Photographers love to create beautiful, interesting, and unique photographs. We carry several pounds of gear on our backs through forests and mountains to find beautiful and sought-after scenes. When you finally find something amazing and photograph it, it’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you are not repeating the same cliché photograph that hundreds or thousands of other photographers have already created. And so it’s no wonder that some photographers prefer to keep these locations a secret.
I get it, I totally do. Portrait and wedding photographers may not want other competing photographers hogging their “favorite” locations, especially if there is something about that spot that helps shape their style or brand. But what about landscape photographers? By sharing locations, do we encourage too many photographers to that spot, potentially damaging not only the originality of the photo, but also putting the environment at risk as well? Take, for example, the non-photographers, such as tourists looking for a new swimming hole, or people just looking for something to do on the weekend. Does making a beautiful spot too well-known and popular (because of photography) “cheapen” it in any way? Most photographers I know, as well as avid hikers, adopt the “leave no trace” policy. Yet when the general public has access, these locations tend to become littered with graffiti, cigarette butts, and trash.
Overall, does keeping locations secret help the greater good for all of us? Should we perhaps not share locations when we photograph them? Or, is it beneficial to collectively adopt a more sharing attitude and give out information when requested? I wouldn’t know of many of the locations I seek out if not for other photographers who share their knowledge about where they photograph. One of my favorite websites to research waterfalls to photograph in the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest Waterfall Survey, which not only shares photographs and names of the waterfalls, but also detailed information on how to drive or hike to the waterfalls as well.
For me, I have always been one to share the locations of the places I photographed. Most of the time, I’m not venturing out into the middle of nowhere or finding a hidden gem that no one knows about. Many of my photographs are in well-known areas or are obvious landmarks. And if someone asks me where a waterfall I photographed was taken, for example, I will tell them the truth, as opposed to vaguely telling someone to do a Google search for “waterfalls in Oregon”. By nature, I enjoy teaching and educating, and it just feels wrong to intentionally keep that information hidden, especially if I did not discover the landmark myself.
In the end, everyone has a right to say as much, or as little, as they want about their photographs. I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to go about. But I’m curious, what do you do? Do you share your location information, or do you keep it to your self? Please let us know in the comments below!