As a photography enthusiast (or professional!), one of the most exciting aspects of travelling to a new city is the opportunity to capture unique and memorable photos. However, finding good places to take photos in an unfamiliar city can be a challenge. On a recent trip to Nottingham, I was struck by how beautiful parts of the city were but ended up coming away without any memorable shots. I know firsthand how annoying this can be as a photographer. Having had time to think about it in more depth, I will, in this post, share my personal experiences and tips for finding great photography spots in an unfamiliar city.
Do Your Research
Before arriving in a new city, I always do some research to find out about the city’s landmarks, iconic buildings, and natural scenery. I also look at Instagram and Pinterest to see what other photographers have captured in the city. This helps me get an idea of what types of photos I want to take and where I might find the best spots.
Doing this also helps with preventing me from taking the same shots as everyone else. Whilst some photos are too good to pass up despite how common they are, you do not want to come away with a set of unsatisfying collections of mimic photographs.
One of the best ways to find hidden photography gems is to ask locals. They can offer valuable insight into lesser-known locations that might not be as popular with tourists. I like to strike up conversations with locals at coffee shops, bars, or markets and ask for their recommendations. Not only does this lead to great photography spots, but it also helps me connect with the local community. It also, in my case, led to a very nice vodka martini being made for me by the barman in a Nottingham establishment on my recent trip.
You don’t need to ask people in person, however, if you don’t feel like it. You can normally find many online groups on Facebook and other social media sites which deal with local photography. These groups may well be able to provide you with excellent locations and tips for your shots. This has the bonus of being able to do this in advance of your visit and make plans accordingly.
Sometimes, the best photography spots are found by simply exploring the city and getting lost. I like to take walks through different neighbourhoods and observe the city’s architecture, street art, and people. This not only leads to great photo opportunities but also allows me to discover the city more authentically.
Whilst I often incorporate “photography wanders” into my trips (and indeed when local as well), it is worth remembering that with unfamiliar areas it is best to err on the side of caution when considering your own personal safety. Follow recommendations from the aforementioned locals to avoid areas – even if just at certain times of day – that might not be safe. Particularly if travelling alone.
Check Out Museums and Galleries
Museums and galleries can offer unique photography opportunities. I like to visit museums and galleries to take photos of the artwork, architecture, and installations. These can offer interesting perspectives and compositions for my photography. That being said, many of these venues often have strict policies on taking your own photos – or what they like to call “professional photography”. This can apply to outside areas as well so be careful to stay within the rules of the establishment you are visiting.
Something to consider when taking photos in these areas is not to just take a photo of the exhibit. You can probably find those online on the venue’s website. Instead, try to take photos which show the exhibit in a different light, or perhaps being appreciated by visitors. Again, remember to follow any venue rules for doing this.
Consider the Time of Day
The time of day can greatly impact the mood and lighting of your photos. I like to take photos during the golden hour (the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset) when the light is softer and warmer. I also consider the weather conditions, as rain and fog can offer interesting and moody photo opportunities.
Generally, I am opposed to taking photos outside at the high of the day as the intense light can often push the highlights too far on my photos. However, filters do exist to counter this so use them liberally to achieve the desired look at any time of the day.
Also, consider making use of the blue hour (the period directly before the morning golden hour or after the evening golden hour) for an extra level of moodiness for your photographs. Many people have written much about the importance of photography at certain times of day, such as this one, so I’d recommend checking some of those out once you are done here.
Experiment with Different Perspectives
One of the ways to create unique and memorable photos is to experiment with different perspectives. I like to shoot from low angles, high angles, and different distances. This allows me to capture the city from different viewpoints and create interesting compositions. This also goes along with what I was saying earlier about not getting the same shots as everyone else. Vary the perspective to get a unique and brilliant photo.
I’ve written somewhat about this before when I spoke about how to spice up the same old photography locations so I would definitely recommend checking that out for more ideas on this front!
Look for Reflections
Reflections can offer a unique and creative twist to your photos. I like to look for reflections in windows, water, and mirrors. This creates a dynamic and layered composition in my photos, and whilst I have experimented with this before I am certainly looking to do a lot more.
Along with standard reflections you might expect to find in puddles of water and such, you can also use tools such as glass balls to warp and potentially reflect your image. Whilst these photographs are more likely to be experimental in nature, they can certainly help you to refine your skill and add a bit of uniqueness to a photo.
In conclusion, finding good places to take photos in an unfamiliar city can be a challenge, but it can also be an exciting and rewarding experience. By doing research, asking locals, getting lost, visiting museums, considering the time of day, experimenting with different perspectives, and looking for reflections, you can capture unique and memorable photos that showcase the beauty and character of the city. As a photography enthusiast, I encourage you to explore new cities and discover your own photography gems.
Let us know what your experiences are of taking photos in an unfamiliar city in the comments below. Happy shooting!