What You Should Know When Photographing Landmarks
Landmarks are part of our culture. We identify Paris with the Eiffel Tower, New York with the Statue of Liberty, Rome with the Colosseum, and Rio de Janeiro with the Christ the Redeemer Statue. Landmarks are iconic sites, which uniquely identify a place or a country. We all heard of them and we can easily find them in any touristic guide. They have history, legends, and a deep meaning to the people they represent. Most of the time, landmarks are amazing human realizations, but they can also be natural features like Mount Fiji, Les Gorges du Verdon, Matterhorn, and The Grand Canyon. If you can recognize a place by looking at a single picture, you definitely found a landmark.
Photographing landmarks isn’t just the tourist’s job. Many photographers collect them as special prizes, and invest a lot of time and resources in taking their pictures. There is something fascinating about those items. Many of them resisted in time. Many of them appeared in movies and books, and became part of the people and their history. But photographing landmarks is also a big responsibility. You aren’t allowed to mock a landmark. You need to treat it with respect and value it in your images. Here are some tips to help you master landmark photography.
Choose the Perfect Time
Landmarks are usually visited by many people. If you want to have them only for yourself, try to visit them before or after the visiting hours. Use the benefits of the golden and blue hours and photograph the scenery at its resting time. This approach with emphasize the place and its greatness. On the contrary, if you want to focus on its relation to people, choose to take pictures when it is most crowded. Include people in your images, but keep the focus on the landmark. It is important to maintain the balance and to make the landmark your main character.
Choose the Best Angle
You’ve probably seen other pictures of the landmarks you are going to photograph. The Eiffel Tower for example has so many pictures that is hard to find a new angle. Nevertheless, you have to try to find new angles. Taking the same picture as other people did before you is unimaginative and dull. You cannot expect to become a great photographer by using the same old perspectives. It’s true that a tall building works best with a portrait format, while a wide landmark works best with a landscape format. But the rules are made to be broken. Explore all your possibilities and do not exclude rotating the camera, using very wide and fish-eye lenses, getting really far from the subject, and photographing from bellow or above. Every photographer has a style, a voice. Find yours and be one of a kind.
Take Advantage of the Weather
Even if the landmarks don’t change too much in time, something around them is changing. The weather is always different and it gives you an opportunity to be creative and to capture unique images. Don’t be afraid to take pictures into the rain (protect the camera though), in bright mid day, in foggy British weather, and in snowy days. Even the wind can help you.
Think your project in advance. If you need to go in an isolated place, for a natural landmark for example, choose the equipment and learn to use it before your journey. Study the visiting hours, the location, and the weather prognosis. Bring a good tripod if you want to photograph at night or use a long exposure. Study the history and the stories of your subject. It’s always helpful to have a clear idea about what you want to convey. Many photographers say they spend several hours exploring the place, getting to know it, and experimenting different types of composition.
As natural and man made wonders, landmarks are easy to spot. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t place for something new and creative. It is challenging, but it is also rewarding to discover new ways of telling the same story. Photography is as much in its subjects as it is in the photographer’s eye.