Scouting a Photo Location

Whether you are traveling for work or pleasure, everyone like a few good shots of the places they have been to remember it by. As a photo/videographer frequently traveling on assignment, I have picked up a few useful tips on scouting photo locations over the years which I like to share here:


I am sure we all do some research about where to go but it is all about how you research that will lead to good photos. I avoid guidebooks and other touristy stuff that basically try to sell you things. Instead, I start by searching online discussion for what the natives suggest for photo locations. Then I (ab)use Google streetview to get a sense of the view before actually going there. Not only does Google provide a streetview, it also shows photos other people took in the area which may be off the beaten path. Lastly, while most people search for food and shops on yelp, don’t forget that you can also search for “public spaces” in major cities. Many big buildings in big cities are required to provide public spaces and they don’t always make it obvious to the public which brings me to my next point.

Head to Higher Ground

When a building cannot provide enough public spaces on the ground level, then they are forced to put them on rooftops which provides for wonderful photographic opportunities. Those space aren’t always inviting but it never hurts to ask if you can snap a photo. Along that line, every hotel I check in to, I always ask if they have a room available on the upper levels and they always try to accommodate my request. Also check for restaurants and bars located at top levels of hotels.

View from my hotel window in Atlanta.

If all else fails, try the top level of parking structures, train platforms, and pedestrian overpasses. Basically anything that gives you a perspective above the mundane view people see on the ground level will provide for a more interesting photo.

The famous Chicago Theatre shot from the train platform.

The famous Chicago Theatre shot from the train platform.

Look for Clearing

Baltimore's Inner Harbor clears a view of the city's skyline.

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor clears a view of the city’s skyline.

If you cannot get to higher ground then the next best alternative is to look for a clearing. Highways, rivers, parks, and even construction zones can provide an open view of the subject that you want to photograph.

The Environment

Don’t forget to consider the environmental factors of the locations and don’t be afraid to go back to the same location as a different time will yield different environmental factors. Some factors to consider are:

Light: Most places look the best at sunrise and sunset. However, harsh midday shadows can work for certain subjects as well.

Clouds rolling towards or away from you looks more majestic than moving side to side.

Beitou with clouds rolling away.

Rain, fog, and wind: Would a particular location benefit from the reflections of a wet rainy road or an ethereal misty fog? Consider wind direction; clouds blowing towards or away from you looks more majestic than clouds blowing side to side.

Even consider people: Do you prefer your scene with fewer people? If so, then maybe it would be wiser to go in the early morning or late night hours.

For more suggestions on travel advice, you can read my general travel tips.

Hope this was helpful in getting the photo that you want. If you have any suggestions to add to my list, please email them to Thank you!

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