Should Photographers Share Their Locations?

“Hey, where did you take that photo?” “Where is this?” “How do you get there?’ “You should tell us where this is. Don’t be rude.”

These are comments I’ve received or seen directed at other photographers on the internet. Every photographer has their own policy on sharing their locations. I thought I would start a discussion on the topic since there is no straight-forward answer. Below is also my personal comfort level on the subject. I tend to take a situational approach to each location.

Hawaii

When It’s OK

Publicly well-known locations that are easily found on the internet and relatively safe. I’m comfortable with revealing locations that are landmarks which are easily found on the internet. I still won’t give out exact directions, but if someone asks I’ll say “yeah, that’s XYZ Pier.” I sometimes like to give hints to help people find a spot without giving it away completely. I am also more lenient in giving out an exact location if I am contacted privately by a direct message.

When It’s Not Ok

  • Dangerous locations
    When you are photographing a location where people have been killed, sharing the location is not a great idea. There are many people that lack savviness in different environments. I actually got into a debate with another photographer about this recently. Some locations are incredibly dangerous to find and, when the conditions aren’t safe, people have died. We have a responsibility in situations like this to not publicly share these spots. We can’t physically prevent someone from going, but the less location knowledge that is publicized the better.
  • Environmentally/culturally-sensitive locations
    If the spot you photographed is protected or culturally significant, it’s probably not a good idea to publish the location to prevent hordes of people from showing up. It will happen eventually, but let’s not speed up the process of destroying these spots.Leaving no trace is also very important, especially when endangered species are involved. Let’s try not to put fragile environments at risk. I’m more concerned about the non-photographers leaving trash, graffiti, pushing rocks over, etc. Most landscape photographers are environmentally-conscious individuals.

  • Top secret, special, hard-to-find spots that you spent hours of your time researching
    If I spend hours researching a location on the internet, I’m not going to tell anyone where its located. I put a ton of my own work and time finding a location; you need to do the same!  It’s much more rewarding than having it handed to you on a silver platter. The research process of finding a spot is part of the journey. It’s part of why landscape photography is amazing. The hunt and final reward of getting that shot when you find the location. Google Earth is always an excellent starting point for your adventure quest.

What are your thoughts on the topic?  I would love to hear your opinions in the comments below.

About Author Lace Andersen

Lace Andersen is a Kauai-based landscape photographer. She grew up in the farm town of Templeton, California and majored in Graphic Communications. She started taking basic photography classes in 2008, and discovered her passion to create and be outdoors. The major turning point in her life was April 2012 during a family vacation to Kauai. She decided to rent her own car and spend the entire week photographing the island from sunrise to sunset. It was a life changing experience. Kauai either accepts you or spits you back out. Lace was lucky to be accepted by the island and relocated immediately. She has built an award winning portfolio over the past four years and has been published numerous times. When she doesn’t have a camera in hand, you can find her hiking with friends, camping, and playing ultimate frisbee.

  • Lace Andersen

    well said. Being a good steward is so important. I’m going to try to add some educational facts about locations when I make posts on social media from now on. Especially seeing all the destruction in the national parks in CA and NV

  • Lace Andersen

    was just out on the mainland and saw some horrible human destruction at national parks. So sad.

  • Ron Hallam

    The last two – Environmentally Sensitive and Top Secret resonate for me, well said and I’d say Bang On. I had a show with a fine image in it. I was contacted about “where did you take that shot? If I’ve been there I’ll buy it!” and basically used your reply in different words . PS. Do you ask the Chef , when out for dinner , to give you the recipe? No, same here I’d say. Gita Photos – Ron Hallam

    • Lace Andersen

      love the analogy. I might have to borrow it 😉

  • Jozef Mols

    I can share your thoughts. Once in a while I give away photospots, but never when it is dangerous. And if I could make photos thanks to private contacts with local people, I will not give away the location either out of respect for my hosts. Finally, I work for travel magazines and I know that when you publish an article about a lesser known spot, the next months the crowds arrive. There are a few magnificent places in the world I had the privilige to visit, but I’ll never write about them or give the spots away .. to keep them pristine and to avoid large tour operates to ruine the site by building hotels, McDonnalds or KFC shops

  • DM

    There used to be a lot of unique places I could go to with clients and friends and have the entire place to ourselves. Once the information got out about the area it is now like a zoo. Because of this I no longer give out information. If I want to go somewhere that is somewhat unknown I will do the research myself.

    Will see you tomorrow maybe. I’m heading to Kauai and will be there for 12 days. I already have done my research and know exactly where I’ll be and at what time of the day. This is my yearly trek. I also have nieces on the the island in Kapaa.

    • Lace Andersen

      Are you still here? Sorry I was actually off island traveling in the desert. Hope you had a great time on the island and fantastic light!

  • Karl Chiang

    The answer is obvious so far but what if Someone offered you money for a private tour to the location? Are you willing to do it then with a nondisclosure clause? If I paid money to someone I will not give away the location for sure. Workshops are supposed to be ticket but I think some spots are still secret.

    • Lace Andersen

      I wouldn’t take them. I do provide private tours on island, and I wont take anyone to places that aren’t safe. Liability for one thing. And i wouldn’t be surprised if the large group workshops skipped the special places.

  • Simon Patterson

    When I’m a big time influencer in the photographic community, I’ll be careful about sharing sensitive and/or dangerous locations. Until then, I’m happy to share with anyone.

    • Jay Patel

      You are the big influence in the photographic community. Why do you think I follow you? It is definitely not because Erin asked me too. 😉

      • Simon Patterson

        Ha, I exercise influence on the influencers? Oh, the weight of responsibility on my shoulders! 😉

  • Paul Brothers

    I agree with the environmentally sensitive locations, they should be protected as best as possible. Anywhere in the Lake District could be dangerous under the wrong conditions, many people die on Striding Edge and Sharp Edge, to not give the location of a shot for those doesn’t make sense. The skill as you know is to get to the locations at the right time to maximize the light and this may take many visits to achieve, the location is only a part of the equation. Much research has to be done to know sunrise, sunset times and locations relative to your vantage point and high/low tides to make the locations work.

  • Alex McNaught

    My thoughts (as non-pro but life long passionate enthusiast)

    – If put a ton of work and research into a special location and timing then others need to put in an effort too to appreciate it, not just have it handed to them.

    For the others it depends on the audience, one thing for respectful types and another for “the masses”.

    – If sensitive area then you might share with others you know would do the right thing, “the masses” perhaps not so much.

    – Dangerous? Let natural selection and Darwin sort it out.. you always need to be aware of your limits, either upper or lower and not have your hand held.

    – Public or well known? Go make your own arrangements 😉

    • Lace Andersen

      Thanks for sharing! Its a tough topic, but where I live, the fire department has actually written emails to photographers asking us to take down location spots and names because of the amount of tourists that have died. We have the highest amount of drownings and we all have to work together to prevent more people from dying. (if possible)