Everybody wants to bring back impressive photos when they go on vacation, and famous places will always have a special place in our hearts. It takes a little more time and preparation to get a good picture of a famous place, but when you do, it makes the trip worthwhile. Here are a few tips to help you take professional grade photos of famous places.
Carefully study the photos the pros make
Type your destination into Google and see what comes up. The highest rated images tend to be located near the top. Go through each image and note the lens type (you can find this through the EXIF information in the photo), angle used, the time of day, the direction of the light, and the location of the shadows. If you can also pinpoint the shooter’s location on a map, it’ll help when you arrive at the location.
Those of you who own smartphones or tablets should bring along a few copies of the images you like. That way, when you get to the famous place you’re shooting, you can note the way the image is framed.
Some of you are probably wondering if this is ethical. Well, there’s a pretty clear difference between studying photography and outright copying it. As a student of great photography, you should plan to improvise and add your own twist at some point. But you can’t stand on the shoulders of giants unless you learn their techniques first, and that means doing a little imitating.
How to get the angle just right
Sometimes the creative angles you see in pictures of famous places aren’t achieved by moving to the right spot. They’re achieved with the use of lenses that distort the image. Let’s have another look our Eiffel Tower, this time from a more creative perspective.
In order to fit the entire tower into the frame, the photographer used a wide angle lens. A lens like this allows you to zoom out further than most lenses, giving you an interesting and unusual perspective. Notice how the legs of the tower appear as though they’re stretching towards your eye. This is a very up close and personal view of the Eiffel Tower.
So, to get the same angles the pros get, you have to take the lens into account. Some stock photography sites will tell you which lens was used, and if you’re brave enough, you can just go ahead and ask the photographer how he/she got the shot. Most photographers are more than happy to share their expertise, especially when it comes with a compliment.
Try to mimic the lighting
It’s pretty clear that the image above was taken some time during the sunrise or sunset. You can tell because the Eiffel Tower has an orangish hue, and it’s a little toned down. Plus, if you pay attention to the sky, you can see that it’s a little pink. The sky is only pink when the sun is rising or setting.
If you want to mimic the lighting as best as possible, you’ll need to know if the image was taken during the sunrise, sunset, or middle of the day. Try to figure out which side of the landmark you’re looking at. This is easier with some landmarks than it is with others. From looking at the above image, there’s simply no way to tell until you get there and look for the side with the trees.
Other landmarks are a little easier. They tend not to be so symmetrical. When you know which side the sun shines on in the morning, you can arrive at the right moment to get the shot. Most of being a professional photographer is about timing. Setting your alarm, getting some breakfast, and hopping in your car (while your family is still fast asleep) is most of the battle.
You’ll also need to pay attention to your camera settings. You can arrive at the right time, but if you aren’t using the right shutter speed and aperture combination, your image won’t look quite the same. If you can, try to find out which camera settings the photographer used when taking the image. Many photography books list this, and it’s a very popular thing to do on Flickr.com (a popular photo sharing website).
If you can’t do that, simply try to take an even exposure by experimenting with a bunch of different shutter speeds. Switch your camera over to shutter priority mode, and then adjust the shutter speed up or down between shots. If you capture a large range of shutter speeds, one of your images is likely to look like the one you want to mimic.
Don’t Forget to Improvise
Once you’ve taken your exact replica photo, store it for safe keeping and start getting inventive. Now that you know a few professional techniques, it’s time to try some different angles, different times of day, different weather conditions, or a different foreground subject. That’s when the real photography starts to happen.
Have you taken an image of a landmark that's close to a pro's photo? Upload it to our gallery of landmark photos.
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