Photographing Landmarks: Find Your Angle

How many times have you taken the perfect shot of that famous building or monument that you couldn’t wait to show to your family or friends or submit to a stock agency, only to slowly realize that it’s just one of thousands of similar perfect shots of that particular icon? My answer would be, “More times that I care to count.”

This is the catch to shooting popular subjects. It stands to reason that as a professional photographer you look to shoot subjects that are marketable. World renowned tourist destinations are always going to be written about and advertised; therefore, images of these places are always going to be in demand. The thing is, everyone else knows this too and is out there shooting away.

The same reasoning applies to photographers of all levels. Imagine showing off your brilliant shot of you and your friends in front of Big Ben, only to have someone else pull out their shot of themselves in the same place two years earlier.

big ben tilt-shift

photo by Chris Combe

Whether you’re a professional shooting on assignment or for stock, or you’re on holiday and want to capture the moment for your own pleasure, the purpose of an image is to tell a story. The question then becomes, “How do I make my images stand out from the crowd?”

The difference needs to begin with the way you think about the shot. What is the story you’re trying to tell? Is it the relationship of the great statue with its surroundings? Or are you more interested with the lines and textures on the statue itself? What is the feeling you want to evoke in people who see your image?

A particular place might take on different characteristics during the course of a day. From warm light at a quiet sunrise to people swarming around during their lunch breaks to tourists lining up for tickets in the middle of the day to a cool blue dusk as the day ends and street lights begin to switch on.

An image taken during one of these times will look and feel completely different than an image taken at the other end of the day. It’s worth doing some research on the place you’re visiting to find out what the most suitable time is to go. Maybe summer? Autumn? During daylight or moonlight? There’s a reason professional photographers spend days or weeks at a location. Walking around it, watching people go by, noting the angles that the light hits the subject at certain times of day. They want to capture its many moods and personalities to illustrate their particular point.

louve abstract photography

photo by Dustin Gaffke

If you don’t have this luxury, however, a quick internet search can provide a wealth of information, from possible vantage points to the busiest and quietest times of day. For the average traveler with the intentions of capturing memories of their big trip, this can be the difference between getting the shot that illustrates your experience and wishing you’d had another hour to hang around.

statue of liberty silhouette

photo by jqpubliq

Irrespective of your level of photography, with a little effort spent in research and planning and a thoughtful approach to creating images, it’s possible for anyone to take that one shot that stands out as special in a sea of just good ones. Just think outside the box.

About the Author
Mark Eden is a freelance photographer and the founder and director of Expanse Photography, a photographic company offering fine art images as well as stock and assignment photography and a range of publishing and printing services.

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One Comment

  1. Gary Pope says:

    Your article resonates with me because I love shooting common landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, the SF Victorians in your shot, and other common subjects like the Great Smoky Mountains. The trick is how to photograph it in a way that others have not.

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