How to Find Inspiration Photographing Locations Near Home

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Everywhere you look there are thousands of images depicting beautiful places in the world. How many times have you thought to yourself, “I wish I could travel so I could take the same photographs?” The reality is that most of those photos were taken by people who live close to the locations, or have the ability to travel there multiple times.

It is a statement that you hear from many photographers. It may be true, but the truth is most of us live in wonderfully rich photographic areas. The problem is that you see it every day, so it no longer seems interesting.

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Knowing that a storm is coming, then being able to get to a good location quickly, is an advantage when you photograph near where you live.

What would you recommend to a visitor

If another photographer was coming to your area and wanted to know places to go, what would you recommend? Think about what someone else might be interested in, that is a way you can photograph it. Try to look at your area from another point of view.

How to find something to shoot

There has to be something unique or different about where you are located. Look at the history of your town or area. See if you can find out about an event that happened where you can visit the place. Use the history as your motivation for photography. Google the area around you, and see what you can find.

Think about interesting buildings, ones that are abandoned or still in use. There may be some interesting landmarks that can help tell a story. Perhaps there was an industry there that no longer exists.

For example, suppose in your area the local hospital started as a home for incurables. Then the land was given to the city for a permanent hospital. How has that hospital shaped the town? Is the original hospital still there? Has the hospital gone, but now something else is in its place?

There is always the possibility that nothing has ever happened. Maybe your location is devoid of that, and in which case you could photograph the normality of it. What makes it boring? What does the main street look like? Is there anything interesting there at all? There will always be something.

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An older part of the Austin Hospital in Heidelberg.

How far are you willing to travel?

Mark a circle on a map of where you would be willing to travel to in a day. For instance, you might be prepared to travel at least two hours to get somewhere. Perhaps time isn’t on your side, and you can only travel 15 minutes in any direction. That becomes your zone, and the area you are going to photograph.

My area is two hours, or around that. I will travel somewhere for the day and take photos. I will go back to the same areas. There is a lot that is within that area near where I live.

Find the story

Perhaps instead of finding individual images of the place you might be better off trying to do a whole story on it. Find the story of the area. What makes it important to the people who live there? Why have they stayed? Why do you live there?

The answers to all these questions will help you find the story, and can inform your photography.

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An old car left to rust in the Mallee.

Advantages

When you photograph where you live, you have nothing but all the advantages:

1 – You can take photos at the best time of day

One definite advantage you have over visitors to your area, is that you can work out when the best time to photograph that spot. Then, you can go back as many times as you need.

If it is very close, you can get up early and see if it is worthwhile going there for a sunrise. Perhaps in the afternoon you can see if there are clouds in the sky, which might make it a good opportunity to get a sunset. You will be able to look out the window and figure out when you want to go.

Most people have to hope that the one time they go, the conditions will be perfect for what they want to photograph. You know how often that happens.

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Getting sunrises is easier when you can wake up and go down the road to capture it.

2 – Experiment with different techniques

You can try a lot different techniques to take photos. You can go home and see what you have, then go back and experiment with other angles or conditions another time. You can try more experimental types of photography, that other people who only have one opportunity to go there, might not want to try.

Every time you go, try to shoot it that spot a different way.

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Sunset over a salt pan in the Mallee. Being able to get back to the same spot to get the best photos is a bonus.

3 – Visiting the location multiple times

How often have you gone somewhere, put your photos on the computer when you got home and thought, “I wish I had noticed that tree” or something else on the side of the image? Maybe you wished you could have taken it at a different angle.

If you live there, that will never be a problem for you again. You can visit that spot as many times as you like, to get exactly the photos that you want.

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Old towns can have great buildings that have just been left, like an old shearing shed make from kerosene tins.

4 – Have access to local knowledge

Visiting any places where you might only go once, you have to be content with information from the internet, or with what you see when you get there. However, when you live in an area, you can talk to people you know, who may be able to introduce you to others. If they know you are interested in the local area and taking photos, then you might find people coming to you, to tell you about places that you didn’t know existed.

Disadvantages

Are there really any disadvantages? Perhaps the fact that you aren’t going anywhere exotic to take photos, unless you already live somewhere like that.

When you decide to photograph the area you live in, you get all the advantages that so many others don’t have for that place. It is up to you to make the most of it. Some examples:

A Mallee Town of not much consequence

Take a small town in North West Victoria (Australia) where my mother lives. I go up there to visit all the time. According to the locals there is nothing there. But when I drive around, I see shops that are now empty, or a train station that has closed, and stopped being used many years ago. There are things that give hints to a time past, that was industrious. The town had a past where it was bigger, where those stores were open for business.

It would be easy to agree with the locals that there is nothing there, but that would be a mistake. The story is there in those closed buildings and what is left of the town. As a photographer you can then show what is happening there.

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Getting to know locals in towns can give you access to buildings, like this old church in a Mallee town.

Finding the history of where you live

For many years I always travelled to other places, in the city, or in the state of Victoria, to take photos because I was convinced that what was around me was boring. Who would be interested in what’s here?

I started to realize that this area has a rich art history. Some famous Australian artists have painted this area, and perhaps that was where I needed to start looking. Once I started looking with different eyes, a lot of new places started to open up to me. This area has some great parks. It is quite old so there are ancient homes, hospitals, cemeteries. Now I photograph it all the time.

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Knowing the local train station and timetable, can be great for getting to the station at a good time to take photos.

When you photograph somewhere you live or a place you travel to often, you really get so many wonderful opportunities.

Many photographers dream of travelling to other places and photographing the world, but sometimes your best subject is right outside your door or within a stone’s throw of where you live. You just need to get out there and see what you can find.

What would you recommend to photograph in your area for someone who was visiting it for the first? Please share your local photography finds and your images in the comments below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Leanne Cole is a fine art photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves Melbourne and photographing it, along with other parts of the state. She likes doing architectural and environmental photography. You can find her on her website or on Instagram.

  • Bill D

    There are all kinds of photo opportunities for wildlife just minutes from my front door.

  • Bill D

    …..and unlimited landscapes from dry deserts to alpine meadows all within an hours drive. I’m fortunate to live in such an area!

  • Shyamapada Singh

    happy to have lived here..my old house west bengal. india

  • I have lived in Metro Atlanta all my life so it is easy to be too familiar. I am blessed to work in the center of downtown. I have taken a couple of my lunch breaks to walk around the area. I found this old Elks Lodge (later Salvation Army) that was built in 1908. I had no clue this building was just a couple of blocks away.

  • Looks like a great place to take photos too, must get some great images there.

  • I love it when that happens, you think you know an area and then you stray from your normal path and find something new. It is so good.

  • I’m lucky to live in a similar place, places everywhere to take photos. thanks for sharing.

  • I get wildlife out my door too, lots of kangaroos around here.

  • Bill D

    I think this one thinks she’s a kangaroo!

  • lol I was thinking the same.

  • I just started my travel life so before that, I used most of my time to take picture of things around me. I don’t do much landscape. Mostly portrait and street. For more than a thousand reasons, I just love my city and my country. I live in Hanoi – Vietnam. ^^

    https://www.flickr.com/gp/frankvampy/pH7cq3

  • Salvatore Perrella

    through my office window

  • Charlie Barker

    Thanks for sharing your photos Duke, just awesome, like the monochrome shots

  • Mark

    The weir of a lock on the Thames, 5 minutes walk from my house, on a clear night with a bright moon and a long exposure.

  • Mark

    The weir of a lock on the Thames, 5 minutes walk from my house, on a clear night with a bright moon and a long exposure. This time I will add the picture….

  • Amy Sammons Clark

    I live in central Kentucky in the US and there are so many amazing places within just an hour or so drive, but my sister and I recently traveled a bit farther (3 1/2 hours) to visit a place we had not been before….The Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio. wanted to share a photo from there 🙂

  • Amy Sammons Clark

    I live in the middle of horse country…central Kentucky in the US and there are so many amazing places within just an hour or so drive, but my sister and I recently traveled a bit farther (3 1/2 hours) to visit a place we had not been before….The Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio. wanted to share a photo from there 🙂

  • What a view to work with and snow, it never snows here, I do love looking at photos of it. Thanks for sharing it.

  • This almost seems surreal. How lucky you are to have this so close, you must have lots of great photos of it. Thanks for showing.

  • I love it when that happens, though three and half hours is a bit far for me in one day, but if I can stay overnight I will go. I hope it is a place you will go back to, it looks gorgeous. Thanks for sharing.

  • I am in a similar situation, I haven’t been able to travel so have had to content myself with where I am. So many people travel to Melbourne so there had to be something here. I love to hear that people love where they live, I think that is wonderful. Happy travels Duke and thanks for sharing your image.

  • Kirpi Hanim

    I live in southern Oregon. There are so many beautiful rivers, lakes, vineyards, small towns, all within an hour’s drive!

  • John Voss

    The merit of a photograph, to those who are visually aware, is not the subject, but the conception
    of the photographer, One’s own backyard can be compelling if viewed creatively. Those who document what’s in front of them are just that, documentarians. Those who interpret what’s in front of them may be artists.

  • Salvatore Perrella

    Wow! I am happy for your comment. I never thought that one shoot in a microscopic town could receive. Thanks for it.

  • Yvonne Pickford

    The old reservoir in Bluff, NZ. Hidden away 15min walk from home

  • Yvonne Pickford

    As below

  • I love it Yvonne, what a great place. Thanks for sharing.

  • I’ve heard Oregon is lovely. I just had some visitors from there, Thanks for sharing Kirpi.

  • Exactly John, you have to see it and I think that is the problem with many people they can’t see it. Thanks John.

  • Justin

    This picture just speaks to me. I love the muted color. I also like that you can see partially down the streets making your mind wonder about what is further down. Where is this?

  • ColininOz

    When you pass that big ‘eight-oh’ milestone travel insurance becomes hard to get and very dear. Highway driving gets less than fun. But If you forget about landscapes you can still have a lot of photography time not only NEAR home but AT home. A macro lens, a light tent, a garden or a beach within walking distance and the secret is GET UP CLOSE to your subject. Even if it means lying down and struggling back up !

  • Salvatore Perrella

    Hi Justin, thanks for your comments and for sharing your feelings. I am happy to know that my photo conveys emotions!

  • Salvatore Perrella

    Great shot, wonderful composition.It inspires me the sound of silence …

  • Yvonne Pickford

    Thanks it is such a peaceful gem we have

  • I love macro photography, so much fun. You have made some great points. Thank you.

  • M.h. O’Dell

    Nice article. Having just returned from a trip to the Philippines, I found it very difficult to plan photography outings. First, I was always turned around on my sense of direction. For example, I wanted to take pics up in a nearby mountain, but I had never been to this area before. When me and a guide drove up the mountain by motorcycle in the afternoon, I discovered that I was actually at that area of the mountain at the wrong time of day. Instead of golden hour in the evening, I found only dark shade. Better at that spot in the early morning sun or earlier in the day. We managed to get some good shots of locals along the way but not the landscape shots I was expecting. Lesson learned for me. Also, I discovered after many misses that the golden hour in the Philippines seems much shorter than what I’m accustomed to in my area of the US.
    Although not a great photo by any means, I took this picture last week in my front yard. It’s winter here and the shadows are very long all day.

  • digitalstew

    Want to know more about photographing near your home? Then check out my Craft & Vision ebook, “Close to Home: Finding Great Photographs in Your Own Back Yard.

    http://craftandvision.com/collections/stuart-sipahigil/products/close-to-home

  • James Buckle

    I took this photo at a local reservoir. It was just a random shot as I walked from one location to another; Turned out it was the best shot of all. Be open minded; what at first looks like a junk shot may be a real jewel. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/82d2ad91cc2954d7f712c5dd4bad736244228c1652e72fbb4c49b20e0946e9af.jpg

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