Updated: 3rd March 2016
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So, you want to Photograph the Taj Mahal whilst touring the Golden Triangle of India?
Surprise: So does everyone else!
I’m gonna admit, I used to hate photographing world-famous landmarks for that very reason. They have been shot a million and one times before.
Photographing the Taj Mahal is no different but as years have gone by now I challenge myself to try to see these sights from a different angle and capture something unique while I am there (example: you will never find me holding up the leaning tower of Pisa…. anymore.)
So, when you head to India’s crown jewel, I hope these photography tips and travel info helps…. happy shooting!
14 Tips for photographing the Taj Mahal
That winning reflection shot? Everyone has it (except me, annoyingly). So by all means, go ahead and get it. But when photographing the Taj Mahal or any famous landmark the key is to get unique. Look for different angles, get on the floor, get high or find something else to put in the frame to add a different context to it. The shot above of my furry friend in front of The Taj Mahal is one of my favourites, it links in the magnificent building to the reality of India that lies around it.
BEAT THE CROWDS
You know the drill. The Early bird catches the worm. I skipped this tip as the haze and weather were awful when I visited but by being first in line it’s gonna be much easier to capture this mega busy attraction bobbing head free.
IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, EMBRACE THEM
I’m a firm believe a photo should tell some kind of story. The easiest way to do that? Get people in the action. Lucky for you, they are everywhere here. The beauty of India is the colourful contrasts at every corner. Frame your photo of the Taj Mahal with a beautiful sari, a group of Monks or anyone else who can add interest to the shot.
Don’t panic! The Taj Mahal has not sold out to Thailand style full moon parties just yet, but Friday is a special day. The Taj Mahal complex is shut every Friday which means you can grab some great photos from behind, or the water, free of people.
GET ON A BOAT
Instead of walking straight to the main attraction, turn right and head to the river at the back of the Taj Mahal. If you are lucky, there will be one cool dude and his boat ready (at a price) to give you a stunning reflection photo without the selfie stick army invading it.
DON’T PANIC IF YOU CAN’T GET ‘THAT SHOT’
So, imagine this. You’re on assignment, you get into the Taj Mahal and the fountains are off and no water is in sight. Shit right?! Ah well, those shots that nearly everyone captures have been done before, but I kinda love the photo of the workmen repainting and decorating, it adds something a little different. Point being: Try and photograph the Taj Mahal with an open mind, not based on the zillion Instagram shots you have seen.
FIND YOUR PUDDLE
That said, you can get some awesome reflection shots that are a little different. Look for a puddle caused by one of the water sprinklers or try to get an angle from one of the water gullies not directly facing the Taj Mahal – you’ll get your ‘puddle gram’ but with a twist.
CAPTURE THE DETAILS
Get up close and personal and keep your camera out. Photographing the Taj Mahal is not just about the awe-inspiring wide-angle shots, the detail on the marble is equally as stunning so be sure to capture the intricacies of the art. Depending on the time of day, the white of the marble may be slightly yellow – either over expose your camera or reduce the yellow in lightroom afterwards.
DON’T FORGET THE REST
The Taj Mahal complex has two beautiful buildings either side of it, whilst everyone else is getting snap happy on the main attraction head to get some much more peaceful shots of these other two architectural wonders.
BEAUTY IS BOTH INSIDE AND OUTSIDE
Ok, inside the Taj Mahal itself I can liken it to Nazis running an airport. Whistles, pushing, screaming, shoving, no cameras (apparently: no noise according to the signs) and a lot of people looking mighty confused at what the hell they should be admiring.
But, inside the outer buildings, the details of the walls and ceilings is not too shabby. Seen as you have no tripod rest your camera against something to grab either a long exposure or an HDR shot (as above) to capture the detail well.
TAKE IT BLACK AND WHITE
Shout out to the awesome Jen (aka, The Social Girl Traveller) for remembering to pack her polaroid. I love getting photos that look a little old-fashioned, and by going black and white you can really achieve this. Try and capture the birds above the Taj Mahal to add interest to your photos.
FIND YOUR OWN ‘GIMMICKS’
You wanna pinch the top of the Taj Mahal, go for it. But then try to find your own gimmicks to get a different kind of photo. I managed to break a camera lens at the start of the trip, so started playing around with the macro glass to get a slightly different reflection of it.
VISIT THE MOONLIGHT GARDENS
Jump on a rickshaw and take the 20-30 minute ride over to the Moonlight Gardens at the back of the Taj Mahal. Annoyingly, no you can’t just sail over and the water itself is patrolled by armed police but the views from here are not too shabby at all. A popular spot to take in sunset or grab those people free views on a Friday.
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT SUNRISE AND SUNSET
Who am I kidding? You need at least one sunrise or sunset shot. Again, my tip: head to the Moonlight Gardens and photograph the Taj Mahal from here to end the day.
The practical stuff
There are so many rules. The queues can be long, different for men and women and you will be searched and scanned on entry. Tripods are a no go, electric devices (say, speakers) are a no go, cigarettes are a no go, in fact – pretty much everything is a no go. So bring your camera and keep it light for an easy ride into this ultra high security facility.
It’s gonna cost you… 750RS to get in, unless you are 15 and under then it’s free. You need to buy your ticket from the office up the road before the main entrances, don’t even waste your time getting in the entrance queue until you have bagged your ticket.
How early do you wanna get up? The complex is open from ‘Sunrise to Sunset’ so check your timings when you arrive. The southern gate is only open 8am-5pm so be sure you are not waiting at the wrong entrance for it to open.
Do I need a guide? I had one for part of my visit courtesy of Hands on Journeys (when I wasn’t photographing) and found it really handy. The history of the building and local area is fascinating so learning about how the Taj Mahal came to be whilst exploring it is worth it IMO.
Cheapest way to get there Agra does have an airport, though it is pretty small and does not have the biggest selection of flights, check out Skyscanner to find the best value international or domestic routes.