You have a picture in your mind and are trying to make it a reality. Or a client reached out to you to help bring the picture they had in mind to life.
The obvious first step is to research the details needed to bring your vision to life. What type of photo? Landscape, street, adventure, astrophotography? When you work with clients, what type of photography do they have in mind: architecture, weddings or sports? The list of details can be endless, so let’s jump to the topic of this article. How do you find a photo shoot location?
research is key
Once a decision has been made about a photographic vision, research is the key to finding the right location.
Here are some key points to consider:
- What kind of place do you need to meet the visualized image?
- Is the desired location available and accessible?
- Where are the alternative locations, if any?
- When to shoot (best light, sunrise, sunset, season, etc.)
- Are there any special weather restrictions or requirements? (i.e. fog, hot, cold, rain, aurora, etc.)
This is the easiest to determine, as the image in your head usually determines the location. It may just be a matter of narrowing down the exact location to a few spots that work.We recommend using online resources such as Google Maps to preview what the location has to offer. You can also look at images of other photographers’ locations, but you’d better avoid this as it can influence your original idea.
After choosing a possible location, you need to find out if you can take pictures there. Public areas are generally safe to take pictures at will, but it’s a good idea to look up information about taking pictures in the area. If you choose a location that is on private property, you may be required to obtain a permit, permit, or pay a fee. State and national parks can fall into this category, so always do your research to avoid surprises.
helpful tips: If you speak to someone at the location and they can provide you with the answers you need, be sure to check that person’s name and contact information in case you run into problems later.
It’s a good idea to always have an alternative location in mind in case your first choice doesn’t work. If you work for a client, they will appreciate that you have done your homework and have a back-up location. . Anticipate the unexpected so you can quickly pivot your plans with minimal headaches.
when to shoot
Sometimes you need to shoot at specific times, such as sunrise or sunset. In this case, the choice of location should be able to provide the necessary conditions. Make sure you can access the location when you need it. Is the park where you want to shoot the sunset open after dark? If not, can I get special permission to access it after hours? Certain times of the day may be required to retrieve the images.
Autumn is a popular season for photography because the leaves are beautiful. Research when fall colors are at their peak at the location and plan your shoots to ensure a window of several days. A favorite mountain location has been selected, but you may want to include wildflowers. Ask for suggestions on when the wildflowers are in bloom by posting a question on your local hiking Facebook group.
Above all, if you can plan your time, arrive early. This will give you time to fine-tune your photo shoot as needed.
The special requirements for image acquisition are probably the most difficult part of choosing a location. Perhaps it’s important that the location is in an area where it already snows or is forecasted to snow, as it may require specific weather conditions such as snow.
Choosing a location based on weather conditions can be problematic and you need flexibility in your timeline to make sure you get the weather you want.One of the many weather apps available such as Ventusky Check the local weather with to help you make decisions.
Also consider contacting people who live near your chosen location for advice on specific conditions. You are simply trying to turn the odds in your favor.
Example: Shooting the German Skyline
As fate would have it, on a recent trip to Frankfurt, Germany, I was able to put my advice to the test. A favorite pastime when traveling to a big city is capturing images of the city’s skyline. The rough location was already decided, so all I had to do was tweak it. So this became my test case to see if the above suggestions hold true.
My pre-visualized concept basically included an image of the downtown Frankfurt skyline at sunrise or sunset. A map of the area around the downtown core shows that the River Main flows east-west through the city. The image in my head changed to a skyline with water in the foreground. Google Maps was very helpful in getting a better sense of the area south of the river with the city skyline to the north.
Google Maps Street View helped us determine the best viewing angles. There are several bridges across the river in the area, one of which offers a particularly high position. Google Street View also showed that there are several floating restaurants anchored along the river. When I arrived at the location, I made a mental note to see if any of these were part of the image.
When I looked at Frankfurt’s waterfront in both Google Maps and Google Street View, I saw that it was mostly public areas. You can set up your camera on the boardwalk or footbridge along the river and take a few pictures. I searched for terms like “Frankfurt photography restrictions” to confirm, but I couldn’t find anything that would affect my chosen location.
when to shoot
Choosing the best angle to view the city also helped me decide when to shoot. In this case, a sunset image is best. Using Photo Ephemeris, we found that the position of the setting sun was mostly behind the city skyline. When shooting at sunrise, the best light is too far east.
Due to my limited time in Germany, I decided when I could shoot. Looking at the free time, there were two days when I could go to the location at sunset time. A quick look at the weather forecast showed that it would most likely clear up at sunset on the first day. Next possibility he was 5 days later with cloudy conditions in the extended forecast. I decided to make every effort to reach the place on the first day.
My decision was to shoot at sunset, so the weather had to cooperate. A cloudy sky is certainly more interesting than a cloudless one, so the partially cloudy forecast actually made me happy.
I also unplannedly realized that this image only really works when shooting in the summer. As the sun sets in the northwest, the city skyline is backlit only during the summer months.
get a shot
All the planning really paid off when it came time to actually capture the image. I knew where to go and how to get there. However, due to flight delays, we didn’t reach the location until just after sunset. Of course I was very disappointed.
My disappointment was short-lived when the blue hourlights began adding some spectacular highlights to the clouds above the city skyline. helped me choose the final location. Perched at the south entrance of the Eiserner Steg (Iron Footbridge), I took a panorama of 12 images (6 images he arranged in two rows).
This experience has taught me that planning your photo shoot location in advance can help in many ways. The biggest advantage was that very little time was wasted looking for the right place. I was within a few hundred feet of where I wanted to go and knew how to get there.
I’m sure every photographer has their own system for finding the right photo location. It is said that
About the author: Curtis W. Smith has a wide range of photography interests, from travel and landscapes to motorsports. He is based in Kingston, Washington and enjoys being outdoors rain and shine for the camera. You can see more of his work on his website and Instagram.
Image credit: Depositphotos header photo