I am asked all the time, “How do you get these images”? Another comment I hear is, “I went to the same place, and my photos don’t look nearly as good as yours.” My answer to both these questions is the same, Planning. Before I leave or in some cases before I even book a trip, I start my research. By the time I get off the plane or at a location, I have a good idea of what it will take to capture the image I want, some of the difficulties that may be present, or I have received prior permission to photograph at this location. By taking the time to do my research, I have given myself the best chances of success and capturing the images I want.
Here are a few tips that will help you come home with the images you want:
The first place I will start is 500px. If you are not using 500px to get inspired by some of the best photography around, not to mention researching locations, you are hurting yourself. The photography is beautiful, and in many cases, the photographer has beneficial information on location, availability, and time of day.
After I have been inspired on 500px, my next stop is Google and Google Images. This is like casting out a big net and then sorting for the images you want. Using Google, there will be more information provided by photographers and travel writers that can be indispensable when planning to be at a particular spot at a specific time. You will also find information and history of your subject and the times open to the public. Knowing when a location is open can be very helpful, so you are there before all the other people.
This next step for getting prepared is one of the most important, and that is using Google Maps. You can use Google Maps to find a location if you don’t already have the exact spot, but more importantly, you can use street view to get an idea of where you are in relationship to your subject. Another great feature of Google Maps is it will give you the GPS location to use when you are there. I have also found it very helpful to create a personal Google Map and mark all the sites and secondary locations I want to capture. Creating this map makes it very easy to plan my day, and if a subject is covered in scaffolding, move quickly to an alternative location.
The last part of my research is to start to contact places I might need permission to photograph in. If you just show up at a location, you will mostly be denied entrance or not be able to photograph inside them. But, if you start contacting them earlier and give yourself more time than you think it will take, you might be able to gain access and come away with images that most photographers will not be able to photograph.
Using these steps to research and make my shoot list has helped me return home with unforgettable images, and I hope it helps you as well.