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How Not To Take Typical Tourist-Style Shots

Before you hit the shutter button, are you really shooting from the best angle you can?

| Landscape and Travel
How Not To Take Typical Tourist-Style Shots: Rough Guide To Digital PhotographyThis article is an extract from The Rough Guide To Digital Photography by Sophie Goldsworthy. For more information, visit Rough Guides.

Choosing a viewpoint

Where you shoot from can have a radical effect upon your image. Typical tourist shots often all look the same because they’re taken at eye-level, by a photographer picking a single vantage point and using their zoom rather than their feet to shoot a number of pictures all around a scene.


Consider different angles and vantage points that will allow you to be more creative. Get in close, crouch down, climb on a bench or up steps, even lie on the ground and shoot up. If you’re shooting children or pets, try getting on their level. If you’re shooting a building, ask yourself whether there are more interesting views than that head-on shot you’ve seen on a million postcards. Shoot architectural details, find unusual angles, walk away and see if you can frame the building creatively using surrounding buildings, or find its reflection in a window or a puddle.

How Not To Take Typical Tourist-Style Shots: cattle and trailer
How Not To Take Typical Tourist-Style Shots: spiral staircase
Using different viewpoints creatively: at the top, the cattle and trailer loom over the low viewpoint of the photographer, while shooting from above gives a dizzying perspective to the spiral staircase in the second picture.

Top: 1/320, f/9, ISO 200, 46mm Bottom: 1/160, f/4, ISO 1600, 17mm


The same applies when taking photos of people. Altering your point of view can give your photos a real energy, and make them far more compelling than images taken on the same level as your subject. The closer you can get, the more you can make the viewer part of the action. On the other hand, shooting from a distance or pointing the camera down at someone can convey a sense of being remote and uninvolved, even a feeling of superiority.

Another practical reason to change viewpoint is to mask or lose a distracting background, choosing an angle that will instead allow you to fill the frame with the sky or ground, and to pick how you want the light to be striking your subject. If you’re shooting a person you may want to move them out of bright sunlight, positioning them where they are neither squinting into the sun nor obscured by deep shadow. For more on this, see p.92 of The Rough Guide To Digital Photography book by Sophie Goldsworthy.

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