One of the best ways to keep your photography fresh and inspired is by traveling outside of your local area. This change in scenery can help to refresh your love of the craft and continue to grow and develop your skills by breaking you out of your comfort zone. Of course, with any trip, you'll need to invest a certain amount of planning and preparation if you want to get the most out of your experience. When I travel, I like to find a healthy balance between leisure and business, and pre-planning my excursion will ensure I do this easily.
If you're headed off on your next big adventure, my best advice is to make plans to explore amazing locations, make quality connections, and add to your portfolio while in a new area. Below, I've outlined five tips that I use when I travel to guarantee I return home with memories that will inspire me to go back (and keep exploring!) and result in plenty of images of which I'm proud to have captured.
1) Set Goals
To start, you'll want to establish your goals for the trip. Are you planning this travel for business, pleasure, or a bit of both? If you create an action plan that details the amount of time you want to spend shooting vs. relaxing, you'll have solid framework to help you acheive this balance prior to starting your trip. This may seem like a tedious task, but don't skip this step or you could find yourself overwhelmed upon arrival or in search of inspiration once you've actually left home. Traveling to a new area can inspire you to want to shoot every single day which can get overwhelming and easily eat away time for exploration. I try to find a balance of shooting often but still leave enough time to give a new restaurant a try or plan a good hike or two.
Before you begin your travels, it is so important to network ahead of time! Unless you are taking off on a spur of the moment trip, I recommend taking the time to reach out and network with people in the area that you'll be visiting. Start on Facebook and search for photography groups in the local area. If certain groups match your genre or goals, ask to join and then make a post introducing yourself and your travel plan. Often times group members will be able to offer location advice and suggest "hidden gems" that as a visitor you might not be able to find through online research.
Another great way to make connections is to ask your friends if they have any family or friends in the area where you'll be traveling. Don't be afraid to reach out to people! The worst case scenario is that you don't hear back from them. When planning portrait shoots in a new city, trying to find models that can work with you on a short timelime can be a daunting task. If you have a model or client in mind with whom you want to work, reach out to them, but don't limit your search there. My advice is to reach out to fellow artists and photographers in the city as they know their city better than you. Local photographers can be the best resource for top talent on short notice. Plus, making a quality connection with a fellow photographer can be a wonderful future resource for both of you.
3) Find Ideal Locations
Pre-planning your shoot locations is extremely beneficial and can save you time while on the road. I recommend finding at least one or two locations at which you want to shoot prior to heading out. Luckily, you can do this right from the comfort of your living room! If you're primarily a studio photographer, you can search Google for all of the studios and creative spaces in the area and start making phone calls. If you have the budget to rent space then it's best to find studios that inspire you and inquire prior to arriving. If not, reach out to the local studio photographers and ask if you can assist in their studio for a shoot. Remember, the best way to travel is by making quality connections wherever you go! If you spend an afternoon helping a fellow artist, you'll likely have made a new friend and have some refreshed portfolio images to show for it.
I much prefer the outdoors for my shoots so when I'm planning my locations, I look for parks and anything that will offer a nature-centric vibe. My method for location scouting is simple and has served me very well in the past. To provide an example, let's say I'm headed to Seattle, WA. I will Google “Best parks in Seattle” and open Google Maps. You'll see results on the left sidebar featuring images and ratings on all of the relevant locations. As a visually driven person, if an image catches my eye, I'll click for more information on that spot. I've found that searching Google Maps in the map-style view, instead of satellite view, is my personal preference. I scroll the green areas of the screen until I see an image that catches my eye. If it's green space on Maps, then it's a park of some kind. Keep a list, whether it's on pen and paper or a digital notepad app on your cell phone, of locations you want to scout in-person. My all-time favorite locations have been discovered this way.
4) Utilize Social Media
As everyone knows, social media is king. Like it or not, social media will be one of your best friends when you're searching for clients the first time you visit a new city. With Instagram being a photography driven platform, it is definitely my go-to for this kind of research. On Instagram hashtags are the best way to search. Try both general and specific tags. For example, if I'm headed to Seattle, I'll start by searching "#seattle" as a broad search and then narrow things down with hashtags like "#seattlemodel" or "#seattlephotographer". Browse the results, find people you would like to work with, and send them a polite direct message introducing yourself. Start by letting them know your plans for visiting the area and ask them if they'd be interested in shooting with you. I'd recommend inviting them out for a coffee or beer to chat photography and learn more about the creative scene from someone who lives there. This will allow you both to get to know one another and determine if a partner shoot will work! As mentioned previously, the worst case scenario is that they won't see your message or end up not responding. Trust me, it's no big deal, and no harm done. Find the next inspirational photographer and move on.
5) Have Fun!
Arguably my most important tip (and admittedly my cheesiest), is that you've got to have fun while doing this! As photographers, we often have flexibility in our schedules which allow us some freedom to explore. Take advantage by getting outside of your comfort zone--but prioritize your enjoyment while doing it! You are the one in control of the travel plans and you alone get to choose when, where, and how often to shoot. My advice is to make plans and set goals, but don't stress over every single detail. You're in a new city, enjoy the experience! Take pictures that you can't take at home. If you don't have the time or desire to network, then give a new photography genre a try! If you're a portrait photographer, plan a hike and give landscapes a shot. If you're a landscape photographer, why not plan a portrait session while you're traveling? No matter your preference, if you try new things, the memories you bring home will last a lifetime and inspire you to keep seeking new experiences.
About Evan Kane
My name is Evan Kane and I'm a portrait photographer based in Colorado. I specialize in outdoor location portraits with a bit of a fantasy or dreamy vibe. For as long as I can remember, I've had a passion for the creative process. I love colors, finding locations, expression, and I love to edit images. I use a Nikon D750 and my only lens is my 85mm. Portraits are my passion. Meeting new people and collaborating to create an awesome image is a recipe for a good time. Photography is absolutely a journey and I am so excited to see where it takes me.