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Quick Tip: Shooting Derelict Locations


One of my favourite aspects of being a photographer is the opportunity to create something beautiful or interesting from something that would otherwise be disregarded. In this instance, we'll have a quick look at capturing scenes from situations and objects considered broken, run down and unfit for their original use.

Finding a Location

You may know an ideal setting that you'd like to capture; maybe to tell it's story, to preserve it before it gets destroyed, or just be somewhere that you pass on a regular basis that looks interesting.

It doesn't matter what your form you inspiration comes in, but it is important to remember what inspired you to choose the location, as this will help shape photographic decisions on your shoot.

Shooting Derelict Locations

Safety First

It is vital to remember that there is a reason for this location being left derelict. Firstly, consider whether you have permission to enter the site, is it public or private land? It is illegal to trespass on private property, so please ask permission if you think it's necessary. In the same vein, if you get asked to vacate the premises, do so quickly and politely!

Once you're on site, be sure to be aware of your surroundings - derelict buildings can be particularly dangerous and depending on the state of the building, it may be a good idea to take a torch and hard hat.

Shooting Derelict Locations

Telling the Story

Once you've established your location and personal safety, it's time to think about your shots. In this situation, I like to try and tell the story of the site.

Consider the history and activity that may have taken place in years gone by. Try to build up a selection of establishing shots, to set the scene, as well as focusing in on detail.

Shooting Derelict Locations

Focal Points

Keep your eye out for any defining features, is there anything particularly unusual about the place, or does it stir up a certain feeling or emotion in you? If so, consider how you might be able to represent that in the photos.

The location for this set of accompanying photos had a particularly eerie feel and the gun shot wound in the wall of this children's play room really captured this unsettling feeling in me.

Shooting Derelict Locations

Being Creative

Don't be afraid to experiment and be creative with your camera. It's very easy to go into 'documentary photographer mode', trying to capture everything as it is, which is important if you're trying to tell a story. Work with the surroundings and consider the lighting, angles and perspectives that may enhance your shots.

It may also add to your shots if you include a human element. This can add a sense of scale, but also represent the actions of the locations previous inhabitants.

Shooting Derelict Locations
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