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When it comes to taking photos in crowded places, great shots require a bit of imagination to create something truly special.
Ideally, it would be a dream to visit a location and have the entire place to yourself, but we all know that isn’t always possible. Travel has become more accessible and destinations have blown up in popularity, which means that many of them are often crowded with visitors and tourists.
While it may seem impossible to snap memorable images without getting photobombed, there are many methods and tricks you can adopt to get that perfect shot. In this post, I’ll share my favorite suggestions for taking photos in crowded places, as well as pictures from my trip to Marrakech as examples of how you can still get great shots despite the masses.
Now let’s dive into my 7 Tips for Taking Photos in Crowded Places!
7 Tips for Taking Photos in Crowded Places
1) Plan Before You Go
If you know you’re going to be visiting a popular travel destination, and plan to take lots of photos, try to schedule your trip in the off-season when there are fewer tourists. Even booking your trip during shoulder season (that sweet spot between high season and low season) can be a great way to avoid crazy crowds, but still enjoy amazing weather.
In addition to planning your trips in advance, it’s always a good idea to plan your photos as well. By taking the time to prepare beforehand, you’ll already have an idea of the shots that you want when you arrive at your destination (and won’t have to waste time making them up on the spot).
2) Have Patience
Many people make the mistake of expecting to get the perfect photograph the first time they take the shot. However, it may take several tries, and a lot of patience to get the photo that you want.
If you’re in a location where the crowds are particularly thick, try not to get frustrated. Keep your composure and wait for the people to pass. While it might be discouraging at times, especially if you’re in a popular place, there will always be a break in the crowd. Once people move out of the way it’s time to act fast, because you might not have that chance again.
Traffic tends to ebb and flow, so waiting it out can work in your favor when trying to snap a photo. Sometimes, people will even be generous enough to notice you setting up the shot and they’ll pause a few seconds before passing through. Return the curtesy by having your camera ready and snapping your photo the moment you have a clear space.
If waiting around is simply not an option, or the crowds seem to have no end in sight, walk into the busy memorial or location confidently, have your photo in mind and go right to the front to get your shot.
The key here is to be quick: get in and get out.
3) Try a Different Angle
There’s more to what you see at eye-level. By playing around with the camera angle and using various techniques, you’ll be able to snap some really interesting photos. Here are two ways to do this:
Look up! By pointing your camera upwards, you might discover a beautiful balcony, a stunning sunset highlighting a gorgeous rooftop, or some unique building decor. All of the space above everyone’s heads is completely empty, so make use of it.
Shooting up allows for a different and intriguing angle. Memorials, important statues, landmarks, and temples are all ideally suited for this type of photography. Play around with the camera angle and get creative with it – you’d be surprised at the number of cool shots you’ll be able to get.
Have a tighter lens
When taking photos in crowded places, focus less on the wide shots with no one in it, and more on detailed shots. By getting closer to the object you’re snapping a photo of, or zooming in with your lens, you’ll be able to avoid cropping people out of wide shots in post-production. Taking detailed photos is a great strategy to try on food or intricate architectural features.
4) Wake Up Early
Taking photos in crowded places often requires early morning shoots. Many travel photographers choose to wake up for sunrise in order to capture the location in its most peaceful element – before the tourists arrive. Other than having uncrowded streets to yourself, you’ll also enjoy golden hour, which can provide some of the best light for taking photos. Waking up early to shoot also gives you the opportunity to catch more of the local life! There might be a local market opening up or fisherman bringing the early morning catch to the dock – any type of local activities are the perfect chance to document the destination in its most authentic state.
Sometimes, certain locations or objects you want to capture won’t be accessible in the early hours of the morning. In this case, I recommend trying to visit those attractions as soon as they open. For example, I arrived at Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech at 8:00 AM, as soon as it opened, and after spending about twenty minutes in the gardens, there were already tour groups pouring in.
Tip: Set your alarm clock early and beat the crowds.
5) Night Photography
If you’re not a morning person, you can still take great photos without waking up for sunrise. Crowded places offer the perfect chance to practice your night photography by using long exposures to get a unique view of attractions when the sun goes down.
Many popular tourist attractions will have cleared out well past dinnertime, so you’ll be able to capture sought-after locations with little to no people in sight.
6) Go Off the Beaten Path
Don’t always stand in the same spot as other people trying to get the same exact photo. One of my favorite tips for taking photos in crowded places is to get off the beaten path when you have the opportunity to do so. This is the perfect time to think outside of the box and seek out different spots to snap your photo, which will often lead to a much more original and unique shot.
Another tip is to take a good look at your surroundings and pinpoint what you can use to get that perfect frame. Sometimes this means moving above the crowds by taking advantage of rooftops, stairways, cafes with balconies, or even multi-level stores with windows looking out onto the attraction you’re trying to capture.
7) “If you can’t beat them, join them”
Depending on where you are, it might be impossible to capture a photo without crowds of people or traffic creeping into your shot. For example, Jemma el-Fnaa in Marrakech or Times Square in New York City are two locations where crowds are simply inevitable. In these cases, you just have to work with what you have.
If you can’t beat the crowds, join them! Sometimes it can be interesting to have people in your images anyway.
Try focusing on the subject and use the crowd as part of your background (to the right you’ll see an example of this in Marrakech’s most visited location – Jemma el-Fnaa Square).
Taking photos in crowded places is definitely a challenge, but if having other people in your photos isn’t an option for you, you can try one of these tips:
Block the Crowds
Try using a person or an object to block out any unwanted people in your images. For example, if there are some people in the frame you are trying to capture, position yourself, or someone you’re traveling with, in a way so that their body blocks the people in the background. This will give the illusion that you are the only one (or one of the few people) there.
Use Long Exposure
If you’re using a DSLR, you can try using long exposure where you set up your camera on a tripod and expose for longer than you normally would to make moving people in your shots “disappear”.
That wraps up my 7 Tips for Taking Photos in Crowded Places.
Visiting popular tourist destinations challenges you to view the location in a different way. Changing up your camera angles and playing around with positioning can really help you make some magical images. Look up, look down, and get closer – put your creativity to the test and see where it takes you!
What are some of your favorite travel photography tips? Leave them in the comments!