How To Take Professional Grade Photos of Famous Places :: Digital Photo Secrets

How To Take Professional Grade Photos of Famous Places

by David Peterson 7 comments

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 (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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  1. Dawn Willis says:

    I am heading of the England and Italy and maybe also Athens at the end of the year, so I am looking at a winter setting. I have read your comments on taking things at different angles and before I even read the article I have always said that there are many ways of viewing things. When I went for my first trip overseas, I had a film camera, so was quite restricted in how many photos I can take. This time I have my lovely Canon EOS and I am also taking my laptop and every night will download the days shoot. When doing travel type shots I love to get different angles on things, particularly architecture. This time also I have a bent on history so will be shooting also with a view in mind to do not only an attractive slide show but also to capture things that people don't usually capture such as photos of information on the place I am visiting as well as different angles in places like tombs, ancient buildings and historical places, etc. I have noted already that most people's travel photos are boring, including my friend who on showing a show of his holiday where most of them were so boring that you really couldn't get a handle on what some of them were about, they did not tell the story.

  2. Elfinn says:

    When I shoot with a wide-angle lens (Nikkor 10,5mm) and opens it in DXO, I can adjust the lens distortion from full wide angel view to rect. It has the effect of moving the center part of the image closer or further away, while stretching the corners. This gives me an added opportunity to find the most artistic distortion. I guess other programs can do this as well.

  3. Michel says:

    I tend not to copy someones pictures but rather steel the inspiration it gives me. In other words some pictures really make me jump out of my lazy seat in order to make me shoot even better pictures.
    For me it's all about trying to ameliorate my best shot.

    • Ellen says:

      Yes. I agree with this, and there is also an element of "they can, because they think they can" about studying good photos by other people. It can help to push back the boundary of what you believe is possible.

  4. gopal shroti says:

    i mostly like the low angles. this is beyond the normal eye-level viewing.thnx for the encouraging article.

  5. Alec Ward says:

    I live in a very beautiful village in France and your tip has set me thinking that it's time I stood back and looked to see how others have done it.!!

  6. ronald says:

    its wonderful how wide angle lens lets you take wide pictures i have a dslar 2390 camera with 18 wide angle lens but cant find a 4 x wide lens like my neices camera

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