When photographing familiar places, it’s very easy to become blinkered and take the same photos as other photographers have done in the same place. This is often the result of arriving at a destination, seeing the subject in front of you and then letting your brain remind you of all the other photos you’ve seen previously.
Look for photo opportunities with your eyes before your viewfinder. It really helps to take time before you pick up your camera to study the angles and imagine an image you’ve not seen before. Try turning around, adding people or shooting at different times of day to add interest. Or why not capture a shot of other photographers photographing a famous landmark or point of interest?
Choose an unusual vantage point for your picture
Many photographers take similar photos as they hold the camera at the same height from the ground. So be different. Look around for a position that will give you a different position to photograph from.
Guian Bolisay – Pocket Tree VOL. Rockefeller
Flip out the Vari-angle LCD screen if your camera has one and twist it so that it points down to the floor. Set the camera to Live View mode and raise the camera above your head to shoot a city’s famous sights. You can look up and see the picture on the LCD to aid the composition and you can shoot over the heads of the crowds that gather at popular spots.
Antonio Thomás Koenigkam Oliveira – Rio de Janeiro
Similarly rotating the Vari-angle LCD upwards and moving the camera down to ground level creates yet another view of the location which will be different to many others. Maybe you can find a space to shoot from low down with a wide-angle lens to include other people in the frame.
Tip: Try to use a single AF point to ensure the focus is on the more distant subject instead of the people in the foreground.
Make the most of available light
Darren Flinders – The Temple of Saturn, Rome
While the early morning and late evening often provide the best light of the day it is not always practical to be at some locations early or late. If you can avoid the very middle of the day then do so, though it’s still possible to capture interesting and atmospheric shots, even in bright sunlight. Your eyes are very good at dealing with a huge range between the brightest and darkest elements in the scene. And you will take better pictures by making use of the focus and exposure lock on your camera.
Pressing the shutter half-way activates the focus and metering. Once the beep sounds and the AF confirmation light is shown in the viewfinder the exposure is locked. If you had tilted the camera up and included a lot of sky or the sun in the frame the exposure may be inaccurate. Framing the scene with less sky or sun in the picture then pressing the shutter to the half way position and keeping it there allows you to move the camera for the best composition, but keep the right exposure. This is particularly helpful with tall buildings or if you have to look up at a big angle to see the top of the building when you are really close to it.
Create depth in your picture
Montse PB – À pied de l'Arc de Triomphe
To avoid unexciting shots, try to look for a position where you have elements in the frame that will lead the viewer’s eye through the scene. For example you may see an interesting building, but without some recognisable element it has no real scale. Waiting for a person in the foreground to walk in to the frame will help to show the scale of big buildings, and can make interesting pictures where the foreground person is relatively tall compared to the building. You’ll need a wide-angle lens to maximise the effect. Take care of the depth of field, using Aperture Priority mode (Av) with the aperture at f/8 to f/16 and make sure to keep an eye on your shutter speed. The shutter speed should be fast enough to avoid camera shake. Raise the ISO if the shutter speed is too low.
Candid people pictures
Top tourist locations naturally attract lots of visitors, and this in itself is a source of great photo subjects. Choosing a longer lens will help you isolate individuals that catch your eye. Longer lenses will also compress the depth in the frame, making the people appear to be closer to the building so you might find a way to capture a great photo of a person visiting the location, rather than the location itself. With longer lenses you will need to walk further away from the main subject. If possible, keep an appropriate part of the location in the picture. This will allow you to open the aperture to isolate the visitor from the location.
Tip: Reduce the aperture for more extensive depth of field to put your subject in the context of the city.
Make a panoramic picture
See-ming-Lee – Chinese University of Hong Kong
You can capture a scene in several stages to create an intensely detailed panoramic picture. If you plan to capture a wide view it helps to orientate the camera vertically to maximise the vertical dimension of the picture. Many software apps allow you to stitch multiple images together. Avoid tilting the camera up or down too much as it makes it harder to stitch frames together successfully. If you choose, you can plan to include a person in several parts of the stitched image. Just wait until they have moved into the new frame before you take the next picture in the panoramic sequence and allow for a good overlap of the images.