Once you have your tourist, postcard style shots, spend a few hours of your vacation time thinking how you can do things a little bit differently. (Yes, we know we are talking about not doing this but the reason everyone takes these shots is because they do actually look good, most of the time. Just remember to get up early or stay out late to miss the rush of tourists so you stand a better chance of capturing people-free shots.)
Use It As A Secondary Point Of Interest
Instead of making the landmark your main point of focus, place another object in the foreground and use the landmark as background detail for your shot. You could use a larger aperture to throw it slightly out of focus but don't go too wide as you still want the landmark to be recognisable. For shots with plenty of depth of field, think like a landscape photographer, standing further back from your landmark so you can add interest in the foreground as well as the middle and background of the shot.
Photo by Ben Boswell and featured in 'Throw Your Photos Out Of Focus.'
Find A New Angle
This is an obvious point that's also easier said than done sometimes but even the smallest change in composition can make a big difference to the shot. Try blurring foliage in to an out of focus frame, shoot through a window or arch or look for objects your landmark can be reflected in. Shooting down into a puddle of water, particularly on a moody, wet day will give any landmark photo an interesting twist while switching from a wide lens to a telephoto so you can crop in will give you a shot that's ever so subtly different but yet, still recognisable to those back home.
Watch for where the crowds go and head off in a different direction, looking for new vantage points to shoot from. This could mean climbing to get above it or trying to get lower to shoot from nearer the ground. We can't guarantee you won't get any funny looks but you should walk away with a set of unique shots.
Photo by David Clapp
Get In Close
As landmarks are well known you don't have to get the whole structure in the frame for people to know what it is. The blue/green shade of the Statue of Liberty will be recognisable no matter how close you zoom in. In fact, the shapes created to form drapes in the statue's clothing could create an interesting abstract shot if you have a lens that can get you close enough.
Head Out When Other's Don't
A cloudy, rainy day will put most sight-seers off and you should take advantage of this. They'll be less bad weather shots than there are scenes with blue sky and sun. Rainy days also mean you can shoot reflections (as mentioned above). Just remember to protect your equipment as unless it's waterproof, it won't like the rain.
We said above to head out early/late to avoid crowds but including one or two people can give your landmark shot a new angle. By adding people, street vendors setting up near the landmark or people sweeping away rubbish, you add a new level of interest to what would be 'just another tourist shot'. As people have a habit of stopping what they're doing and either grinning or frowning when they see a camera pointed at them you may need to work more like a street photographer to get shots where your subject isn't posed.
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