You’ve traveled across the world and you finally made it to Agra. You’re anxious because you’re heading to one of the seven wonders of the world and you want to take some stunning photos. We know the feeling! But then, we noticed that surprisingly there wasn’t much online regarding photo tips for the Taj Mahal. Which is odd being that it’s one of the most photographed places in the entire world.
So, we decided to write what we learned on our visit. We hope this helps you get an idea of what some of the options are. Here’s how we made the most of it…
TIPS ON SHOOTING INSIDE THE COMPLEX
One of the most important photo tips for the Taj Mahal is, of course, get there early! We went at sunrise and you’d be wise to do the same if you want to catch any of the early morning light. Generally speaking, the most obvious thing to shoot first is the fountain immediately after you enter.
If you have dreams of being alone at the fountain, get your tickets a day in advance and be sure you’re one of the first people in line (arrive well before sunrise) otherwise you’ve got little to no chance. Even if you do that, there are no guarantees, so keep that in mind.
After taking a few fountain shots, walk over to the east side of the monument. That way you can capture a few images with the sun at your back, in the softest light of the morning. You can return again an hour or two later when the sun is fully illuminating it for a brighter look.
We really enjoyed shooting from inside the arches of the mosque (to the west of the Taj). In fact, the earlier you do this, the better. There are fewer people out on the fringes, at least for the first hour or two. Above all, this is probably the most interesting place to take pictures, use the arches as frames and just have fun with it!
CAMERA SETTINGS AND UTILIZING THE LIGHT
One of our favorite things to do at the Taj Mahal was to shoot back into the golden morning light. This yields some breathtaking results and can really help you achieve a dreamy look. When you’re shooting on the west side, try to overexpose by a stop or two to get more detail in the shadow areas. If you don’t, your images will be far too dark.
If that didn’t make any sense, think of it this way: compose your image and take a shot on the AUTO setting. Check the review screen and the exposure. If it’s ISO 200 @f/8 at 1/500 – turn your camera dial to M (manual) and then adjust your camera dials to use those same settings. Now to overexpose by two stops (let in more light) set the aperture to f/4. So now it’s at ISO 200 @ f/4 at 1/500. Take another shot. Check the back of your camera for the results. Continue to experiment and adjust to taste. Let in a bit more or less light (by adjusting the aperture) until it looks the way you intend it to.
Experiment with the white balance. Try shooting the Taj backlit as mentioned above, with the white balance setting on cloudy or shade. This gives the images a nice warm tone, perfect for early mornings or late afternoon light.
The walls of the Taj Mahal work wonders as giant reflectors for portrait lighting. Ask your subject to face a bright wall with the sun at their back. Their face should light up nicely!
Unfortunately, there are no tripods allowed inside. Without a tripod you can try to balance your camera on the ground or on your bag and set the timer, or ask another person to take one for you, it worked for us!
Without a tripod, you should set your camera to shoot on burst or continuous mode (located under the drive setting on most cameras). This ensures that at least one of the several pics you take will have less camera shake and be sharper than the rest.
SHOOTING THE TAJ FROM OTHER LOCATIONS
Unfortunately, there’s a hefty 500 rupee entry fee, but you can combine a great shot of the Taj with your visit here if you have a long lens! (200mm+)
Dussehra Ghat Road
Walking just a short distance from the east entrance gate, you’ll find a place that few tourists seem to visit. Just follow the perimeter wall towards the riverbank and you’ll be rewarded with some unique angles.
We came here early one morning after having chai and we really enjoyed it. Surprisingly, there were only a few people around, two security guards, a priest, a boatman, and a dog. After snapping some pics from the shore, you should…
Take a boat ride on the Yamuna River
Talk to that boatman and arrange a ride! Hardly anyone does this and we even read a bunch of comments on Trip Advisor from people who said it couldn’t be done. Many remarked that it’s been closed for security reasons.
As you can see from the photo above, that’s total nonsense. You most certainly can take a boat ride for some truly unforgettable views for 500 rupees. In addition, the boatman will even take photos for you! In our opinion, this would be worth 5,000 rupees just for the pictures you’ll come away with. Don’t miss the opportunity to create some fantastic images!
Many people go there to get shots of the Taj Mahal from across the Yamuna river at sunset. We’re here to tell you that unless you have a long lens (at least 100mm) this isn’t necessarily worth it. It costs 200 rupees per person.
There are no tripods allowed in (again), and they have recently installed a barbwire fence that keeps everyone far back from the waterfront. If you were thinking you could come here to get reflection shots on the river, think again.
As soon as the sun dips below the horizon, the guards blow the whistle and kick everyone out too. If you still decide to visit, keep in mind that on Friday it’s more crowded because the Taj is closed.
Dirt road before Mehtab Bagh
Alternatively, you can get a FREE view of the Taj across the river from a dirt road before you get to Mehtab Bagh. It’s on the right side near an open field where local kids play cricket. Check the maps.me app to locate it exactly.
There are several hotel rooftops to catch a view of the monument while having some tea. A good one to try is the Hotel Saniya Palace.
Hathi Ghat at sunrise
A great place to get silhouette shots of the Taj in the morning. Just ask any rickshaw driver to take you there!
Don’t bring much
Nothing bigger than a small bag. Security is strict and they will turn you away. No food, no books, no cigarettes, and no tripods. They will give you free water and shoe covers.
Bring sunscreen and sandals
Easy to remove shoes are a godsend at the Taj Mahal and while traveling India in general. Don’t forget sunscreen!
Take the golf cart
If you’re purchasing your ticket the same day you’re visiting, you’ll still have to get from the ticket office to the entrance. The golf cart is free and included, while the rickshaw bikes want 100 rupees to take you just 1 km.
Arrive early, duh!
We got to the ticket office by 5:15 am and were within the first five people in line there. However, by the time we reached the entrance, we were still probably 100 people back. All in all, it’s not easy to be upfront! Again, if you’re really serious about trying to be first, we recommend getting your tickets a day in advance if possible.
Give yourself two full days
To get different shots of the Taj, you’ll need time. Two full days will give you the chance to try for sunrise, sunset, and several other locations sprinkled in between.
No re-entry and no food
You’re going to want to take your time inside the Taj compound and unfortunately, there is no re-entry. Admittedly, we spent many hours there wandering, taking shots, sitting in awe, going inside, relaxing in the shade, etc.
There’s no food allowed in and nowhere to get food within the grounds, so be sure to eat some breakfast before you go inside.
It’s closed on Fridays
Don’t plan to visit the Taj on a Friday. You won’t be able to! There was a traveler at our hotel who didn’t realize this and had to leave India the next day. It’d be a shame if you came all this way and didn’t get to visit. Don’t be that guy!
Don’t be shy to experiment. It’s pretty difficult to get a unique shot, so think outside the box. We hope you find these photo tips for the Taj Mahal useful, and you get some shots you’ll be proud to hang on your wall back home!
Have you been to the Taj Mahal? Or is it on your bucket list?