Location Scouting Takes A Careful Eye And Knowledge Of Architectural Styles

Kate Levinson

Kate Levinson

When you see a magazine ad for Ikea or Whirlpool or any number of other appliances or furniture brands, the setting looks pretty much like an actual home.

That’s because more often than not, it is real, not faked on a set in a studio. A prop stylist is involved in the final product, and a skilled commercial photographer. But the unsung hero is the location scout.

Kate Levinson, owner of Kate Levinson Locations, is one of the best in the business in Chicago. And, the architecture of the setting is more than a little significant to her when scouting a location for a photo shoot.

“A lot of clients want a certain architectural style for the setting, but usually, that setting is selected to establish where the target audience would live,” Levinson said. “So, I have to look for a design style that speaks to a specific demographic. It could be a traditional-looking kitchen or an urban loft.”

Levinson started out working for a field editor for architecture and design magazines, and found herself doing a good deal of advance work for photo shoots.

“It gave me a good understanding of the interior and exterior spaces all around Chicago,” she said.

The client usually tells her what kind of product will be shot and what demographic represents the buyer. The selection of a specific architectural style is up to her to match those basic instructions.

She compiles several good locations and shows the client photographs of the interiors. Then, a final selection is made and the shoot is scheduled.

It’s important for the location scout to find homeowners who welcome the disruption of a shoot. The crew can be as small as four people (a small shoot) up to 70 (for a movie) in the home throughout the day. The homeowner gets a fee — anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 per day — to ease the discomfort.

Levinson is constantly adding to her database of nearly 700 Chicago locations whose owners have agreed to allow a shoot.

Bill Motchan

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at bill@ChicagoArchitecture.org.

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