Five years ago, the tourism board in Wanaka, New Zealand, invited social media influencers to visit and photograph their town–an unconventional marketing move that resulted in a whopping 14 percent increase in tourism.
Today’s most-coveted–and photogenic–travel destinations aren’t always the most famous or well-known; often, they’re the most unique or hidden. It just takes the right photographer to reveal them to the world.
You don’t have to travel halfway around the globe to answer the question, “How do I find places to take pictures near me?” They exist everywhere–often in our own backyards. It just takes a little research and creativity to find them. Here are some tips for getting started.
Websites that can help you find places to take pictures near you
When beginning their search, most photographers turn to the internet (it’s probably why you’re reading this article). When you type in the search engine “places to take pictures near me,” you’ll see a wealth of information, but you have to know where to search. Here are some great starting points.
This is a free resource that packs a big punch. ShotHotspot works by pulling images from around the web and reading the location information to create an amazing (free) database. You simply type in the city, town, or region where you’d like to take your photos, and ShotHotspot will show you a map with pins at known photo locations near you. When you scroll down, you’ll see photos taken at those locations.
Use the advanced search features to tailor your inquiry, such as keywords, a specific radius around the location you’re willing to travel within, or the type of spot you’re looking for.
PIXEO is not free like ShotHotspot, but it’s incredibly affordable at only $0.99 per month (it works out to even less than that with an annual plan). If you’re an infrequent traveler who only needs the service when you’re in a new place, you can go month-to-month and only pay for the months you need.
Once you sign up, you have access to a sophisticated search engine of confirmed photography locations. There are currently over 1500, with more added regularly. Add your own photo to their library for a chance at winning their monthly PIXEO Photo Challenge. (PIXEO is owned and founded by two photographers, so your photography will always be credited back to you.)
Want to book a space? Look on PeerSpace. It’s a search engine and booking platform for events of all kinds (including photoshoots). You can connect with hosts, view photos of their spaces, and book your location on one website.
The only downside? PeerSpace is currently available only for a handful of larger cities, 15 of them in the US. However, if you live in or near a major city, this opens up a whole new set of connections you may never have made otherwise.
Google Earth is a unique way to search for places to take pictures because you can actually look around the area you want to be in. It’s an especially helpful tool for finding natural, scenic locations.
It also has an edge over other location search engines. Google Earth now has creation tools that allow you to draw directly on the map or even add your own photography. You can customize trip plans by creating projects or just zoom around until you see something that strikes your fancy.
Look on Facebook for local photography groups in your region and ask a moderator to be added to the group. These can be a deep well of information about photographic locations and resources in your area. Many of them also function as pseudo-support groups and form surprisingly close bonds between members.
Search Instagram by city
Instagram is another social media platform that can help you with your search. Simply search the city’s name with a hashtag. If you’re looking for places in a lesser-known city or a city with a common name, you may want to get more specific. For example, if you’re visiting Florence, Italy, and looking for places to take pictures, you probably don’t need to see results from Florence, Alabama. So, rather than searching #Florence or #FlorencePhotography, try #FlorenceItaly.
Once your results pop up, be sure to check the related hashtags (below the Follow button) to see if there’s anything else that might be helpful. You may see a lot of generic, touristy photos at first, so use hashtags like #FlorencePhotoshoot to mix up your results.
Other ways to find places to take pictures near you
The internet doesn’t know everything, so don’t forget to look up from your phone when you’re searching for a shoot location. The perfect spot may be right under your nose, completely unnoticed by your online resources.
Go driving (or walking) in a new part of town, or look into your local Parks and Recreation Department to see a complete list of green spaces in your area.
We all tend to get in the habit of going to the same places over and over and driving there on autopilot, missing so many things along the way. Make a concentrated effort to be present as you go about your normal day, and you may see some surprising things that never registered before.
Step outside of your comfort zone
If you’ve exhausted all of your usual haunts, it may be time to mix up more than just your location. Do you usually prefer hiking trails through the forest? Your experience filtering light through wooded tree cover might translate surprisingly well to dimly-lit downtown alleyways. A change of genre can open your eyes to techniques and opportunities you never considered, and you may go back to old locations with fresh eyes and new ideas.
What to do once you’ve found your photoshoot location
The Photographer’s Ephemeris
Since you’ve never been to this brand-new location, you probably don’t have a concrete idea of what the lighting situation will be.
The Photographer’s Ephemeris is a powerful planning tool for light and how it may interact with the landscape at your photoshoot location. You can get an idea of where the lighting will be best, where shadows are likely to fall, and when the golden hour will occur at your location on a particular date.
My Maps, by Google, is the next step on your photography location journey. You can customize maps by drawing your own shapes, using personalized icons to mark areas, and saving different places to your map. You can also share maps and collaborate with a team (or impress that Facebook group you joined during your online search).
Get inspired by others’ work
You’re in the right place for this one. 500px has one of the largest and most varied catalogs of imagery in the world. Simply type a keyword into the search field at the top of the 500px homepage (for example, if you’re shooting in a field, try searching “field”). You’ll get pages of results (and, therefore, inspiration) featuring that keyword. At the top of your results, you’ll find related keywords to help you expand your search in the right direction.
Share it with the world
Once you’ve completed a successful photoshoot at your newly discovered location, go ahead and show everybody! You can pay it forward to other photographers by using the same hashtags you searched with on Instagram or submitting a photo to PIXEO or 500px.
Congratulations on your new location! Now you have a new place to add to your photography rotation, and probably some fresh ideas to take back to your old locations, too. Now it’s time to go back to the drawing board and start your search for the next brand new place to take pictures near you.
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