In the past, I found it quite hard to Scout Photography Locations, but fortunately technology has helped to change that for me. I can now use my computer and my smartphone to do most of the work for me, without having to rely on expensive (although very good) location scouts. This post is going to walk you through a bunch of different methods I use to find cool locations for my photography.
This app is awesomely powerful, especially if you have an idea of where abouts you want to shoot. What it does is give you the lay of the land for locations around the world. You can see the elevation of the ground, as well as the terrain, Google Earth, and other map options. When you’ve found a location you like the look of, you can then see how the sun will appear on the day that you’re planning on going. It gives you the sun and moon rise times (as well as the weather), and you can input the time of day that you’re going to be there, and it will give you the exact angle of the sun and moon for that time. When you couple this with the elevation view, you can see areas that are going to be sunny, and areas that are going to be in the shade. This will help you to fine-tune your location scouting, which will save you time, and produce better photos. At $8.99, it’s not a cheap app, but worth it in my opinion.
This website was purchased by Google in 2007 and it’s available as a layer in Google Maps and Google Earth. The site’s goal is to allow Google Earth users to learn more about a given area by viewing the photos that other users have taken at that place. When you search a photo in Panoramio, you will see a scattering of photos across the map. These can all be enlarged to see the full sized image. You can also see the most popular photos in the left hand side of the page, like here when you search my hometown. The joy of Panoramio is that not only do you get to find new locations, but you can find out which of the images are the most popular, which is useful when you’re trying to create a new image. Whether you’re shooting landscapes, or simply using the location as a backdrop for a portrait, there’s plenty of uses for Panoramio.
This is an exciting new app for photographers who want to combine their efforts and index interesting photography locations. The premise is pretty simple really. The app is meant to simplify and enhance the process of finding and sharing new locations: connecting creatives to the world around them. In ShootLocal’s world, everyone is a location scout adding wonderful scenes and picturesque backdrops for you to capture in your next project. Here are some of the features:
Create location databases for projects
Send or review locations across the country
Reduce resourcing costs for shoots
Set up a hunt for a particular element or location
Meet like-minded individuals
Share your favorite locations with friends
Follow popular scouts and see through their lens
Know where to shoot and explore when you travel
Plan a photo shoot like a pro
Find nearby photo enthusiasts
I’ve found that the app produces the best results if you’re in a densely populated area, otherwise you can be left wanting more. Still a great app to watch out for too. And it’s free.
Flickr is a fantastic resource for photographers for many reasons, and not just for those who want to share their photos. If you know roughly where you want to take a photo, then simply searching your town is going to provide you with hundreds of thousands of results, taken by photographers who have come before you. When I searched Brighton for this experiment, I found this image taken from Brighton Pier. It’s a fantastic angle of Brighton beach, and would be a good backdrop for a contextual portrait. I know Brighton really well, but I recently took photos of a local DJ, and I still used Flickr to find locations that were suitable to my subject. I used keywords like dj, venue, brighton, music, and iconic, to find the location that’s in the photo below. It might mean nothing to you, but the coloured railings and benches, and the building in the distance, are very famous to people from Brighton.
Google has done a great job of indexing the world with photos, and Google Earth is no exception. If you’re looking to scout locations, I would recommend downloading the desktop app though, rather than using the website. When you’ve chosen an area you like, you can zoom in a little bit closer, and have a look for areas that look interesting from above. If you’re shooting landscapes, this can be really useful, as you will be able to see the shape of the landscape. The same is true if you’re looking to find a more industrial part of town, as that will stand out on a map quite easily. Have a look at this video below to see Google Earth location scouting in action. http://youtu.be/MPhHsO3hL2Y
The final step of scounting the world using your computer is to use Google Street View. If you’ve seen an area you like the look of, you can come back to it when you’re at your computer, and then explore the local area, and see how it looks in the sun (useful if you’re from the UK!). Thanks to Google, pretty much every road I want to see in Street View is available, and it allows me to not only see what an area looks like, but the view from different angles. If I’m looking to take a photo on a street corner, I might be able to find a photo of that corner somewhere online, but if I use Street View, I know that I’m going to be able to see what ever is behind the corner, in the distance too.
The best results I’ve had so far with location scouting, is to get in my car, go for a drive, and get lost. Turn down roads you’ve driven past before, but never down, and see what’s there. If you live near the countryside like I do, this will often result in long and windy roads, up hills, and down dead ends. Some of the best locations I’ve found have been by simply taking a wrong turn, and seeing what’s up there. Once I ended up on a golf course I’d never been to before, and I captured the photo on the left. This was taken after we were surprised by a sprinkler, so make sure you watch where you’re walking!
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