How to Virtually Research Photography Locations

Often times when I go somewhere to shoot, I’m going there

  1. For the first time and have no idea where anything is
  2. I don’t have a lot of days to go explore and find things
  3. I don’t have a lot of time to sit and wait

So, it helps to know exactly where, when, and how I’m going to photograph any location that I think I might visit. Sure, there are the moments when I see something amazing and pull the car over without notice, frightening my wife to death in the moment. But, for the most part, I like to plan ahead.

But, how do I plan out locations when I’ve never been to the place before? Well, I typically go to a place where the majority of people search for things like, “How do I get rid of termites,” or “What should I get my mom for Christmas?”

Of course I’m talking about everyone’s favorite search engine, Google.

That’s right. I will peruse Google search options to find every location that I’m going to visit. Here’s how I do it…

Start With Google Images

The great thing about Google is that they have a vast search option to look at other people’s images that they’ve uploaded. Some of them are even 360 degree views that let you virtually spin around and see everything that might be around you. Those are awesome.

When people upload photos and tag them with specific keywords, Google will find them and show you exactly what is in that area. So, a few weeks back, I went to Florida and searched for Florida state parks around where I was staying. Boom! Immediately I found a photograph that peaked my interest…


The light was great, the location looked awesome and I knew I wanted to go there and try to capture the same type of shot. So, I kept browsing, but I did so in a more specialized way. Now that I knew of a specific photo to start from, I could narrow my search. So, I clicked on the photo to see where it led me.

The photo led me to a hotel’s website. This made my search extremely easy because I now knew I had a very searchable keyword (the hotel) to find exactly where this spot would lead me.

Next, Utilize Google Maps

Google Maps is a tool that photographers need to use more often. I absolutely love Google Maps and street view a little too much. But, it’s such a powerful tool for photographers to use because it lets you search parks and aerial imagery with ease!

So, now that I had a hotel’s name, I went to Google Maps and typed in the hotel. I was led directly to the hotel’s location. Next, I had to find a way into their grounds. I’m going to put a disclaimer in here that I never intend to break and enter onto property, but if there’s a free access point, I’m going to take advantage of it.

I clicked over to Street View in Google Maps and started going down the road in front of the hotel’s multiple entrances to see if they were all gated. They were.

Going back to the maps, I clicked on the Earth View option that allows you to turn on an aerial photograph of the map. Finally, I found a boardwalk that would lead me to the hotel’s property!

Now, I just had to find the exact boardwalk location that I originally saw in the image search. The distinct swirling pattern made it easy to find on the aerial photograph!


Using Google allows me to easily find photography locations and I never have to waste precious time walking aimlessly or missing unique moments on vacation. I believe that all photographers should use Google’s tools more often to find and access photo locations when they’re traveling to new places.