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4 Tips for Creating Better Travel Photos in Crowded Tourist Locations

Last week I wrote about How to Avoid Travel Photography Failure, this article adds to those tips to help you photograph in crowded tourist locations and not be constantly frustrated by all the people in your way. All of the images shown in this article were taken at Ephesus in Turkey, one of the busiest tourist spots, full of people that come off the cruise ships. We were there at the peak of the day where it was almost impossible to move at times, down the main corridor.

Crowds in busy tourist locations are hard to avoid sometimes. Here are a few tips to help!
Crowds in busy tourist locations are hard to avoid sometimes. Here are a few tips to help!

Here are four tips to help you create better travel photos in those places where you just can't avoid the crowds but are still a “must see” location.

Have patience and persistence!
Sometimes you simply have to wait it out until you can get a clear shot of the scene you want to photograph, so don't walk away after taking one image. Patience is huge in photography and those that have it will get the good travel photos, those that don't have it will walk away and miss the best shots. Be willing to sit and wait for five or even ten minutes or more just to get one image. This will separate you from the average tourist and the average travel photographer, and help you come home with photos you'll be proud to show your friends.
This is the same spot as the image above. I just waited for the group to move on.
This is the same spot as the image above. I just waited for the group to move on
Pick your angles carefully!
Choosing the right lens and positioning yourself physically can make a big difference in how the final image appears. Choosing a longer lens and placing yourself behind something in the foreground can help you to hide unwanted elements such as tourists and groups of people. Duck into little side areas where the crowd isn't milling to find interesting subject. If the group goes left, you go right! Getting the idea?
Three columns showing the entire scene
Three columns showing the entire scene
Same columns from a different angle to hide some of the crowds.
Same columns from a different angle to hide some of the crowds
Another view of the three columns
Another view of the three columns
This is looking down the road at Ephesus, you can see how many people are there, it's insanely crowded.
This is looking down the road at Ephesus, you can see how many people are there, it's insanely crowded
To get a better image of the sculptures I ducked behind the hill to help hide people.
To get a better image of the sculptures I ducked behind the hill to help hide people
Another view of the sculpture.
Another view of the sculpture
View of the library at Ephesus showing the crowds.
View of the library at Ephesus showing the crowds
Using the rock sculpture as foreground and a block.
Using the rock sculpture as foreground and a block
Look up, look way up!
A similar strategy to choosing your camera angle, as in where you put your feet, is where you aim your camera. Shooting from eye level straight ahead will usually get you lots of other people in your photographs. Try aiming up and look for interesting things above everyone's heads. Sneak in between people and shoot in between them.

crowded-tourist-photography-1140px-10 crowded-tourist-photography-1140px-12

Overall views may not be possible in the crowds
Overall views may not be possible in the crowds
Looking up just a bit allows me to crop out the crowds
Looking up just a bit allows me to crop out the crowds
crowded-tourist-photography-1140px-22
Get closer and aim up, here are a few more views of the same building using these strategy

crowded-tourist-photography-1140px-23

crowded-tourist-photography-1140px-24

crowded-tourist-photography-1140px-25

crowded-tourist-photography-1140px-26

Get close, no closer!
If you can't get all the tourists out of your travel photos, try shifting your focus to shooting details and close ups of smaller things. Look for macro subjects and texture. Find details that have meaning and tell a story. It's surprising what you can find when you stop looking at the entire vista and just look closer at the world around you. Try it for a while. Put on a long lens and shoot things closer up. If you don't have a true macro lens you can try the lens reversal trick, or get some inexpensive extension tubes or close-up filters.

crowded-tourist-photography-1140px-13 crowded-tourist-photography-1140px-14 crowded-tourist-photography-1140px-15 crowded-tourist-photography-1140px-16 crowded-tourist-photography-1140px-17

Summary of tips and a bonus

Challenge yourself to see the location in a different way than everyone else. Use different lenses, camera angles and your positioning to create images that avoid the crowds. Look up, look down, get behind things, and get closer.

In addition to these strategies, getting to the location as early as possible before the crowds arrive is, of course, always a good idea. When that's not possible though keep these tips in mind as you travel and help you come home with better travel photos from your next trip.

You can also choose to join one of our photography tours planned to take advantage of the best light of the day and avoid crowds when possible.

Bonus tip – use people in the photograph

One more thing you can do if you're stuck being at a crowded tourist location at a time when it's packed full of people is to just surrender to it, and put the people in your images. Show that it's a crowded tourist location. Use people as foreground and framing elements for your real subject matter.

I think the red umbrella really adds to the image so included the people in this image
I think the red umbrella really adds to the image so included the people in this image

Cheers,
Darlene-1-250x130.png


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