Travel Photography ~ Think Outside The Postcard When Photographing Famous Landmarks - Digital Photography School
Close
Close

Travel Photography ~ Think Outside The Postcard When Photographing Famous Landmarks

How many of you have found yourselves in front of an iconic landmark and felt discouraged because every possible shot had already been made by thousands of tourists before you? You are on the trip of a lifetime. Your goal is certainly not to bring back pictures that look like the postcards at the souvenir shop.

Photographing a reflection of a famous landmark such as the US Capitol in DC was a good way to avoid the cliché shot that every other tourist snaps daily. Adding the human element adds a sense of scale.

Photographing a reflection of a famous landmark such as the US Capitol in DC was a good way to avoid the cliché shot that every other tourist snaps daily. Adding the human element adds a sense of scale.

Here are a few tips to ‘think outside the postcard’ when you photograph a famous landmark:

Get the cliché shot out of the way. You won’t feel right unless you do. So go ahead and photograph the Eiffel Tower the way you see it in your head when you close your eyes. Got the shot? Okay, now think of different ways you could photograph it and create your OWN iconic images of the same subject. Frame it with trees, look for its reflection in a window or a puddle, include it with the local architecture, shoot it as a silhouette, etc. The sky is the limit, you just have to train yourself to look for those unconventional frames.

Afraid that you are going to miss other opportunities while you are looking for different ways to see? Practice at home! Every town has its own iconic landmark, even yours. It may not be a grandiose building, but it doesn’t matter. Whether it is the local historic grain elevator, or the statue of a famous local politician, go out with your camera and see it for the first time again. Work your scene and find a creative way to frame it.

Don’t forget to include people in your frame. They add interest, life and movement to your images. They also add a sense of scale which works well when photographing massive buildings.

This simple exercise will change the way you see photographically. The more you practice, the quicker you will spot those interesting shots when you visit a new place. Your pictures will never be boring again!

Practice at home!  This historic grain elevator may not be grand but it is one of the landmarks in a small river town near my home.

Practice at home! This historic grain elevator may not be grand but it is one of the landmarks in a small river town near my home.

Think of a different way to photograph a famous landmark by including local architecture in the foreground for example.

Think of a different way to photograph a famous landmark by including local architecture in the foreground for example.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. I am pleased to be a new master of street photography at The Arcanum. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Google+.

  • http://www.thomasduncanphotography.ca Thomas

    Great article and timely for me, too. Heading overseas to shoot Finland, Estonia, Belgium, Berlin, Krakow and Auschwitz. Thanks, and keep up the fantastic work!

  • Scottc

    or maybe just look for a different time of day.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5174151519/

  • Francis
  • http://www.wildlifeencounters.eu Steve

    I always walk around the to see what is at the back. Sometimes a composition appears which appeals but is away from the touristy sight.

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Somerset/G0000JYiOAjJciuQ/I0000oyKbng_f77s/C00006idB3II8aC4

  • http://www.mirchevphotography.com/ Nikolay Mirchev

    I really like the advice about including people within the frame. For me and my style of photography people are essential part of almost all of my photographs. They add much more social content and feeling to any photograph taken in urban situations.

  • Lynn

    Hidden treasures. That is what your posts have taught me to find! The barn in the window – another sweet surprise. Thank you.

  • lh

    Fully agree with including people into the shots to give a sense of scale and character.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/larrycabin/8629065868/in/set-72157633194426080/

    I would make sure to try and get the postcard image as well. In some countries the actual postcard images aren’t really that great. Plus if you see a fantastic ‘postcard’ image why not try to recreate the image for practice, making sure you are at the right place at the right time for the optimum light.

  • Jim

    I’m scanning old photos, negatives and slides I took while stationed in Germany in the early 1970′s; most of the photos are “postcardy” but, when I originally took them, I didn’t know they were typical postcard scenes. As a matter of fact, the exact scenes from two of my photos, appeared in Nazi propaganda films in the 1930′s. I think part of the “problem” is that most photographers see a scene, think, “Wow!” and take the photograph. Later we find that many other brilliant photographers saw the same great scene, had the same “Wow!” and photographed it too.

    Don’t hate me because my photos look like postcards; hate me because I (and too many other brilliant photographers) have a great eye for composition!

  • Jerry Schneir

    I cannot agree more with this great article. It is something I try to teach my students and am amazed when some of them even listen. It is hard for many people to look for the unusual, they seem to be afraid of taking chances. The wonder of digital photography is that it doesn’t cost a cent to shoot 5,6, or more shots of some landmark unlike the old film days where you never knew what you had until you got home but had to pay for those shots anyhow. The suggestion about including people is great but i would include one caveat, have them locals if possible, not visitors and have them looking at the scene, not posed looking at you taking their picture. Since it doesn’t cost anything to take multiple pictures you can include having them looking at you taking their picture as well if it keeps them happy.

  • David Taylor

    Thomas,
    You will want to go early in the day to Auschwitz, after 10am you have to go round with a guide, and there,s little time to grab shots………

  • http://www.photosofrockart.com Dave

    Interesting. Only 1 of the 3 photos in this article include people in the frame.

  • Simon

    Great tips Valerie. Thank you!

  • Mark

    I think that these photos are made all the better by the use of black and white and cannot help but think some people may at first be put off by what they have captured in colour. Always advisable to either wait until you get home or snap one in black and white in camera to give you an idea of how different things can appear.

Some older comments

  • Mark

    April 26, 2013 06:20 pm

    I think that these photos are made all the better by the use of black and white and cannot help but think some people may at first be put off by what they have captured in colour. Always advisable to either wait until you get home or snap one in black and white in camera to give you an idea of how different things can appear.

  • Simon

    April 26, 2013 12:48 pm

    Great tips Valerie. Thank you!

  • Dave

    April 26, 2013 09:51 am

    Interesting. Only 1 of the 3 photos in this article include people in the frame.

  • David Taylor

    April 26, 2013 02:55 am

    Thomas,
    You will want to go early in the day to Auschwitz, after 10am you have to go round with a guide, and there,s little time to grab shots.........

  • Jerry Schneir

    April 26, 2013 02:20 am

    I cannot agree more with this great article. It is something I try to teach my students and am amazed when some of them even listen. It is hard for many people to look for the unusual, they seem to be afraid of taking chances. The wonder of digital photography is that it doesn't cost a cent to shoot 5,6, or more shots of some landmark unlike the old film days where you never knew what you had until you got home but had to pay for those shots anyhow. The suggestion about including people is great but i would include one caveat, have them locals if possible, not visitors and have them looking at the scene, not posed looking at you taking their picture. Since it doesn't cost anything to take multiple pictures you can include having them looking at you taking their picture as well if it keeps them happy.

  • Jim

    April 24, 2013 03:48 am

    I'm scanning old photos, negatives and slides I took while stationed in Germany in the early 1970's; most of the photos are "postcardy" but, when I originally took them, I didn't know they were typical postcard scenes. As a matter of fact, the exact scenes from two of my photos, appeared in Nazi propaganda films in the 1930's. I think part of the "problem" is that most photographers see a scene, think, "Wow!" and take the photograph. Later we find that many other brilliant photographers saw the same great scene, had the same "Wow!" and photographed it too.

    Don't hate me because my photos look like postcards; hate me because I (and too many other brilliant photographers) have a great eye for composition!

  • lh

    April 24, 2013 12:32 am

    Fully agree with including people into the shots to give a sense of scale and character.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/larrycabin/8629065868/in/set-72157633194426080/

    I would make sure to try and get the postcard image as well. In some countries the actual postcard images aren’t really that great. Plus if you see a fantastic 'postcard' image why not try to recreate the image for practice, making sure you are at the right place at the right time for the optimum light.

  • Lynn

    April 22, 2013 12:14 am

    Hidden treasures. That is what your posts have taught me to find! The barn in the window - another sweet surprise. Thank you.

  • Nikolay Mirchev

    April 21, 2013 11:21 pm

    I really like the advice about including people within the frame. For me and my style of photography people are essential part of almost all of my photographs. They add much more social content and feeling to any photograph taken in urban situations.

  • Steve

    April 21, 2013 06:25 pm

    I always walk around the to see what is at the back. Sometimes a composition appears which appeals but is away from the touristy sight.

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Somerset/G0000JYiOAjJciuQ/I0000oyKbng_f77s/C00006idB3II8aC4

  • Francis

    April 21, 2013 06:08 pm

    or make a silhouette of it.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/francisverana/6287264551/in/photostream

  • Scottc

    April 21, 2013 10:10 am

    or maybe just look for a different time of day.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5174151519/

  • Thomas

    April 21, 2013 03:58 am

    Great article and timely for me, too. Heading overseas to shoot Finland, Estonia, Belgium, Berlin, Krakow and Auschwitz. Thanks, and keep up the fantastic work!

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER

DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Email:
 
 
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed