There are plenty of aspects of professional photography that non-photographers take for granted. Whether it’s the extensive post-shoot editing, the time it takes the frame the perfect shot, or the sheer amount of equipment it can take to highlight a model, there is always something that viewers of your photography might not be thinking about. One of those things is the location, and today we’re going to be talking about the best ways to find spots for photo shoots.
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Why Finding the Right Location is so Important
Every photo has a setting. It was taken somewhere. And while a photo shoot can definitely be spontaneous, usually the location is scouted first. If it’s a public place like a park or sidewalk then it’s easy, but if you need to rent studio space or get permission to set up somewhere, that could take a bit more research. For landscape photography, finding the perfect location is key. For modeling shots, you want backdrops and scenery that makes sense for the feel of the shoot. You can always be creative with what you have access to. But finding the perfect location is an essential task of being a photographer.
1. Google Earth / Google Maps
One of the easiest and perhaps most familiar ways is to just use maps. You have probably used Google Maps to find directions at some point. It can also be used to location scouting. Google Earth is the superior choice here, because you can see aerial views in great detail. It also allows you to view a landscape in 3D, so you can get an idea for elevation as well. Using Street View (which you may be familiar with from Maps), you are able to get down at eye level and think about what exact locations you would like to frame your shot from.
One of the best niche features of Google Earth is definitely the slider that lets you adjust the time of day. This lets you approximate sunrise, sunset, and lighting throughout the day. While you should always considering the position of the sun when going for an outdoor shoot, this takes some of the extra thinking out of that process. Googling sunset time doesn’t do you any good if your spot is surrounded by mountains that might block the sun at a specific point! With that knowledge, you can plan exactly what time you should be shooting at different locations.
2. Flickr, 500px, and ShotHotspot
There are plenty of photography websites out there in the world. And they can all help you find spots for photo shoots. 500px’s maps let you look at an area and see what else people are shooting there. Try exploring around where you live to see what others are doing with scenery that you may view as mundane by now. Seeing what others have captured also gives you the ability to set up a fresh composition. Flickr is another good website for finding locations, and many photos will have location tags. You will find a Flickr photo map as well, meaning both of these sites will work well for seeing what others are taking photos of. ShotHotspot is actually designed specifically to find spots for photo shoots, and it imports images from several sites. You can use this to narrow down popular locations with less worrying about missing something.
3. Instagram Location Tags
Instagram presents a unique way to find spots for photo shoots. It is a bit better for research once you’ve nailed down an area, but you can certainly discover spots with it. Being a social media platform, Instagram is guaranteed to give you extremely up-to-date information about the locations you’re looking for. Users likely will post their pictures soon after they’re taken, meaning that you can see exactly what the weather conditions are for the location, as well as other inconveniences like construction, special events, or other factors that could put a crimp in your photo shoot. If you intend on photographing something common like a landmark, you will also be able to see what angles other amateur and professional photographers have used. This will give you the chance to try an angle different than what everyone else is doing.
4. Easy… but Great Ideas for Spots
Some spots are always great for photography (depending on what you photograph). Look for popular landmarks and public areas in your city or town, and use those for photography spots. Finding parks is as easy as jumping onto Google Maps and looking for splotches of green, and these will usually offer plenty of good spots for nature or landscape shots. Architecture and street art are also great, as most cities will have unique buildings and interesting statues lining the streets. Use your immediate location to your advantage, as there will always be plenty of locations. Even if you happen to be in college and have no transportation, find spots for photo shoots by taking your camera on a walk around campus. You may be surprised at what you find!
5. Just Drive Around
Sometimes, the best way to find spots for photo shoots is to just get in your car and drive. So go out and take roads that you don’t normally drive on. Get on back roads through the county, or small side streets in the city. These overlooked places can be filled with potential. You might find a hidden place you hadn’t seen before. A run-down barn in the country or a graffiti-covered stairwell in the city could result in some wonderful photos. Getting out of your comfort zone is always a good thing!
Challenge yourself to find new photography locations in your area. No matter where in the world you live, you can use these resources to seek out and discover hidden places or popular favorites. Finding out what others have done, and putting your own twist on it can be not only enjoyable, but also rewarding when you see the photos you’re able to take! If there are other resources you use to find great photographer locations, let us know in the comments!
Following these five steps has taken us way farther than we ever could have imagined and getting out and exploring is always the first step. Let us know in the comments below what works best for you when you are out looking for a new spot to shoot wherever you are!
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