One of the joys of photography is capturing a unique view of a location, even if it’s been visited by thousands of other people before. All of us probably know of some good photo locations in our immediate area. But for most people, there are likely good photo locations to shoot that we don’t know about, even close to home.
And when we are traveling, it can be even more of a challenge. Where are the interesting places in this area to capture some great photos?
Of course, the tried-and-true method of asking around, including at a local camera store, will usually net some good information. But there is now an option to have that information right in your hand.
RGPS — which stands for Really Good Photo Spots — is an app available for the iPhone/iPad. The app allows you to search a radius around a specific area for spots that others have identified for their photographic potential. Unfortunately, RGPS is only available for iOS devices. The manufacturer, Improve Photography, indicates that they have no plans to expand to the Android platform.
Each location in the database contains a star rating of photographic potential. The star ratings are assigned by the Improve Photography staff for consistency. Additionally, each location contains verified GPS coordinates, and many entries also contain a photograph of the location.
Searching the Database
Searching the database is as simple as opening the app and tapping on a button labeled ‘Spots Around Me.’ The app will determine your current GPS location and give you a listing of 4- and 5-star photo locations within 75 miles of your current point. Tapping on a location provides a brief narrative of information about the spot, the GPS coordinates, and a direction arrow and distance from your current location.
Other options include navigating to the location, adding a picture, or marking the place as one that you have visited previously.
The basic edition of RGPS is free. For an annual fee of $9.99, you can upgrade to the premium version. This version includes everything in the free version plus
- the ability to save spots for off-line reference. This is especially useful since some locations may be away from Internet service.
- the ability to set a specific radius. The default radius of the free version is 75 miles from your current location. In the premium version, you can adjust that radius.
- search by keywords or star rating. The free version only displays 4- and 5-star rated locations, according to the app information. (In my experience, the free version sometimes displays 3-star locations as well.)
- add a location to a future trip, allowing you to organize a photographic expedition in advance.
- and, of course, no ads!
I opted for the premium version almost immediately can have no regrets about getting it.
What About My Favorite Spots?
Do you have a favorite photo spot that you would like to share with others? RGPS allows you to do that, at least with the premium version.
Adding a location is a simple as entering a bit of information about the site — what makes it attractive for photographers? You are also required to upload a photo of the site. The reason for this is that the database uses the GPS information in the photo’s metadata to map the site. Since RGPS is an iPhone-only application, I find it easiest to snap a picture with my iPhone/iPad, even though all my regular photos are taken with my DSLR. You can upload a photo taken with a DSLR and stored in your iPhone/iPad camera roll, but in my experience, the system seems to have problems with detecting GPS information from these photos, even though it’s contained in the metadata.
Once the information is uploaded, it is reviewed by the Improve Photography staff, who verify the location and assign a star rating. In each case, the submitter is credited with the addition.
I like this app, and it has given me some new locations to try. However, it’s still a relatively new application and the database is not as robust as it could be. Improve Photography advertises that the database contains ‘thousands of sites’ worldwide and I have no doubt that’s true. However, there are often only four or five sites presented around a specific location. Of course, the more information that is added by users, the more quickly the database will grow.
One feature that I would like to see changed is the search radius. Currently the minimum radius is 50 miles. Particularly as the database grows, that can present a lot of sites. Additionally, sometimes you just want to go to something that is close by — say within 10 miles or so.
The interface is adequate, although it could use some design improvement.
That said, I’m impressed overall with the app. I use it on a fairly regular basis, and I’m trying to do my part to contribute to it in the future.