Permission Granted: How to Get the Shot Without Sneaking Around


A recent coffee date with a talented, lifestyle photographer turned into a fascinating discussion on shooting photography in public and private spaces. Madeline Harper Benavides and I ended our chat with me asking if I could turn our discussion into a proper interview and Spot Loc8r blog post. Well, here we are. This post is not a rulebook, as the policies of locations will vary. Below, enjoy some of the best practices Madeline has developed and learned along the way.

Note: Make sure to bookmark the infographic we created with this article. A reference when you need it ;). 

Adriana at Tiny Boxwoods

Rooted in wedding photography the past few years, Madeline has gradually shifted to shooting for brands, bloggers and humanitarians in the last year and a half. This transition was not void of a few hiccups. She candidly shared that she was kicked out of a few spaces in the early days. It happened enough that she got that she needed to change her practices.  


It’s so awkward when you're on a shoot with a client, you’re approached by someone [staff] and you haven’t done the back-end homework. I realized it shows so much integrity as a business and so much respect for others in the industry to do the work beforehand... and it shows care to your clients to do the homework. Doing the phone calls and emails before shooting is mundane, but necessary.

- Madeline


Reaching Out


Reaching out to locations in advance is a way to show integrity in the work you do.

Exterior: Usually, an exterior wall is usually a day of request. Even when outside, it's still their property. It's courteous to ask ((from Spot Loc8r team: make a note of artist name(s) and Instagram handles (if visible) and tag them in your social sharing. They’ll appreciate the thoughtfulness and attribution).

Interior: For interior spaces, reach out at least 1 to 2 days in advance. This is especially important if it's a high foot-traffic, popular venue. If you think of a venue while out shooting, even phone calls 15 minutes before arriving can make a difference.

Madeline Harper Photography

Positions to Reach Out To

It varies. Consider social media manager, GM (preferred) or owner (preferred). Social media managers because they are the one using the images. Owner, since it’s flattering/a compliment for people to ask to capture their space. Note: sometimes hostesses allow Madeline to shoot there during slow times.

GM and owner have the most authority to allow shooting on-site. Do what you can, to get as high as you can without being obnoxious.


Meg at Halcyon - Mueller

Examples of What to Initially Say In-person 

    A. Approach whoever is working. Hand the staffer a business card and mention “Hey, I have a girl [guy] that would love to have some photos taken here, would it be alright to come in to use an empty part of your space?”

    B. "Hey, is there someone I can talk to?”... “I’m a local photographer and have a friend who would love some photographs in your space. It’s beautiful, would you mind us taking some quick shots here? You can have my card and reach out for images.”

    Give them the freedom to say no and also consider giving them the freedom to ask for images on the back end. Example of when Madeline offers to share images: “I would love to share some of these with you once they are done for you to use as well.”  

    Haleighbelle at the South Congress Hotel

    Some venues were created with social sharing in mind. Mention the venue by tagging them on social (when feasible). Driving business to venues through your visual storytelling is powerful.


    Be Respectful of the Location

    • Move customers out of the way
    • Bring in big lighting (unless agreed upon)
    • Put on a big production
    • Linger


    Day of Shooting, Norms on Time Usage

    • Be socially aware enough not to overstay your welcome. Always. 
      • Make sure to not just stay in the same spot. Think "I'm going to ___ as quick as I can."
      • Be as kind as you can to the venue owners, as you want to be asked back. 
      • Be aware of areas' PEAK times. Ask yourself, when is a good time to come here.


    Kaily Mae at Mañana

    • Indicators to leave
      • An uptick of customers
      • If multiple people ask to get around you
      • Multiple people stop and have to wait for you to take a shot


    • Restaurants and coffee shops: best time to go. Madeline suggests the first 30 minutes they are open or when they are closed. 


    • Use of Bathrooms
      • Be quick and out of sight. Show people you respect their time
      • Refrain from bringing in a lot of stuff
      • If you are not asking for permission and using their bathroom to change, that can frustrate the staff


    • If you know you are shooting at a high traffic place or somewhere that needs permission, make it as quick as you can and know your shots beforehand. Even if that means having a list. Go ahead and have it ready so your not disrupting them or causing them delays for what they do. It’s better to be quick and to have them wish you were there longer rather than having someone ask you to leave.


    OUT of office. IN style. in front of the design studios on 35th by Tiny Boxwoods


    Creating art without creating commotion.

    - Madeline Harper


    • If it’s a coffee shop or restaurant, it’s a good practice to buy coffee or to-go food. This is a way to be intentional about adding to their business. Madeline preps clients that if they are shooting at a venue that they’ll want to buy something while there.


    Generally when shooting at a venue, Madeline is present/shooting 30-40 stay out of the way.  Her sessions are normally an hour. For bloggers, she does about 10-15 min for each outfit.


    Janna Doan at the Domain


      Fees (general markers):

      • Location fees: Normally $25-50. Location fees are different than renting a space. With state parks, double check if they request a photography fee (especially ones that host weddings). **Note: sometimes venues do not expect a fee to be paid. They just want an email to their events manager so they can give you the go ahead to be there! They want to know who’s at their space.
        • Venues can cost anywhere from $50-$250/hr. Examples of spaces with hourly fees are The Refinery and Sekrit Theater
        • Location fee flows through to the client. Be open in communicating that to them up front.

         That's it! We hope this information was helpful to you. A big thanks again to Madeline for her insights on this post! As a free resource, we've created an infographic for you to reference whenever you need to. Click here

        Have any best practices of your own that you'd like to share with readers? Please share in the comments below. 



        Madeline Harper Benavides
        About Madeline

        Madeline got started photographing weddings and landed on lifestyle photography about a year and half ago. She most frequently shoots for brands, creatives and humanitarians. You can find her on Instagram as well as her website:

        About Spot Loc8r 

        Spot Loc8r is a mobile app helping photographers, influencers and brands scout locations quickly. Creating compelling visual content is important yet time consuming. We help you create content for your audience. Faster. If you're in Austin, we're currently beta-testing. Fill out our 1-minute survey to test and we'll respond to you soon!

          Also, if it totally brings you joy to shoot lifestyle photography or write articles on topics like this, send us a line at [email protected]! We're looking for a few great eyes (and voices) for our blog. 

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