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Songquan is interviewed by Shutterstock.com.

11 Photographers on Taking Unique Photos of Famous Landmarks


Want to make your photographs of famous landmarks stand out? Discover these tips from eleven pro photographers to make your images one-of-a-kind.

Elliott Erwitt photographed the silhouette of a man with an umbrella jumping over a puddle in front of the Eiffel Tower. During the construction of Rockefeller Center in 1932, an anonymous photographer created that iconic photograph of eleven men eating lunch on top of a steel beam over the instantly recognizable 41st Street in Manhattan. In 1983, Steve McCurry captured a steam engine in the foreground of the Taj Mahal; in 1999, he photographed the same mausoleum reflected in water.

Photographs of famous places are a dime a dozen. According to this list compiled in the spring of 2017, the top five most Instagrammed landmarks—the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Louvre, the Empire State Building, and the Burj Khalifa—have all been photographed millions of times in the last four years alone.

Unique pictures of the world’s most photographed places don’t only stand out. They withstand the test of time. Think of Erwitt, McCurry, and “Anonymous.” We asked eleven extraordinary photographers to take us around the world. Here, they share their memories of capturing places that have been photographed countless times before, and they offer their best tips for making fresh pictures of well known landmarks.

1. “To shoot something different than a regular tourist snapshot I always get there early in the morning when most people are sleeping.”

Songquan Deng

11 Photographers on Taking Unique Photos of Famous Landmarks — San Marco's Square

Image by Songquan Deng. Gear: Nikon D800 DSLR camera, Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 wide angle lens at 14mm. I took multiple shots (3 in one bracket group [-1ev, 0, +1ev], 51 shots in total) and stitched them together into one panorama.

Tell us about a time you photographed a very famous landmark. How did you capture it in a fresh and unique way?

The bell tower in San Marco’s Square is one of the most recognizable landmarks on the magical island of Venice. As the heart of Venice, it’s always full of people. You can find millions of photos with tourists everywhere. I didn’t want to add one more to that gigantic collection.

Instead I woke up at 4:00 in the morning, and I arrived at the square when the whole city was still in deep sleep. All the people were gone. The bell tower and Saint Mark’s Basilica stood silently in front of me, just like they had for hundreds of years. In that moment, the whole square belonged only to me. It rained slightly outside.

I moved back to the hallway to observe the scene in front of me. The arches became excellent frames with the bell tower in the middle. The square-shaped tiles on the ground—with scratch marks left by history—offered amazing patterns. The cool, cloudy sky and warm hallway lights added vivid colors to the picture.

I took multiple shots and stitched them into one panorama in post-processing with a perspective of more than 180 degrees to cover both ends of the hallway. Technically, this panorama was among the most challenging and time-consuming ones I have ever made in post-processing, which differentiates it from the millions of shots people have taken of this well-known square.

Pro Tip

The well known landmarks usually have a large crowd during normal hours. To shoot something different than a regular tourist snapshot I always get there early in the morning when most people are sleeping. The scene is quiet without people, which allows me to get into a zen-like mood and identify interesting and unique elements. The lines, curves, colors, and shadows that would otherwise be ignored due to the distractions add to the uniqueness of my photographs.

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

Focusing on the scene and subject I plan to photograph and getting into a peaceful mood allows me to observe and think as a photographer and to explore the soul hiding behind the bricks and marble of these historical landmarks.

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