Eric May – Media Consultant




What to shoot on location

Everyone knows what it’s like to arrive at the location with a limited amount of time, and try to get the shots you need for your story.

Everyone also knows that “sinking feeling” when you get back to the edit machine and you wonder: “what shot do I use here?” And you don’t know. Because you didn’t shoot it!

There’s no guarantee you’ll always get all the shots you need in editing.

But there are tools you can use to make sure you get most of the shots you need to make your piece visually complete. 


Train yourself to observe the world around you. Look for the things that make a particular location unique. Shoot them.

Observing what’s unique about a location like signs, symbols, and details– and shooting them– all add insight. And they help your viewers understand your story better.

To do the best story possible, meaning the story that has impact and viewers might even remember, you’ve got to think not only about your text, but very seriously about your pictures, and not only when you are editing– especially while you are shooting. 

That means always work in partnership with your photographer. Talk together about the pictures you’ll need for your story. Tell him your ideas– and get his ideas– to tell your story visually.


At the location, try to document processes as they happen naturally.

Recognize each step of any process and shoot as many of them as possible. In editing, arrange the shots in the order in which they happen.

A basic example is here in my office. Here’s a process: I stand up and walk in front of my desk.

The steps of the process are:

1. Sitting down at desk
2. Standing up
3. Walking around desk
4. Standing in front of my desk

Try to get each step, 1,2,3 and 4 when shooting. Then, put them together logically in editing.

People understand everyday processes and can recognize them. Documenting a process as it happens naturally is a very effective tool for explaining your story visually to the viewer.


Keep in mind that shots do not go together in a random way, but logically.

This logical structure is called a sequence. Sequences are the method you use to get to your sound bite.

wide shot/medium shot/tight shot/sound bite

tight shot/medium shot/wide shot/sound bite

And so on. When observing what makes a location unique and shooting that, also remember to think in terms of sequences  (wide/medium/tight) to get to your sound bites.

At each location get a wide shot (establishing shot), get medium shots, get tight shots (close-ups), and get cutaways (shots that don’t show the interview subject’s face– they compress time in editing), as well as your interview.

Observe what’s unique, document processes step by step, and edit it all together in logical sequences. They all help tell your story more visually.