Photo Tips - Find Amazing Shoot Locations

The blog below was originally published in Soles of Silk's Column section. It was archived and then republished here in 2016.

Over the years I have always tried to shoot my models in unique locations. While that isn't always an option, or needed for the set, it is just something I prefer to do. Maybe it is the artist in me, but I just like to put as much creativity into my work as possible.

Having run Soles of Silk since the end of 2004, I can say finding new locations isn't always easy these days. I feel like I've exhausted all my local options sometimes, even though I can always seem to find something in a pinch. But this past year I've been making use of an invaluable tool - Google Earth. If you've used the program, you know what it's capable of. If you haven't, you really need to check it out. You can download the program here:

I used Google Earth to find interesting spots in Wildwood, NJ to shoot Jamie's first sets.

Over the years when I wanted to do a unique background I'd rely on going to an area where I know I'd have a handful of places to shoot - for example, Jamie's debut sets all done at Wildwood, NJ. I knew if I made the trip to the beach I'd have numerous places to shoot. All we'd have to do is drive/walk around, find a spot, and start shooting. Well, with Google Earth I can now look in areas that might seem uninteresting and find hidden gems.

Mileena's day long shoot that culminated with shoots at Blackwater and Elakala Falls in West Virginia provides the best examples of the power of Google Earth (see blog: "Hot Feet Week: 2012 Edition, Part 3 - Mileena"). Knowing that destination was a little over four hours away I utilized Google Earth and traced the route that I'd take to those destinations. To help break up the drive I began looking in towns and locations close to the roads we'd be driving for more photo spots. And boy did I ever find some.

The first location was in a small town in Western Maryland in their City Park. On first pass I would have thought nothing of the location, but having the photos option turned on allows you to view photos other people have taken. Often when you see a bunch of photos in one spot, it warrants a look. That was the case here as I found a location with a stream running to a small pond that was surrounded by rocks and featured a small foot bridge.

This spot Mileena used wouldn't have been found if not for Google Earth.

Our second location was in another town only about 10 minutes away. It was a rusty train draw bridge. It was located on some abandoned tracks at a small park area. I would have never thought to look here had it not been for that photos option being turned on. I clicked some of the photos and thought the draw bridge looked very unique - like nothing I had ever done in my photos.

The third and fourth locations were in another town I had been through years ago as a child. We had never stopped there, but I knew the town was very old by the look of the buildings. I made sure I looked here when tracing our route and found enough locations to use for an entire day of shooting alone. I kept the locations here to only two as I needed to save enough daylight to get to the falls. I ultimately went with a historic train station and a nearby bridge that passed over a canal.

The fifth location was supposed to be our gem - Blackwater Falls. I had been here as a child and was what I based this entire trip on. Seeing other photos of interest in the area, however, I also found our sixth and final location, Elakala Falls. I'm glad I did as Blackwater Falls turned out not to be as photo friendly as we had hoped.

Mileena had this to say about Blackwater and Elakala in her recent All Day Shoot Interview in the Interviews section of the site, "Initially I thought, 'West Virginia is too far to go.' But as soon as you started sending the photos, I fell in love with them."

The photos Mileena is talking about were ones I nabbed from Google Earth and sent to her in attempts to show her just how beautiful those locations are. Needless to say, she was sold.

Over a month later I'm finally posting the first photo shoot from Mileena's shoots - the one done at Elakala Falls. Had it not been for Google Earth, I might never have found the location.

Mileena also added, in regards to one of the other locations we used, the train station, "I liked the train station. It was fun to actually climb on the train for some pictures."

Another location from Mileena's all day shoot discovered via Google Earth.

It was Elakala Falls that did it for her though, a feeling I also share. It was just too beautiful, especially with her under the falling water showing off her adorable feet. "Nothing can beat the background of Elakala Falls. Not to mention, I had to work the hardest for that one!" Mileena said.

Mileena's shoots are far from the first or last sets I've used the program to locate shoot locations. Using it has even shown me some local spots I never knew existed. So whether you're out shooting foot photos, or just enjoy some nature photography, you might want to give Google Earth a try. It's been an awesome tool for me and one I use often.

Extra Photo Location Tips

  • Keep your theme in mind when it comes to location. For example, you don't want a girl in an evening gown if you're headed to a beach location.
  • If you're not comfortable shooting with people around, look off the beaten path or schedule your shoots when people will be more scare.
  • Keep to a single location for each shoot. If you shoot several pictures here, several pictures there, and then a few more in another place, you've exhausted several spots all in one shoot. Shoot a full set at each location.
  • Be careful of private property. Although I've been chased off a few train tracks, I try to be careful when going somewhere I'm not supposed to be.
  • Follow shorelines. You can find a great many parks, bridges, and areas of interest along the water. I sometimes feel like I shoot too many waterfront spots, but the locations are just too good to pass up sometimes.

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