How to Find Unique Locations for Your Travel Photography and Videography

Tips & Advice
Travel Photography

Gear Focus

Sep 18, 2019

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  Snapping photos of iconic landmarks can be a fun way to remember your visit to a new city. But it’s hard to produce truly great travel photography and videography if you’re only documenting popular tourist attractions. They’ve been photographed thousands of times, so finding new, compelling ways to depict them is next to impossible. If you want your travel photos and videos to stand out artistically, you’ll have to head deeper into the city and find where to shoot photography that isn't as widely known.  [embed][/embed] To help you with your search, here is our how-to guide on finding a unique photography location that will elevate your travel photography. Travel blogs and guidebooks often talk about a city’s most popular attractions, not the hidden, special ones that make the best photographs. So you’ll have to get a little creative with your research if you want to find unique photo locations full of character and local color. To help you with your search, here are some of our best tips for finding unique photo spots that will elevate your travel photography. 

Do Some Research 

Depending on what types of photos you want to take, certain research methods will work better than others.  Photography on Instagram Instagram has a reputation for being full of selfies, but it has plenty of architectural photography and photos of scenic views too. You can search for photos by location, or use specific hashtags like “NYC architecture” or “London skyline” to help refine your search and bypass all the selfies.  Instagram is also a great place to connect with photographers who live in the area. If you find a page you like, reach out to the person who runs it and ask them for ideas on where to shoot your photography and where their favorite spots are. They may even be willing to take you shooting with them while you’re in town! The one drawback of Instagram is that the search results are pretty limited in smaller cities. Niche hashtags like “architecture” might only have a couple hundred posts. So if you don’t get enough photo inspiration from Instagram, try looking on other photo-sharing websites like Flickr, 500px, InAFarAwayLand, and Your Shot. The results from all of these platforms combined will give you enough info to plan your trip.   If you're a videographer looking for film locations, YouTube is the best place to start. YouTube videos are usually several minutes long, whereas video clips on Instagram are only a few seconds. YouTube videos will give you a much better feel for each filming location and help you decide which ones are right for you.  Travel bloggers and photographers often record videos while they’re wandering around new cities. If you watch enough of their videos, you’ll be able to put together a comprehensive list of great filming locations.  People like Peter McKinnon, who have traveled far and wide for the perfect shot, are excellent resources for industry-changing shots. Some of McKinnon's incredible adventures have led him to some of the most famously photographed locations in the world, including Moraine Lake in Canada's Banff National Park. Though places like this have been photographed extensively, McKinnon found a way to make it his own, and you can certainly do the same. Check out his Bucket Shot video which is truly inspiring and made our team want to book a trip immediately after watching it!

Ask Locals (And Take Their Picture Too)

If you don’t have time to do a lot of online research before your trip, ask locals for recommendations of interesting things to see. Most of the time your cab driver or waiter will be happy to answer your questions and tell you about their favorite sights. Their suggestions can help you flesh out your itinerary.  You can also ask some of the locals you get to know if you can take their portraits. Snapshots of people going about their everyday lives can be just as compelling as photos of beautiful landscapes and buildings, so consider taking some candid portraits during your trip if you haven’t already.  Locals are likely to know about all the more popular tourist attractions, too... so take some time to join the crowd if you like! There is nothing wrong with heading to Baltimore and grabbing a shot of Graffiti Alley on your way to a lesser-known spot.

Hire a Guide  

Local residents will be able to show you interesting neighborhoods, unique architecture, and hidden side streets that will greatly enhance your travel photography.  Hiring a guide is easier and more affordable than ever thanks to a few different tourism websites. The Global Greeter Network offers free private tours in cities throughout the US, UK, and many other countries around the world. After filling out a form, you’ll be matched up with a local volunteer who can show you around and give you the inside scoop on the city. Your guide may not be a photographer, but they will have extensive knowledge of the place from living there and giving tours for years, so they can probably help you find some unique photo locations. If you have some extra cash to spare, you can hire a local photographer or videographer to be your guide instead. They’ll be able to plan a tour that suits your photographic interests and take you to their favorite undiscovered video and photo spots. Tours work particularly well for landscape and architectural photographers because your guide will know exactly which neighborhoods and scenic areas to take you to.   You can find professionals who offer private travel videography and photography tours through sites like Vayable and Tours By Locals, or by doing a quick Google search.  A guide is less likely to take you through the monuments in downtown Washington D.C. and more likely to weave you through the colorful shops and past the unique and graphic crosswalks of Chinatown. The only medium tours won’t work well for is portraiture—you’re probably better off heading into the city on your own on foot. 

Explore on Foot 

Sometimes the best way to find unique photo locations in a city is to get out there and explore it on foot. Some of the things you might notice while walking around are street art, scenic parks, statues, fountains, side streets, unique storefronts, rooftops you can take photos from, and more. When you’re speeding by in a car, you might not notice all of the details of your surroundings and miss some of these interesting photo opportunities.  You’ll get to see so many different things while walking like beautiful architecture and local art. You can take out your camera whenever inspiration strikes and look back at your camera roll to figure out which type of photography interests you the most.  Heading out into the city on foot is also a great way for portrait photographers to interact with locals and other travelers. Walking around the city and going to bars, restaurants, and shops gives you plenty of opportunities to meet fun people, strike up a conversation, and snap some really good portraits.  Don’t be afraid to leave one day of your trip mostly unplanned so you can just wander around. Part of the joy of travel is being able to let your days unfold naturally, so don’t over-schedule yourself. If you want to venture down an unfamiliar side street that’s not on your planned route, do it! You never know if the best photography location is waiting to be discovered just around that corner.  We hope this article gave you some new ideas about how you can find unique shooting locations for your travel photography and videography.  How do you find great photo spots? Let us know in the comments section below!

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