Screenshot from Flickr
Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly what to expect before you packed your camera for a shoot?
You could know what sort of filters you’d need, what sort of lenses to bring and even what sort of techniques you’d be experimenting with at the location.
It would certainly be a lot better than driving for a couple of hours to a point on the map only to find when you get there that there’s just a couple of trees and a muddy field to photograph.
Flickr can tell you exactly what to expect.
Flickr as Location Scout
One of the things we’ve been trying to stress on this blog is the opportunities available at Flickr. When we wrote about getting paid for your Flickr photos, the comments we received included a number from photographers who had received money for their photos… and at least one from a buyer. And when we asked whether pros were getting enough out of Flickr, we came across professionals who had learned everything they needed to know about photography on the site.
But Flickr isn’t just an earning and learning tool. It can also be a valuable research tool as well.
Hit the World Map link in the Explore tab and you’ll get a map of the world showing a number of geotagged images.
At first glance, the map doesn’t look like much. Because Flickr divides all the geotagged photos into separate pages, it appears as though there are relatively few images available.
You have to look at the small print to see that there are over 30 million of them.
And you’ll have to use the search box to find the images of a place that you’re interested in visiting.
That can tell you a great deal.
Dunhuang or Jiayuguan?
Screenshot from Flickr
Imagine, for example, that you were planning a trip to China and wanted to know whether Dunhuang, a site famous for Buddhist paintings, is more photogenic — and more worthy of a stopover — than Jiayuguan, the end of the Great Wall.
Toss each in turn into Flickr’s map and you’ll be able to browse images from both locations. Circled numbers will tell you how many photographs were shot in each location. Click the numbers and you’ll be able to see a series of thumbnails shot there. You can see larger images by clicking the picture, and a larger one still by going to the photo page.
The first thing you’d be able to pick up is a general idea of the sort of photos you can expect to take at each site. You could see for example, that Jiayuguan has lots interesting roof eaves and straight lines while Dunhuang has some fun-looking sand dunes.
That alone could tell you which is worth a stay, depending on whether you prefer shooting landscapes or photographing architecture.
It could also give you an idea of the equipment you might need to bring — a useful piece of knowledge when you’re going as far as the Silk Road, or even just a couple of hours away.
And it can let you know what you’re likely to bringing back with you.
You could even write to the photographer and ask what else there was to photograph and whether he or she has any advice for shooting at that location. Flickr people are quite friendly and don’t usually mind answering these sorts of questions.
While knowing what to expect could take some — though certainly not all — of the fun out of the shoot, it might also give you a very important advantage. It could let you identify potential buyers before you travel.
If you know that a magazine will be doing a supplement on deserts, for example, (and editorial calendars provided to advertisers might be helpful there), then you could call the publication, tell them you’ll be heading tosa a desert soon and ask if they take images of sand dunes from freelancers. There’s no guarantee that they will, of course, but knowing what to expect is always going to be helpful. Comparing it to what the market wants will be even more helpful.
Backpacker magazine and Bruce Coleman Photo Library are just two companies that take travel images submitted by freelancers. Tell us how you prepare for shoots on location and whether you’d use Flickr as a location scout.
[tags] location scouting with flickr [/tags]