Amazing photography doesn’t happen by accident! It takes a lot of planning and preparation. In this post I’ll share with you my secret sauce on how I always come home with photos worthy of hanging on a gallery wall.
Before we begin you need to understand that having a solid plan is everything – especially when you don’t have the luxury of time. Perhaps you may only have a handful of days in a far exotic place like Tahiti – so you’ve got to make the most of it!
Or perhaps you know you may never go to this place again and you want to make sure you get the best possible photos possible. By reading this post you’ll quickly learn how to plan like a professional photographer!
You ready? Let’s begin!
A SIMPLE GOOGLE SEARCH
The first thing I’ll do is Google “best photography spots in _____”. I’ll take a look at the websites that pop up and if something catches my eye I’ll copy and paste those locations in a text editor.
Then I’ll go to Google Maps and favorite these locations with a star. While I’m there I’ll take a look at the latest photos that people have shared in order to do further research. If you’re doing it right it should look something like this…
You can also Google “things to do in ____” but I’m more interested in the best photography spots and not really “things to do”.
My next step is to head over to one of my favorite photography sites and that’s 500px (https://500px.com/popular). There you’ll find some of the best of the best photos on the internet! It’s much like Vimeo as (for the most part) people don’t post just anything there and they’ll only post their best stuff.
Once I find photos that inspire me, I’ll take notes as to the locations, and pin them on Google Maps.
Next I’ll head over to Reddit. If I’m going to a particular city, let’s say New York, I’ll go to the subreddit and sort the posts by TOP – ALL OF TIME – THIS WEEK – THIS MONTH to see what’s going on.
STOCK PHOTO SITES
Next I’ll head over to a few stock photo sites as in order to sell stock photos – they need to be top notch and sellable! If you’d like to see some of my photos you can head over to: https://www.shutterstock.com/g/mikeycolon.
Back to the Seattle example – I’ll first do a general search for #seattle. Once I type that in I’ll get several other hashtags. Then it’s time to go down the rabbit hole and see what else comes up for different hashtags.
SAVE YOUR FAVORITE PHOTOS ON YOUR PHONE
You may want to consider saving images on your phone so you can reference them later. Especially if you are traveling internationally and you don’t have service.
Keep in mind you wont be able to save images you see on certain sites (like Instagram). But in life there’s a way around barriers. So if you’d like to save images you can simply take screenshots with your phone or with your computer.
Once you have all of the spots you want to take photos in, your next step is to come up with an efficient plan. Take a look at all of the place you’ve favorited in Google Maps and try to plan things that are close together.
For example you don’t want to go somewhere north, then south, then west then head back north. Try to plan your visits to places that are close by to save time (instead of zig-zagging everywhere). But there’s a caveat you need to consider and that’s…
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO TAKE PHOTOS?
This deserves a post on its own – but I’ll spill the beans here. To answer the question – sunrise and sunset. The magic happens during what’s called “golden hour” which is shortly after sunrise and just before sunset. There’s a science to this but to keep things simple the reason the sky looks amazing it’s mostly due to the low angle of the sun.
Did you know that professional landscape photographers pretty much exclusively shoot during only these times? They’ll get up super early (say 4am) to shoot the sunrise, then head to the hotel to crash (or kill time) until sunset. Most of the amazing photos you’ll see online is taken during these times.
This even applies to shooting cityscape photos!
It’s not always a guarantee but stick around and I’ll show you an app that you can use to help predict epic sunsets and sunrises.
IF YOU’RE VISITING A CITY – HEAD OUT AT NIGHT
For me when it comes to taking photos of cities nothing beats night photography! For starters photos look way more dramatic.
Plus you’re always guaranteed a money shot! If you’d like to read more about why I LOVE shooting photos at night head over to my other blog and check out this post: https://colonphoto.com/cityscape-photography/how-to-shoot-long-exposures-night-photography-tutorial/
Also be sure to sign up for my newsletter as I’m currently working on an online video course where I’ll teach you everything you need to know on how to take amazing night photos! Here’s an example of what you can expect..
WATER IS YOUR FRIEND
If possible, plan your sunrise and sunset photos around water. Water always adds drama to your photos.
FIRE IN THE SKY
Now jaw dropping sunsets don’t happen all of the time – but there’s an app that’ll help predict if there’ll be a good chance. The app is named Skyfire and it’s available for both Apple and Android. https://www.skyfireapp.com
There’s no guarantees but at least you’ll have a better chance of not waking up 4am in the morning to get a shot like this…
If you’d like to see the behind the scenes video for the story behind these photos – check out this video:
PhotoPills is another must have app. It can get super complicated but I only use it to see exactly where the sun sets and rises. You can even punch in a future date and you’ll know where you’ll have to be!
WHILE YOU’RE THERE
My final tip is to check out gift shops. Look for post cards and you’ll get more ideas that you may not have found online – although unlikely if you followed my tips!
IS IT SAFE?
Unfortunately we live in a dangerous world and I highly suggest you research to make sure the places you want to visit is safe. I’ve had clients hire an off duty cop (strapped with a gun) to accompany us while we go to certain places. Even in remote locations that are off “the beaten path” can be sketchy.
Popular tourist destinations that were once considered safe are rather dangerous now. You’d be surprised but there are several “no go zones” all across Europe. And the term “no go zone” means places that police officers and firemen won’t go simply because it’s too dangerous.
Did you know there’s now a bullet proof fence around the Eiffel Tower? Bet you didn’t! Let’s just say Paris isn’t what it used to be but you’ll never hear about it unless you’re in the know.
I don’t mean to be a Debby Downer but I figured I’d “put this out there” while you’re doing your research.
IS IT OK TO COPY?
I should have mentioned this earlier, but the goal here is not to copy other photographers. Rather the goal is get inspired and take better photos than they are! But that begins with doing thorough research ahead of time to find out where the pros go for their money shots. The last thing you want to do is travel without a clue on where you should go.
That’s it for now – stay tuned for future posts like these!
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