You see those photos every few seconds on instagram: someone standing still, alone in front of Trevi’s Fountain, Taj Mahal or the Blue Domes in Santorini and once you get to these places those shots seem to be impossible to recreate because some other hundreds of tourists are in the same exact location.
Is it possible to get a picture alone in a very touristy place? Or is it photoshop at its finest all the time?
You have asked me million times on instagram how I make it, because let’s be honest, pictures come out way more spectacular when you’re the only one in that amazing place, right?
Today I share with you all the tips and tricks I use for getting these kind of photos: you can’t go wrong if you follow them all!
How to get travel photos without people in them
Number 1 advice in photography: pack a bag of patience and wait.
Photography doesn’t have to be an easy task all the time. I love those moments of magic, when you capture an unique scene that eventually happens.
I’m a very patient and instinctive person and for me it’s not difficult to wait for this magic moment, but I understand that some people have different travel styles. If you want to visit as many places as possible in one day this won’t be applicable. In my case, I prefer to enjoy every place without the hastle, and I enjoy when I can take the dream photo I imagined.
In the case of Casa Batlló in Barcelona, although we visited it early in the morning it was already busy and this photo seemed impossible. We waited a while, but decided to continue with the visit and come back a bit later. We took our time following every room with the audio guide and once we finished, just before leaving the building, we went back to this window to try one more time. Around 5 minutes later, a miracle happened: this photo was taken, the only 3 seconds in which this frame was completely empty.
Next time you visit a touristy place where your dream photo seems impossible, let yourself be guided by your intuition and patiently wait and try again.
* Note: In the case of Casa Batlló there’s a possibility to buy a ticket before the house opens to the general public, making it easier for photo aficionados.
You must be really quick and always ready to take that picture: it may be possible just for a few seconds!
Key tip: shoot in burst mode.
Set up your camera to shoot in burst mode to make the most of those moments. If you are the one who is posing, remember to move gracefully and continuously during the shots so that each photo is different. If you still don’t know what to do with your body, here there are some ideas to put into practice.
Be the first one
If you get a place and there’s no one in the perfect location… don’t wait any longer! Go ahead and shoot.
Sometimes it’s necessary to wait but other times the most important thing is not wasting your time and get straight to the point.
This advice is also useful when visiting certain buildings: if you are the first to enter in the early morning you will have the whole place for you. But that moment won’t last forever: take that photo!
Sounds like a big effort, doesn’t it? No pain, no gain!
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Be the last one
Sometimes, like in guided tours as the one at Palau de la Música Catalana, instead of being the first one the best option is to be the last.
How is this possible? In these guided tours you will visit different spaces. What most people do is taking pictures while the tour guide is trying to tell the story of the place. The best thing you can do is to listen and shoot in burst mode once the explanation is finished, while everyone is on their way to the next place.
Yes, you have to shoot in burst mode again because you must be fast: be nice and don’t delay the rest of the group!
I’ll tell you a story.
After a tiring climb we got to the best viewpoint of Lake Bled: the view from there is so beautiful that it seems unreal. Really, it’s one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. We were totally hypnotized by the scenery while we were trying to catch our breath. There, waiting for the right moment for start taking photos was a delight: we got that beautiful view and a French playful puppy to enjoy nature at its best.
Once we decided start taking photos, I went to that perfect rock. There was a Spanish couple sitting close by but I didn’t want to tell them to move (I never do that) but they saw me wearing that red dress they asked me if they should move. As a thank you, we asked them for their camera and took pictures of them, we took our pictures right after and then, the other people in the viewpoint decided to queue and do the same. Because there you get the best picture that can be taken at Lake Bled. Ever.
Conclusion? Being nice is always cool! This is something that I apply a lot when I travel alone and I need someone to take a picture of me: I always offer to take pictures of them first and karma ends up blessing you with photos like this one.
Wake up early
In the most touristy cities like Paris or Rome, you better get up early for the best photos.
You can use your early mornings for photos and relax for the rest of the day. Early mornings are blessed with better light, less tourists and magical colors.
Sunrises are the best for playing with clouds, reflections and architecture like in Fontana di Trevi, Eiffel Tower or Duomo di Milano. In places like Mykonos, sunrise are the only way to capture the empty streets without the little stalls and mannequins from the shops.
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Instagram has an incredible power when it comes to influence the travel decisions of its users, but the dark side is that it somehow promotes “the typical postcard photo”.
I’m guilty. I have also taking those typical photos (because let’s be honest, it’s such a pretty temptation) but I always try to look for new angles, even at famous instagram spots.
There are always creative angles and perspectives to discover in places that have been photographed a million times in the same way. Find them, those photos will be your most beloved treasure because and they will be unique.
Avoid high season, holidays and weekends
This one is the hardest, but it’s also one of the best ways to travel. Escape from the dates when everyone else is traveling (think of August and Christmas!).
Travelling to the Greek islands or Ibiza in May or October will always be better than summer, with still good weather and less tourists. The same happens with cities like Paris or Barcelona, easier to visit in less busy months like November or January. You can enjoy your holiday avoiding the crowds and taking better photos then.
If you can’t avoid travelling in high season, try at least to avoid Sundays and holidays in the most touristy areas. The first Sunday in June in Santorini it was nearly impossible to walk through the streets of the beautiful Oia because of the guided tours from the cruises.
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If everything fails… edit!
These are good advice, but I admit that it’s not always possible to take pictures with absolutely no one around.
If it’s just a couple of people in the background – and if your style of photography is not professional – you can always remove those intruders from your scene using software like Photoshop or the app Touch Retouch.
It’s like a magic trick… if the focus of the photo is in one corner, you won’t pay attention to the background. So you’ll never know that I stamped 2 heads that appeared in the background in the original photo.
Looking for inspiration for your travel photos? In this blog you will find guides with the most famous Instagram spots and you can follow me on Instagram to be aware of all the places I travel. I’ll wait for you there!