not really, no.  I think this is a really bad idea!

With any shoot that is going to be a potential hazard to the public you need to make arrangements before the day of the shoot for a number of reasons.

• As you will have a large crew in tow - models, stylist, hair & make-up, assistants, art director - plus wardrobe, props and kit, there is potential to cause damage to the location or even injury to the public. Dragging a clothing rail with wardrobe or your equipment across the floor might cause damage or a child might trip over your tripod and hurt themselves for example. To avoid this it’s wise to do a risk assessment before the day of the shoot and agree to have a section cordoned off for a set time period. Also, whoever is responsible for booking the location, which by the sounds of it could be you, needs to have at least 2 million pounds public liability insurance in place in the event that there is damage or injury.


© Holly Pickering

• Not having the locations lined up before the shoot day may result in major delays to the schedule. Imagine how it might pan out on the day. Are your entire crew going to follow you around while you go into the various locations and try and find the right person to talk to? Chances are the only person with authority to grant permission and agree a location fee won’t be around on the day anyway. It can take a few days to negotiate a hire fee and grant proper written permissions once you’ve found somewhere. Delays usually have financial implications; overtime for the entire crew, additional expenses or even the cost of a potential re-shoot. You could be liable for these costs if you don’t do things properly.

• It’s usual on a commercial job to scout several locations so the client can have a choice and approve the one they think will work best. Chances are the senior client might not be on shoot and they will want to have their say when they see the final images – they might not like the location you and the art director have chosen, reject your images and refuse to pay you.

• Finally, it’s a matter of being professional. The shoot could end up being a complete shambles and the finger will be pointed at you. As a professional photographer it is your responsibility to adhere to industry codes of conduct and advise your client on the protocol. Aside from being made to look like a bit of an idiot who can’t arrange a shoot, you could ruin relationships with your crew, your regular client and even find yourself very much out of pocket.

I know no one likes say no to a client, but you really do need to shout up and explain why this is a bad idea sooner rather than later!

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This advice should be taken as a guide only. Lisa Pritchard and LPA take no responsibility for any omissions or errors. Please seek professional legal advice should you require it.