Location scouting and planning can be a critical part of your photography. Whether you are traveling to a new location to shoot landscapes or looking for the best place to take outdoor portraits in your local area, research is a key part of getting great photos.
Fortunately, there are many different resources that can be extremely valuable for your own planning. Here we’ll take a look at 10 resources that you should consider using.
Photo by danfador
1. Google Earth
Google Earth is an incredibly valuable tool that allows you to learn a lot about a location without ever having been there. You can see when the sun will rise and set, where it will rise and set, see the shadows it will create on the landscape, and plan your compositions. You can get a great deal of information about very specific locations.
Learn more by reading How to Find the Perfect Photography Location Using Google Earth.
2. The Photographer’s Ephemeris
Like Google Earth, The Photographer’s Ephemeris is a highly valuable resource for scouting and planning. You can use it on a desktop or use the mobile app to see the position of the sun or moon at any location and any given point in time.
Learn more by reading Location Scouting with the Photographer’s Ephemeris.
Anytime I am planning a trip to a new location, or a location I have visited several times for that matter, I do a search on Flickr to see other people’s photos from that location. Flickr is such a huge community that you can find photos from just about any location. These photos can serve as inspiration, show you interesting points of view, and give you composition ideas. Be sure to read the descriptions of photos that you like, many times the descriptions will include information to help you find the exact location of the photo.
Try searching The Photo Argus group at Flickr.
Like Flickr, 500px is a great site to search and browse photos of a specific location. The quantity of photos at 500px is much smaller than Flickr, but the quality of photos is generally much better. You can get some great ideas and find places to take your own photos.
5. The Best Places to Photograph in Each State
If you’re looking for photography locations in the United States, Loaded Landscapes has compiled an extensive list of the best locations in each state. Some states have as many as 50 different locations listed, and each state has its own map to show where each location is (even more locations are being added). This is a great way to find interesting places to photograph near your home or near a place that you will be visiting.
Find the directory for each state at Loaded Landscapes.
6. Photo Pills
Photo Pills is an extremely powerful app for the iPad or iPhone. There are many different features and functions that can be useful for scouting and planning. You can get detailed sun, moon, and Milky Way information. Explore and manage locations to plan your own trips. One of the coolest features is the augmented reality that makes it easy to visualize the sun, moon, and milky way position.
ShotHotSpot uses photos from other sites, like Flickr, and makes it easy to find interesting places to photograph. Just search for a destination and see what comes up. The photos are somewhat organized and can help you to find specific points of interest in a general location that you will be visiting.
Scoutt.com is a newer site that takes a community-based approach. You can create an account and upload photos from a specific location. You can also search for locations and browse photos from other users. Since it is community-based, some locations have more photos than others. Hopefully, with time it will become more popular and include more photos.
9. Stuck on Earth
Stuck on Earth is an app (for Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android) that lets you search any location and view sample photos, along with their specific locations on a map. You can create trips and save photos to a trip, which makes the photos accessible offline so they can be viewed even when you don’t have an internet connection.
10. Ask Locals
Websites and apps are great resources to have, but don’t let that overshadow the value of the knowledge of others. Just talking to locals and asking about locations can be a great way to get invaluable information. If you’re at a national park or state park be sure to talk to park rangers and get their insight. They will know the area as well as anyone.
Another way to get feedback from others is to use online forums. You can post a message on a forum asking for the best photography locations in a particular area, and you’ll probably get responses from several people who live in that area or have visited in the past. You can also search forums, as many times your question will have already been asked by someone else, and you can see the responses right away.