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6 Tips for More Unique Travel Photos in Busy Tourist Locations

Imagine this: you’ve scrimped and saved for months for your dream vacation, and a snazzy digital camera, hoping to capture some unique travel photography images along the way, only to be flustered by the hordes of other tourists with the same intentions. With the increased accessibility of cameras on devices of every kind, this is becoming a common scenario that can frustrate many photographers, both professional and amateur. But don’t lose hope! With these tips, I’ll show you some ways to think of travel photography in a new light so that you can take unique travel photos in busy tourist locations.

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1. Take shots from different angles

To get a unique photo, consider your subject from a wide variety of angles. Get down on your knees and shoot from below, or step up on a bench, or use a monopod to shoot from on high. Do whatever you can, within reason, to shoot from different perspectives; this will greatly increase the odds of capturing a unique image.

2. Time your visits to outdoor attractions to coincide with the most ideal natural lighting available

One of the biggest challenges to shooting outdoor attractions can be harsh shadows due to lack of lighting control. You obviously don’t want to bring strobes and excessive flashes with you when you travel, so it’s best to use the sun to your advantage. Do your research with apps, such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris, to see where the sun will be, and plan your trip accordingly. Sunrise and sunset are probably among the most ideal times, but be aware that you’ll likely get competition from other photographers thinking the same thing (see image above).

3. Go where the crowds aren’t going

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If the crowd in a tourist attraction is fixated on one particular part, turn around and see what is behind them. Look for details that are being passed by and not given attention. This gives you less competition, in addition to increasing the odds, of capturing a unique image that everyone else is overlooking. While you’re shooting in the opposite direction, this also gives you something to do while waiting for the crowd to thin out so that you have more time to capture a clean shot of the main attraction. Having patience, and waiting for breaks in the crowd, is also a key to shooting unique images.

4. Pull out your zoom lens and focus in on details

Challenge your photography skills and creativity by shooting exclusively with a macro, or zoom lens, for a while. Shooting with a longer focal length will encourage you to take in the intricate details of a place; something that is usually overlooked by other tourists who likely focus on taking selfies and wide-angle shots. There’s beauty in details, and zooming in close eliminates most of the risk of having other people block your shots.

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5. Make other tourists part of your shot

Instead of viewing the hundreds of other tourists around you as burdens, why not make them a part of your photo? Pull a fast one on other shooters by pointing your camera in their direction. Many tourists will likely duck or move out of your way, so act fast to catch them in natural poses. The point is, think like a photojournalist, or marketing photographer, and consider the idea that conveying the idea of a full, and popular, tourist attraction is a photo-worthy moment in itself.

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6. Take candid shots or portraits of the locals

In and around many tourist attractions, you’ll likely find lots of locals in the forms of security guards, vendors, taxi drivers, and more. If you’re searching for truly unique photo subjects, consider pointing your camera at some of these people who help run the tourist attraction, and making them a part of your photo. You could even get bold and approach some locals for a portrait. This might be tricky if you’re in an area where language barrier is a problem, but if you get creative with your body language, it’s fairly easy to get your point across. Portraits not only give you more opportunities to get creative, but also provide opportunities to chat with people, and perhaps find out other unique photo ideas in the area.

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Have you got some great photos from crowded tourist locations? Please share them and your tips in the comments below.

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Suzi Pratt
Suzi Pratt

is an internationally published Seattle event and food photographer. Her photos appear regularly in Eater and Getty Images. When she’s not taking photos, she’s making travel photography and camera gear videos for her YouTube channel.

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