Finding Great Photography Locations
Finding great photography locations near to you will take some investigative work on your part, but along with that you can also use some new tools that I will share with you later on in this post. But first let's go over why using a great photography location is important, and later I will go over the attributes that I feel make a photography location great!
Some days it feels like everyone with a fancy camera is hanging up a shingle and trying to start a professional photography business. So, how do you differentiate yourself from the competition? Especially if that competition is priced significantly lower?
Your talent and experience are worth more of course, but let’s face it, for families just looking for a cute Christmas card photo, the lower price point is likely to win every time -- unless you can offer them something truly different.
A Photography Location Can Differentiate You From The Competition
When you can’t compete on price point (and I really urge you not to try), you need to find something else that distinguishes you from the rest. Something that makes potential clients say, "Yes, I have to use her (or him) as my photographer."
Photography Location Scouting
One way to do this is by scouting unique, outdoor photography locations that will give your clients images that they can’t get elsewhere - at least, not until other photographers discover your favorite spots. This is why it’s essential to always be scouting for new places to take photos.
How Can I Find Great Photography Locations Near Me?
Besides using good old fashioned physical location scouting, there are some wonderful new tools available for photographers to use that will help give you a head start and narrow down your search.
One of my favorites is ShotHotSpot - a great search engine that uses location data automatically pulled from images on Flickr and Panoramio to locate favorite photography locations. You just to enter the location you want to search and the website will quickly compile the results.
Another nice one is PhotoSpots, which merges Google Maps with location data from 500px to determine popular photography locations around the world. Try it out!
What Makes a Photography Location Great?
For me, as a natural light photographer, the lighting at a location is the thing I look for first. I try to find and visit potential spots during the golden hour, when the light is the most magical. I usually have my favorite subjects in tow (my three boys), so I can take a few test shots and experiment with different settings. Some locations may be beautiful, but they just don’t get very much magical light, and I have to pass. For me, the light is the #1 most important factor.
With that in mind, I tend to avoid heavily wooded areas and those that sit down in a valley - they are less likely to have the lighting I’m looking for. Areas with a treeline that also sit up on a hill are usually ideal for both image composition and lighting.
I also target areas that have a lot of foliage - wildflowers, wheat, even weeds. And then, I’m always looking for something unique about the location - an old barn, a pond or creek, or a specific flower or tree that you don’t see that often.
I use one farm location that has a gorgeous old truck, painted teal blue, onsite. It’s not an obvious backdrop for professional photography, but it’s a favorite among my clients. I also love shooting at farms with animals onsite. Whether it’s a horse in the background or a child holding a bunny, photography with animals is something that can be a strong differentiator.
Another favorite of mine is a local greenhouse specializing in orchids. This provides the perfect setting for my stylized child photography (another way I differentiate myself). The orchid location is not immediately obvious as a photography location, and yet, there is something truly magical in the images I’ve been able to capture there.
The greenhouse itself is filled with gorgeous orchids, but there is also a barn onsite which provides a totally different look - all at one easy location.
When I find a place, I’m always very respectful to the owners and offer to pay a fee per day or per session. This makes it more of a collaborative effort, and I truly prefer it when there is something in it for them. If it’s a public spot, like a park or historical site, be sure to find out if the city requires a permit to shoot there.
Protecting Your Photography Locations
I try to be somewhat secretive about my favorite locations. In a perfect world, I’m the only photographer shooting there, but even if this is the case at the beginning, it is rarely that way for long. Your clients will share their images online and in social networks, and if other photographers admire what you are doing (which you hope they will!), they may come looking for your location or something similar.
This is to be expected, but you don’t have to make it easy for them! I avoid specifying locations on my website, and even when selling mini sessions online, I just give a general description of the location but never include the address. I message it to clients individually.
These are small steps to prolong the exclusivity of the location, but if it’s a truly magical spot, it won’t remain a secret for long. This is why it’s essential to constantly be scouting for new spots.
Fortunately, my little tribe loves to explore, so family outings often double as scouting trips. I admit, looking for photography locations is one of the things I most enjoy about being a professional photographer.
These are the foundations I use for finding great spots to shoot, but what about you?
Do you have any questions, comments, or other tips for Finding Great Photography Locations? Leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!