As a fellow freelance photographer, I fully understand the struggle to scout locations for photo shoots or getting permission to shoot in locations of your dreams.
Unless you work with an agency or are friends with someone who is a professional location scouter then it can be super discouraging trying to find the perfect location for your creative vision.
Over the past two years I’ve spend time putting together editorial photo shoots that require the perfect location to help tell the story and pull the vision together and throughout all my trials and errors, I’ve simplified the struggle of scouting locations for freelance photographers.
1. Instagram Geotags
Don’t lie and admit that you hella stalk people on Instagram but when you do, make it productive and pay attention to location geotags. The new save feature on Instagram makes it super easy to keep an organized virtual folder of potential locations.
Another way to use geotags in Instagram to your advantage is to do a location search to see if there are any cool locations that people have taken photos of near you or whatever place you’re searching for a location in.
2. Driving Around
The classic and obvious tactic is just driving around to see what you can find, but it can be difficult since you need to pay attention to the road while trying be on the lookout for aesthetically pleasing locations.
For my collaboration with Tobi.com, I chose a certain location that I thought would fit best and drove around the neighborhood to find specific spots that were aesthetically pleasing for each outfit.
If you choose to do this, I would recommend going really early in the morning so you avoid all the traffic and commotion of other drivers or have a someone else drive so you can ride passenger. And whenever you are just riding in a car always be looking for spots you can revisit later on your own time.
A great way to keep a record of all theses locations you see on the go is to snap a picture with your phone, it doesn’t have to perfect because all you really want is the location stamp.
When I used to work in Downtown Houston I would always get off the same exit and see this car garage in an aesthetically pleasing building that always had tires stacked up. One day I finally came up with a concept and did a photo shoot there!
ShotHotspot is a great website to start your search for basic locations, because all the work has already been done for you. The site allows you to search by a city, town or region and filters them for you.
The results appear on an interactive map, so you can easily see the proximity and a variety of photos taken at that location by other users to get a feel of what you would be working with.
A majority of the locations will be ones that have been photographed over a million times, so if you’re looking for a spot more unique then ShotHotspot probably won’t benefit you much.
4. Google Search
Google should seriously be every photographers’ best friend, because it can solve all your problems when it comes to location scouting.
If there’s a specific theme you’re aiming for then doing a search for something like “colorful buildings in Houston” will pull up anything related to that search and it’s up to you to sift through the results and see if there’s any information useful for you.
For my Western Summer Editorial, I was super adamant about finding a vintage gas station and since I was living in Iowa at the time, I was heavily searching for “abandoned towns in Iowa” and eventually I stumbled across a project called Forgotten Iowa.
The project is run by Cody Weber who is dedicated to driving around to different cities in Iowa and photographing them before they succumb to nature. His quest allowed me to stumble upon Vincent, Iowa which was the perfect location for the photo shoot and only 50 minutes away from me.
5. Google Earth
The beauty of Google Earth is the fact that you can see different locations in 3D without having to leave the comfort of your own home. If you come across an address during your online search then you can put it into Google Earth to see if it’s still there.
Once I came across a Flickr album from 2009 full of awesome locations around Houston and was quickly saddened when I did a search and saw that majority of them had been demolished in recent years.
You can also use Google Earth to creep on random locations near you to see if there are any potential photography spots in places that you’ve just never looked.
Did these tips work for you? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading and stay hungry to learn, create and grow!