How to take memorable landmark photos

Special to The Globe and Mail

When taking photos of landmarks have fun with what you are shooting/ (Tim Fraser, courtesy of The Calgary Herald)

Last week, in the series How I Shot My Summer Vacation, professional photographer Tim Fraser taught us how to take inventive architecture pictures. This week, it’s all about landmarks.

Whether natural or engineered, landmarks show up in nearly every vacation photo gallery. While I like to photograph landmarks on their own, people’s need to show everyone that they’ve been there, done that, means photo albums are packed with shots of ourselves or loved ones and the landmarks they encounter. But this doesn’t always work out. Either people have trouble getting both the subjects and the landmark easily into the frame, or the picture is just plain boring. Here are a few things you can do to make these shots stand out.

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1. One of the simplest mistakes people make when photographing points of interest is getting too close to both subject and landmark. Don’t try to cram too much into your frame. The people in your photograph will get jammed together at close range, parts of the landmark will be cut off or blocked, and, if it’s a tall landmark, no one will recognize it if you’re looking up its nose. So back up! Find a spot where you can get the entirety of the landmark into your frame (and, since you must, leave room for the people you want in the shot).

2. Don’t position the people until you’ve lined up your shot. And don’t be afraid to move them around until you decide they’re in the right position. Having the camera in your hand means that you are in control of what you are shooting. So control the situation to compose a better shot.

And remember to use flash if the only angle available to you is backlit.

3. Speaking of angles, if you’re determined to get an iconic angle for your landmark, go to the local tourism shop and flip through the postcards. Some photographers have spent a good deal of time and energy finding the right viewpoint and time of day for that particular landmark. Take advantage of their research. Look at how and where they shot the photo. If you’re not sure about the “where” part, ask the person at the counter where that postcard pic was taken and how to get there.

4. The rest is just having fun with what you are shooting. If it’s a cheesy point of interest, make a cheesy photo. Get everyone in your frame to jump in the air like the end of some bad 1980s after-school special. On a road-trip that took me through Vegreville, Alta., home of the world’s largest Ukrainian Easter egg, or Pysanka, I moved around, found the right angle, and had my wife snap a picture of me “laying” the egg. Certainly not classy, but oh so memorable.

To see last week’s gallery, and to send your vacation architecture photos, go to tgam.ca/photo-desk. Our favourite will be published next Friday (preference will be given to photos taken during the week of the call-out) on the Pictures and Prophecies page in Globe Life. Next up: landmarks.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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