Should Photographers Keep Locations Secret?

Home|Opinion, Photography|Should Photographers Keep Locations Secret?

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!

By | 2016-12-21T11:54:23+00:00 December 20th, 2016|4 Comments

About the Author:

My name is Nicole and I'm a photographer, author, & educator living in Portland, Oregon, USA. When I'm not making photos I'm writing books and tutorials for my online store, Learn more about me and my story here.

4 Comments

  1. Andrea December 23, 2016 at 10:22 am - Reply

    Hey Nicole…I always share where I photograph. I don’t have a problem with it because I’m always on the lookout for a new place to explore. I don’t understand why some photographers are reluctant to share info. Even if you go to the same place, you will not get the exact same photograph because the light will be different, the weather could be different – there are so many different factors. Are people afraid that you will take a better photograph than they did?

  2. David Bozsik January 6, 2017 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    Hello Nicole. I believe your philosophy is a good one. It is one that I have practice for many years being in the teaching field myself. I do believe that people have a choice just as you do.

    I find that most people that do not share information are usually those that I don’t associate with anyway.

    I would like to thank you for offering the 10-week course on your site. I was looking forward to learning the new photo Raw. I am hoping that many of the small bugs will be worked out in the next update of the program as I don’t find it totally functional for me in my digital darkroom as of yet. There are many glitches that caused the program to crash but I have been with on1 since they started and I have been happy with all of the products so far.

    Good luck and thanks again,
    David

  3. Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston January 17, 2017 at 7:42 am - Reply

    Nicole,

    I think that places should be shared. As a lover of all things nature first and a photographer second I want to experience new areas especially those off the beaten path. As for areas I have found I always share. I’ve found that the few that venture there appreciate it greatly and I’m happy that someone shared in the beauty I saw.

  4. techauthor January 22, 2017 at 5:42 am - Reply

    One of my favorite of my own pictures is of the GGBridge, taken from Baker beach. I saw a photo taken from there by Brian several years ago and he told me where. Prior to that I had never heard of that beach. On my next trip to SF, I got the shot that’s hanging in the living room.

    So, I’m definitely a fan of sharing locations. And I thank those of you who do, too.

Leave a Reply