Tips For Taking Photos Of The Taj Mahal

Peter West Carey February 4, 2013 27

For many people, a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, is a once-in-a-lifetime trip and that means photos. Lots of photos. For the casual traveler a standard “Me In Front Of It” photo will work.

But if you are more serious about your photography and want to bring back stellar images of the Taj Mahal, I have tips to help bank the odds in your favor.

Go Across The River, Especially If It Is Friday

First order of business is to scout your location. I suggest heading across the Yamuna River to the Moonlight Garden, or Mahtab Bagh, for a different point of view. Chances are you will be in town for a couple of days and it is easy to catch a cab and drive to the gardens.

The gardens themselves are okay, but the real view is across the river to the back of the Taj Mahal complex. What is even better, if you happen to arrive to Agra on a Friday, the complex is closed (but not the Mahtab Bagh) and you can capture images of the Taj with no humans present. Be warned that you may not be able to go down on the beach for a closer look and tripods are not allowed in the Mahtab Bagh (I tried to smuggle them in twice, with no luck). There is an entrance fee.

Perfect day to shoot the Taj Mahal

Perfect day to shoot the Taj Mahal, photo by Peter West Carey

Bring A Wide Angle

When on the grounds of the Taj Mahal, a wide-angle lens will do you well. The structure itself is entirely approachable and you will be up close and personal most of the time. A wide-angle lens will help capture the whole structure.

Bring a wide angle lens when shooting at the Taj Mahal

Bring a wide angle lens, photo by Peter West Carey

Arrive Early

Once-in-a-lifetime trips often mean getting up before sunrise and visiting the Taj Mahal is no different. Arriving early means less people. I don’t mind people in my photos, especially at a location like this, but it’s nice to have some elbowroom.

There will be a line when you arrive and security checks. Be warned, the women’s line is slower than the men’s and you will be restricted in what you can bring with you. If you bring a tripod, it can get confiscated or you may be charged a ‘professional’ fee. Leave the tripod behind.

Arriving early allows for unobstructed shots

Arriving early allows for unobstructed shots, photo by Peter West Carey

Items not permitted

The board of items not permitted, shot with my IPhone

Bring A Polarizing Filter And Haze Filter

A polarizing filter will help cut down on glare and haze which are almost always present in one form or another. Remember that such a filter is most effective when used at 90 degrees to the light source and in the morning or evening that is perfect for the straight on shot from the pools.

That “One Shot” You Want? Yeah, It’s Crowded

The ‘classic’ shot looking over the reflecting pools is crowded. Have patience. And be nice. Everyone walking up to that spot wants the same photo you want and you’ll get it if you are patient.

This is also another reason to arrive early. It has been my experience on two occasions to see that pool’s reflective qualities ruined by wind later in the morning or during the day. Arriving early helps your chances of getting a nice reflection. And don’t use a polarizing filter here as it will remove the reflection (unless that is what you want).

Trying to get the perfect shot

Trying to get the perfect shot is tough, photo by Peter West Carey

Go Against The Grain

The natural flow, once inside the grounds, is to enter through the main Southern gate and then gawk. By all means, gawk. That first view, through the arches, is incredible.

Once you’re done gawking, head forward but then against the grain. Each year is a little different, but last year they had ropes funneling foreign visitors to the left and then up steps to the dais and a separate entrance for Indians on the right. The fact is, the best photos are on the right side in the morning (right = East) so make a beeline for that other entrance on the right.

Once there, you will either have to don covers for your shoes or leave them behind, as they are not allowed on the dais. Up on the dais, head more to the right, away from the structure, to start capturing the morning light.

The view from the other entrance

The view from the other entrance, photo by Peter West Carey

Wait For The Sun

If you do arrive early, you might be so excited to have elbowroom that you start snapping away. By the time the sun has fully illuminated the structure, you might be snapped out (this can take 1-2 hours). But it is important to wait for the right light.

For instance, take a look at the two images below. The first was taken when I first arrived and the second was taken right before I left. Both images are edited the same, but sometimes the sun needs time to burn through the Indian haze. As a matter of fact, you can still see some shadows from the trees and buildings on the lower part of the walls. I should have waited longer!

Before the sun has lit the Taj Mahal

Before the sun has lit the Taj Mahal, photo by Peter West Carey

After the sun has lit the Taj Mahal, photo by Peter West Carey

After the sun has lit the Taj Mahal, photo by Peter West Carey

Zoom In For The Details

Don’t forget to bring a zoom lens too! There is a lot of detail in the architecture as well as scrollwork and stones.

Zooming in for beautiful details

Zooming in for beautiful details, photo by Peter West Carey

There’s More Than The Taj Itself

Besides the glamorous main building itself, there are two other main structures beside the Taj Mahal. One is a mosque and the other is an open building thought to have been built to balance out the architectural display. Explore these structures as they offer contrast to the white of the Taj and have different architectural aspects.

More beauty around the Taj Mahal then you know

More beauty around the Taj Mahal then you know, photo by Peter West Carey

Over Expose

If you are shooting on Program, Aperture or Shutter Priority modes with your DSLR or point and shoot and the Taj is filling most of your frame (or is smack-dab in the middle), over exposure your shots by about one stop. If you need help on finding the exposure compensation/bias feature on your camera, or how it works, I have a post here that should help. This will ensure the Taj comes out as white as you see it, otherwise your camera’s automatic features will darken it.

Ensure the Taj comes out as white as you see it

Ensure the Taj comes out as white as you see it, by over exposing your shot, photo by Peter West Carey

Be Unique

Now that you have the shot from the pool like everyone else, get creative! Most of your friends won’t have been to the Taj Mahal and would like to see something new, something different. Use a different way of framing the building and don’t forget to wander the grounds and see the other sites. Chances are you will only visit once, so make the most of it!

Fish eye lens while shooting the Taj Mahal

Fish eye lens while shooting the Taj Mahal, photo by Peter West Carey

Take Shots From Other Vantage Points

I mentioned the vantage point across the river, but there are other locations for unique images. For instance, from the top of the Agra Fort the Taj is clearly visible by the onyx throne. And there is a park to the East of the Taj grounds, which also affords a unique view. It’s not all about that one shot from the pool.

Not the normal vantage point of the Taj Mahal

Not the normal vantage point of the Taj Mahal, photo by Peter West Carey

Explore and have fun!

Note: The image of the Taj Mahal with the reflecting pool was shot with an iPhone 4S. You need not buy an expensive DSLR to capture great images of this icon.

27 Comments »

  1. Michelle February 4, 2013 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Great article! Hoping India will be in the cards for 2013 (already have enough trips in the works but anything is possible).

  2. Greg Goodman February 5, 2013 at 1:33 am - Reply

    Trying to find unique shots of the Taj is a very tough task, but you’ve done a great job here. My favorite is the fisheye from the mosque across the courtyard.

    I’ve also found some great shots from the Red Fort where you get the entire river in as well as trees and some of Agra.

    Thanks so much for sharing :)

  3. India Escapes February 6, 2013 at 8:07 am - Reply

    What a great article! Will share with our followers. Thanks for the handy tips.

  4. Bobbi Lee Hitchon February 6, 2013 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Very helpful! I always try to do something different at places as crowded as this, because you’re never going to get that shot you always see and why would you want to anyway-it’s been done. These tips are amazing.

  5. Etienne February 13, 2013 at 11:13 am - Reply

    Hi,
    I would like to feature this post on my blog, where I reference some tips for taking photos in specific locations. Do you think it is possible?
    Thanks.

    • Attit Patel February 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm - Reply

      Shouldn’t be a problem as long as Peter West Carey and G Adventures get credited.

  6. Shalu Sharma February 21, 2013 at 5:17 am - Reply

    Classic tips Peter. I have congratulate you for this great set of tips on how to take photos of the Taj Mahal.

    Most of the visitors usually go there and take photos but they simply miss out on the river ride on the Yamuna which can be a great way of taking photos of the Taj.

    Mind you, when you are inside the building, you cannot take photos of the interior. I am not sure why this is!

  7. angela lee February 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    Looking at your pic,my next trip to. Taj mahal.thanks for the tips angela

  8. angela lee February 21, 2013 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    That will be my next trip, thanks for tip

  9. sandra johnson April 26, 2013 at 12:48 am - Reply

    great article – great tips – well communicated. Thanks!

  10. Rhys McGregor April 27, 2013 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Fabulous article, Peter. I have now visited the Taj Mahal on 7 occasions and each time I have discovered different photo locatons.
    The rooftop cafes, north of the Taj Mahal create a great place for photo shopping, particularly at night, and goood food, too!
    For some wonderful sunset shots, the Mosque is a good location …and you can create some wonderful framed shots through the mosque doors. My wife and I once spent 2 hours on the “Diana” step, taking a shot every minute to record the colour changes across the face of the southern facade at sunset.
    As Peter stated, be patient and allow time for the unique photo experiences which you want to achieve.
    A small pocket camera will get interior shots .. be quick!

  11. Doru Pana May 20, 2013 at 9:26 am - Reply

    Very interesting article. One of the best. In one of you photos (things not allowed in Taj) a video camera is also figgured. I intend to visit Taj in December. Can I get in vith my Canon 550D and a rig with follow focus? Thank you in advance for your answer.

  12. Terri May 24, 2013 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Best advice for me: Over Expose. Thanks for that one!!

  13. mempal June 3, 2013 at 6:33 am - Reply

    Great Content Thanks for shared unique information regarding to taj mahal. Great sightseeing look of India taj historical places. I read in around of all unique views of this like noticeable visibility of all images and Great tips for get access pictures of taj.

  14. kavya sharma June 18, 2013 at 6:05 am - Reply

    Great Article peter,

    Thanks for this article I visited in taj mahal and take a photo but i had never captured like this.

  15. Bhuwan Singh July 2, 2013 at 3:43 am - Reply

    I am lover of travel & Photography and this is great collection Mr. Peter West Carey. I also visited Taj Mahal and i have also large group of of there.

  16. Gaganpreet Singh July 22, 2013 at 7:10 am - Reply

    Hi Peter,
    These Tips were really very informative.!Could you shed some light on how to photograph the taj at night especially on a full moon night.??
    Cheers
    Gagan

  17. sachin kumar July 27, 2013 at 2:50 am - Reply

    Great peter.. I lives at Agra since my birth and visted taj min of 30 times… Now next time going to execute ur tips. Very soon. Thnks.

  18. Taj Mahal Tour August 22, 2013 at 6:51 am - Reply

    North India Is the best destination for traveler who want culture, wildlife, nature, deserts, heritage, temples, holy palaces, valley and forts tours. Taj Mahal is the wonderful and beautiful destination all of them and its famous for its beauty and known as symbol of love. Taj Mahal Tour Package is the best option who want to visit the seventh wonder of the world

  19. Bhuwan Singh August 28, 2013 at 7:16 am - Reply

    Great collection Mr. peter, I also visited Agra with my friends an we enjoyed too much. We go to taj mahal and this is really the wonder full I love this very much.

  20. Kancha Singh September 2, 2013 at 6:43 am - Reply

    Very nice article friend, I like you story and collection too much. Last yer I also visited with the my friends and we enjoyed too much there.

  21. Russ P October 20, 2013 at 9:44 am - Reply

    Wonderful post. Thank you! A follow-up question: My wife and I are visiting the Taj Mahal w/ a tour soon. Tell me more about the tripod rule — any idea if I can opt for the professional fee, and if so, how much is that (roughly)?

  22. Anita January 22, 2014 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Hi Peter, your article is very informative and brilliant! I plan to visit Taj in February 2014 and these tips are definitely going to help! Thanks

  23. Shaikh Mohammed Meraj March 14, 2014 at 2:27 am - Reply

    Hi Peter,

    You have explain so nicely..soon i m going to use your tips

  24. Akash April 1, 2014 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    Wished I had seen this before going to the Taj.No problem I will go once again. Thanks. :D

  25. v.nageswararao April 3, 2014 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    Well. The Taj Mahal is shown in various interesting angles. Good work.

    I also shot Taj in different angles except from the river side. Next time I would like to work from that side.

    V.Nageswara Rao
    Professional Photographer
    Hyderabad – India.

  26. davedd May 3, 2014 at 7:19 am - Reply

    Taj – means crown, is truly a crown to the monuments in India. This is the most amazing place I have ever seen in my whole travel period. This is the great symbol of love in India and worth to visit.

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