5 Creative Ways to Find New Locations to Photograph

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There’s truly nothing like visiting a location for the first time – I absolutely love it and I strive to always photograph at least one new location a month.

When I started on my photography journey this wasn’t a hard challenge to meet as even my own backyard was new to me and my camera, but as time went on things got a bit more difficult. New locations became ‘go-to’ spots and there came a point where I was only photographing at places that I had previously visited.

While I’d love to travel the world on a whim I just don’t have the means or time to do so which severely limits the range of my ‘new locations’ to places within driving distance from my house. As a result I’ve developed this list of useful techniques for getting the most out of my local area and I hope that it will help you do the same!

Creative Ways to Find New Photography Locations

#1 – Stuck on Earth

While Google Maps, Google Earth and Google’s Street View tools are great for getting location data, one of the best tools that I’ve used to find locations to photograph is the amazing app created by the people at Stuck in Customs called Stuck on Earth.

It works by fusing Flickr location data with a beautiful map to give you an amazing resource of not only useful locations, but the photographs other photographers have taken at those locations.

On top of searching random locations for photographs that have been tagged in various locations around the world, they have top location lists that have been curated by actual photographers to showcase the best photographs in cities around the world. There’s a bunch of other cool features as well and I highly recommend it as a resource (after all it is free).

You can find out more about it here.

#2 – Join a Photo Club

I’d have to say that one of the best ways to get out and find new locations is by meeting new people local to your area. Even if you’ve lived there your entire life odds are someone else has found interesting locations you haven’t – or better yet – has been able to find a new perspective on a location you thought you’ve picked clean.

Photography clubs often will also hold photo walks which will help you get out to different locations many of which might become your new ‘go-to’ spot when you’re in a pinch to get on location before sunset. It’s a great experience and I highly recommend trying it if you haven’t done so yet.

Have you ever gone on a photowalk? Tell us about the experience in the comments!

#3 – Make an Old Place New By Going At Night

One trick that I’ve done is not necessarily to find a new location, but instead to photograph the same location in the middle of the night.

A-lot-of-Stars

Night changes the way we perceive the world and will more than likely change the way you see a familiar location. It opens up a whole new set of challenges and pushes your camera to its limits of low light image capture, but in my opinion it’s one of the most fun types of photography there is.

Read more about photographing at night here.

#4 – Buy a Guide Book to Your Local State

Guide books might seem dated these days with instant access to so many great tools online, but there’s something to be said about a good guide book that has a friendly voice guiding you to the spots, telling you what to expect, where to park and when the best time to visit is.

Trap Falls 2013

I never would have found out about Trap Falls (pictured above) if I hadn’t gotten a guide book detailing the hundreds of waterfalls and cascades that New England has to offer. It’s amazing the detail that the book goes into about not only where the waterfalls are, but how difficult the hikes are, and how picturesque the fall is.

There are tons of great guide books on Amazon and other bookstores and many of them can be downloaded as eBooks right to your phone or eReader so you can take it with you on your trip!

#5 – Fill up your tank and just drive

Finally, if all else fails, just fill up you tank and drive. One of my favorite things to do is pick a highway and a direction and tell myself, “I’m driving for 50 miles and taking the first exit I see after that”. What I end up doing is putting myself into an unknown town with all sorts of new things to see. I like to bring a friend along for the ride to keep me company as well as a second pair of eyes so that I can be sure to see potential photography opportunities.

Double Yellow

Of course it’s not a fool proof plan and driving around aimlessly can be a bit tricky. While it’s certainly possible that you’ll find a location you might otherwise have overlooked – it’s nearly just as likely that you’ll spend your day driving around with nothing to show for the effort, time and gas you burned.

How Do You Find New Locations to Photograph?

Okay now it’s your turn to help build upon this list – I’d love to hear what techniques you use to continue to discover new locations – leave a comment below and let us know!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

John Davenport is the creator of PhoGro - Gro' Your Photography a community that aims to help you grow your photography through engagement with other photographers. John also offers a free email course 6 Weeks to Better Photos that covers the most important elements for getting started with photography.

  • What about Sun Seeker? It is a great apps that provides you with the Sun direction over the time, hour by hour, date by date, on a specific location. you can anticipate where the sun will be at a given time and date. For instance, I live in Versailles (France). I’ve always been wondering when the sunset is exactly in line with the Grand Canal (a big pond in line with Versailles Palace). The date is 11 August, more or less one or two days.

    Similarly, you could anticipate at what time and date the sun is in line with the 5th Av in New-York, or wherever.

    Nice tool, really!!

  • Ha! I liked #5. In Hawaii I frequently drove around aimlessly and found some amazing spots. Here in Thailand I like to combine hiking and trail running with finding new locations to photograph. I cover pretty much the same trails all the time, but if I know I’m close to an area with a dramatic view, I’ll go off-path and see if I can find a way through the trees to the edge of the viewpoint. This gives me a new perspective, and sometimes new images. Cheers!

  • Penny Taylor

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  • I pick a location on the map which look like a lake, pond, forest, river…. I drive there. Leave the car and walk. Not on the road but off road. I try to avoid any human track as much as possible even its mean i have to create road myself and get cut or fall. Once i found a sleeping “beauty” bear. I am so regret that i have to turn back cause i dont have long lenses but i wish i have one.

  • Great ideas. I like idea #3 – Make an Old Place New By Going At Night!
    http://www.gistheadlines.com/category/blog/

  • Murage Jeremiah

    i like photography today by john davenport

  • SelimTheDream

    Good advice. Biking is fun, good for the body and taking pictures of the bike with an interesting background brings about some good photo oppurtinities.

  • Chris

    The photographers ephemeris website works on anything. http://photoephemeris.com/

  • rt83021

    Driving is the best approach for us, second is look closer at the things you see everyday. Living in central Nebraska, there are multitudes of gravel and dirt roads to explore. sometimes we go MMRing (driving on minimum maintenance roads) roads that aren’t actively maintained, sometimes you will find ruts so plentiful, and so deep you dare not go any further. The second option also works well for most people, all towns have park(s) we find that sometimes these public areas are so “taken for granted” we don’t go there often, when we do go we look for the little things, maybe big things like trees, maybe during the day things are blah and boring, do it at twilight, things look so different during these times. The photo below was taken in a park about 1/2 mile away from where we live.

  • Other photo location services are ShotHotspot (As featured in another dPs article https://digital-photography-school.com/finding-new-photography-locations-just-got-easier-with-shothotspot/ or Pashadelic.com (Landscape and Cityscape only). Both of these being a bit less US centric.

  • Mario Dennis

    Good advice. I like to go to the Southwest in winter–fewer tourists, cheaper lodging and flights, and often a completely different view (e.g., snow). The shooting day is much shorter (sometimes a plus) and the lower sun lights things differently.

  • Rajeshkumar

    This is my Experiment in Al-khobar corniche, Saudi Arabia at early morning.

  • DerekL

    Why do you need an app, when Flickr gives you the data directly?

    https://www.flickr.com/map

  • DerekL

    Use Flickr’s map page….

    https://www.flickr.com/map

  • Fill up the tank and just drive is always tempting. Here in Iceland you have to look at the weather first. You also have to take the season into account. It’s not like when I lived in San Diego California, always the same old weather. Even when you take this into account you have to adjust after you start driving. This is what I did yesterday. I also had a few locations in mind. So when I saw the sun shining more to the north when driving on the south coast early morning, I took a turn inland to the north and headed for autumn colors and three waterfalls. I was in luck since a little bit of snow had fallen over the area during the night. Snow that would melt and disappear around noon. A bit of a spice with the autumn colors. Here is one of the result photos. I like the helpful tutorials on this website and it has helped a lot in my work this summer, taking photos around Iceland for my new website hiticeland.com that will open in November.

  • Florian Schwientek

    I really recommend http://www.locationscout.net to find new spots. There are spots shown in nearly every country which were found by photographers before. Additionally there are photography tips for each spot and a description how to get there.

  • If you like StuckOnEarth you should really have a look at http://www.locationscout.net which is not bound to a smartphone and which is not aggregating photos automatically, which results in currently less spots because it’s pretty new, but better ones with much more details. I would love to hear your opinion about this platform since you already put a lot of effort into this topic of finding great spots!

    All the best wishes from Cologne,
    Manuel

  • samar22

    Join a Meetup.com photography group. In fact, join several.

  • Excellent post!! Thank you so much for the share.

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