Google Maps: A Photographer’s Best Friend

I know that there are people out there that view Google is taking over the internet and in certain instances can be endangering to people’s privacy, particularly with Google Maps’ “Street View” covering the world block by block. However, at the moment and as a photographer, I have pushed all of those notions aside to discuss the logistical benefits this web program has to offer.

Now this tool has existed for quite some time and I’m sure that those reading this have used Google Maps for finding restaurants or mapping out directions to unfamiliar places, but I believe that perhaps other photographers may not have thought about using this technology in this fashion (and if they have, then I hope to provide an enlightening perspective on it).

As you may know, I do most of my portrait sessions throughout the streets and parks of New York City. Therefore, it is imperative for me to scout out locations weeks beforehand for an upcoming shoot. That’s where Streetview comes in. Instead of traveling to every location and paying a metrocard fare that can accumulate to a quite costly expense, I can turn on the computer, load up my favorite browser, an plug in the street location of the area I’m planning to shoot and gain a 360 degree view of what to expect. If there is a road, Google probably has already mapped it.

Also for a different viewing perspective, the satellite view can be used in order to get a landscape aerial view of the region (sometimes that helps in trying search the location in which streetview either hasn’t mapped or mapped correctly).  But what’s most important is that this program is there and can be used to  assist in establishing the image that perhaps the photographer already has in his or her mind.

Once a location is found; however, I do suggest taking a visit (without your gear or a rather small) prior to the main shoot, especially if you have a model involved. This is for two reasons:  One, to personally familiarize yourself with the location and the lighting as well as to plan for what type of equipment you might need; and two, to make sure the place is safe for you and your model. Knowing New York City, some places can be pretty tough (although photogenic) and it wouldn’t be wise to flash either an expensive camera or a pretty girl in the street or park. This is not to say the city is that bad, but common sense goes a long way especially since y0u will likely be distracted during a long shoot in any location.

After all the preparations are complete, it’s time for the shoot.

(I accompanied each of these images with the location of where they were shot. I let you figure exactly where in street view though. Think of it as a game.)

It's along Water St, between Old Dock St. and Main St., Brooklyn NY.

7th and Court St., Hoboken NJ

Gansevoort & Washington St., New York, NY

242nd & Broadway, Bronx, NY (more south along Broadway)

Unfortunately, I do not have geotagging on my camera, so I cannot easily save the coordinates into the raw file like some other camera out there. But since NYC is not such a big place once you get to know it, a good memory and a notepad is all I need at the moment to mark my shots. Thanks for reading and I hope this a information is enlightening to you. I’ll post the general streetview image next week.

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