Exploring a New City – Madrid

So I’m settling in Madrid, living off a suitcase for the past week…but that hasn’t stopped me from continuing to do what I do best, which is to capture stock content. Happy to share with you what I have gathered so far, including sharing some of my strategies.

First starting point is doing the research before traveling…

Do the research before going

Part of me likes going somewhere new (assuming it’s safe) without doing research and just wanderlusting with the intention of purposely getting lost. However, if you’re on a tight schedule and running a business, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead.

Some of steps I usually take are:

  1. Check out what’s apparently oversupplied within agencies’ collections;
  2. Compile a flexible check-list of places you’d like to visit and at what times;
  3. Check the weather forecast…if it’s expected to rain then you can head indoors.

Checking agencies’ collections

The most important of the 3 is checking the info that agencies give out, which is often more information than you need when it comes to the “most popular” results. These will save you time and energy as to try to improve upon the first-page results. No point in capturing the same boring old angles.

I checked out some of the best-results at Robert Harding (link to thumbnails below) when it comes to Madrid and this is what came out:

robert harding
So, the usual bright, blue sky, vibrant images that are picked up over and over…how to improve on these?

What about footage? Well, I’ve checked what’s on offer at Pond5 for the most popular results and here’s what has come out:


Where to start?!

It’s certainly intimidating to arrive at a major city and think about exploring, especially if it’s your very first time as is my case. Much easier at the smaller cities.

My gear

My gear consists of the Nikon D800 with the 24-70 f2.8 lens (on a gorillapod) and the Panasonic Lumix mounted on the gimbal Zhyper. I usually rotate between the 10-20mm and the 24-70mm, although I find the latter sharper and works better in low-light conditions.

WhatsApp Image 2019-10-05 at 16.14.30

Exploring the city centre – Day 1 (nightime)

My usual starting point at any new city is usually the central square / cathedral / main plaza and just explore that immediate radius before venturing out.


As mentioned on a previous post, it’s about taking in the environment first and shooting second. Be patient and let the scenes unfold. So, with all this in mind, I headed in no particular order to:

  • Puerta del Sol (nothing captured yet, just observing)
  • Plaza Mayor (1 long exposure and a few real time with gimbal)
  • San Miguel Market (most active since it was a Friday night)
  • Royal Residence (A few stills)
  • Calleo on Via Grand (One timelapse)

Total number of files uploaded: 10 stills and 16 clips

This walk took about two hours with all the stops. Here are some of my favourite shots from walk and why.

Plaza Mayor

This square, like the Duomo in Milan, has been DONE TO DEATH (you’ll probably hear me say this many times). So, how to differentiate? Very difficult but as a starting point, a long exposure still may result in a few sub sales, who knows:

People walking and sitting at restaurant terraces at Plaza Mayor Madrid, Spain at night
Not the most exciting. Probably never go back to that place again as so touristy

San Miguel Market

This market was lively as it was 21:00 on a Friday so I took full advantage, going full out on the golden trinity of stills, real-time and timelapse:

Long exposure view of entrance to the covered San Miguel market in Madrid, Spain
Long exposure of the facade. Some blown highlights reduce its commercial value…might do better with the timelapse


As you can see above, the burnt highlights are a real issue…I’ll probably go back there another time and try a better version.


This real-time may be picked up…who knows…at least the gimbal helps to achieve some higher perspectives…

Royal Residence

I could only think of one type of shot that would stand out…and that would be a long-exposure through the fence. In this case, I had to be creative and try to ensure it was held firmly still for at least 5seconds…which I managed!


Callao (Gran Via)

Ending my walkabout, after picking up a bite to eat, I ventured onto the busy Gran Via…the equivalent of London’s Oxford Street and NY’s 5th Avenue…it was almost midnight and super busy…

The above is obviously editorial, but I tried my best to get away with creating a commercial image of that same scene (to stand out from the crowd)…and guess what, I managed (to be accepted on SS at least…other agencies pending)!

Gran Via, Madrid, Spain at night - long exposure
20-minute job to clone out logos and blur people

Exploring the city centre – Day 2 (daytime)

Went home. Got some sleep. Woke up early the next day and post-processed the above batch (which wasn’t so large since I was being selective). Took me just two hours and headed back into the centre of Madrid at around 15:30 for some day and sunset shots. In total about 6 hours of walking around!

I didn’t really have a set plan in mind, just knew that I wanted to pass by the Prado Museum, Retiro Park and end up on the Gran Via for another timelapse (ideally from a high perspective). The rest was just winging it! Nevertheless, this was my journey on the day:

Day2 consisted with a lot of walking!
  • Alfonso Martinez neighbourhood (starting point)
  • Plaza Colon
  • Plaza Cibeles (Town Hall)
  • Prado Museum
  • Retiro Park (Spend most of my time)
  • Atocha Station (Saw from afar)
  • Grand Via (Dramatic timelapse and long exposures)

Total number of files uploaded: 20 stills and 15 clips

Alfonso Martinez Area

Interesting architecture around this neighbourhood that I admired, including:

madrid architecture
Decided to put these up at Arcangel, after deleting all logos and blurring people

Plaza Colon

Spotted a huge Spanish flag at this square but since there was no wind not much I could do. Made a mental note to go back there another time to capture a slow motion (60 fps).

Spotted my future second home consisting of the Casino Gran Madrid with a giant frog statue in front of the entrance. My research (for keywording purposes) indicates that the frog is considered good luck in many cultures.


Madrid Town Hall

This building is one of the most photographed in the whole of Spain so I didn’t waste any time…that is until I saw a colourful bush of flowers. I thought, mmmm if only I could use this as a foreground and then clone out logos and get rid of people to pass off as commercial it MAY stand a chance. Why not…

Madrid City Hall at Plaza de Cibeles, in Madrid, Spain. Architectural examples of gothic style with neoclassical elements

Prado Museum

The number one attraction in Madrid is the Prado Museum, considered one of the greatest art museums with important collections. Again, done to death but what struck out to me was the huge queue / line of people wanting to get in. Surely this may be picked up to highlight the backlash against “overtourism”

Tourists queue at the entrance of the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain
Went on for literally Kilometres

Retiro Park

This was the attraction I was looking forward to the most…as well as I felt like some peace and quiet, as well as shade from the hot sun. If you’ve never been to Madrid, Retiro Park is covers over 125 hectares and is a green oasis in the heart of the city.

The park itself is a joy to explore with so many paths, fountains, palaces and of course the artificial lake with the huge neo-classical structures at the heart of the park.

Being a top-3 attraction in Madrid, the competition is fierce…so to stand any chance, I’d have to produce exceptional work. Tried my best with a long-exposure, turned into fine-art print style, fit for a Fine Art gallery, of the boats on the lake.

Monochrome long exposure of people on boats across from monument to Alfonso XII in the Parque del Buen Retiro, known as the Park of the Pleasant Retreat in Madrid, Spain
5-second exposure

Also did some timelapses and realtime, which I’ll still upload but have no expectations they’ll ever be picked up.

For good measure and I’m sure worth a few subs, captured a candid shot of a happy couple taking a selfie. Love this lens for the bokeh it produces giving the scene some depth:

Couple takes a selfie in front of boats across from monument to Alfonso XII in the Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid, Spain
Capturing positive emotions

At this stage, it was getting quite late and I was getting thirsty from all the walking in the hot sun. Even though it’s Oct, temperatures were in the high 20s. I’ll have to leave the beautiful Glass Palace everybody speaks about for another time.

Not mine.

Artsy Fartsy

Sent a few to Arcangel for book covers, including:






Decisions decision…

Using my trusty gimbal, I captured a point-of-view (POV) conceptual clip of someone who is apparently lost and doesn’t know which way to go, which could be used widely.

Atocha Station

Saw the main railway station from afar but no shots. Made a mental note to go back and explore inside. Supposedly, it’s quite interesting.

Not mine.

Grand Via

The sun started to set and just in time as I made my way to the main junction in Madrid where Grand Via meets Calle de Alcala. This is the Piccadilly Circus of Madrid and many famous postcards are featured here. So how to differentiate? Well, I wanted to head to a rooftop but there was a huge queue to one of the bars overlooking. So, at least today, it had to be done at ground-level.

Using my trusty gorilla-pod, I safely attached to one of the rails and framed the shot.

Safely attached to the guard-rail

Happy to share with you some of my results, as captured at Blue Hour…

gran via
6-second exposure

…and for the 4K timelapse (F10, 1 second exposures times 300 stills):

Time will tell whether these will be picked up, if ever…but quite happy with the look!

Update: Fun still from the 300 or so stills (around the 8 second mark) to make the above timelapse! I’ll take it and upload it as an editorial 🙂 Here’s a link to a tutorial I did a few months’ back on taking stills from timelapses.

Danger danger!


As you can see above, I didn’t go crazy in terms of shooting everything and anything. Two days’ worth of shooting to only capture some 30 stills and 30 clips is being really selective! I’ve learned my lesson, especially from my Iberian adventures, that it doesn’t pay, from a business pov, to shoot everything and anything.

As for what I’m looking forward to shooting next in Madrid, in no particular order:

  • Glass Palace at Retiro Park
  • Atocha Station
  • Debod Temple
  • Plaza de Castilla Financial District
  • Bernabeu Stadium (ideally just before a Real vs Atletico match haha)
  • Rastro Sunday Flea Market
  • Literary Quarter

Then venture outwards into surrounding cities/regions, such as Zaragoza, Toledo, Cuenca….ideally by bike…

If anybody has any suggestions on what to shoot in or around Madrid, please comment below!

Hasta lluego, amigos e amigas!

Would appreciate if you could help me out!

Throughout my blog, as you can appreciate, I’ve given quite a bit of my time to help you make sense of this complicated stock industry and focus on making money. I’ve also given away earnings info on some of my best-sellers which will directly lead to those images reducing their value (how much is impossible to say but suffice to say that copycat thieves may be lurking).

If you feel that the information below and throughout the blog is useful I kindly ask you to donate as much as you feel is reasonable, such a price of a coffee, by clicking on the following link below:

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Alex’s Fine Art Prints!

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’ve devoted six years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others by showing an unique insight into a fascinating business model.

I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography



  1. New starts are always exciting!
    A nomad can never stay in the same place for too long!
    I hope you soon feel this new city as home and start discovering new neighborhoods and areas for stock but also leisure time activities!
    I suppose for now October could be a good stock month in the park with falling leaves.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good stuff, Alex. Your comments about creating commercial licensing from street scenes caught my attention – I have done that as well, but I wonder whether there is much of a benefit in reality. What commercial use is there of a street scene in Madrid? Commercial use means to help sell a product or a point of view, and most uses will be for travel sites who arguably are always editorial. Even a travel company offering a tour is not likely to be sued because an image they use of Madrid has a distant logo in it. The one big advantage of doing what you are doing is to get them on Adobe Stock, but perhaps that is the only benefit? Food for thought!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good question, Steve. Although I have seen many times my editorial images being used commercially, I suppose that the more risk-averse buyers will benefit more from having the commercial images available. I suppose an airliner would benefit from such usage…or a hotel chain. Will be interesting to track!


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