The Taj Mahal rises above the banks of the river like a solitary tear suspended on the cheek of time.Rabindranath Tagore
Taj Mahal – A saga of love and grief.
The world believes Taj Mahal was built by love but understanding Shah Jahan’s chronicles on the Taj, one could conclude it was grief that built the architectural marvel and it was sorrow that saw it through thirty five years of his life since the demise of his beloved wife. The third wife of Emperor Shah Jahan, Mumtaz was his dearest and their love story is legendary. It is widely believed that she was a devoted consort and content to have more offspring with her husband – tragically she died giving birth to their 14th child. Heartbroken, the mighty emperor of opulent Mughal reign, brought all his power and wealth to immortalize his love-affair, his darling “Mumtaz Mahal”. Rest is history! There lies the charm of this awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping relic, that it entices millions of tourists to catch a glimpse, at least once in their lifetime. No wonder, The National Geographic quoted the Taj Mahal as “most famous for being famous”.
Photography Tips for The Taj Mahal Agra
Photographing the Taj Mahal is always a “wow factor”. Entering the premises of the Taj Mahal for the first time through large, beautifully crafted medieval gateways is an experience to be revered. The iconic mausoleum of eternal love is perhaps the most photographed monument in the world. The ivory white Makrana marble used in the construction of this architectural masterpiece, emits a translucent effect and seems to change color throughout the day in consonance with the ambiance. The Taj looks mesmerizing in the hues of the sunrise and sunset skies, a view cherished by tourists and photographers alike. Post-sunset in moonlight the gleam on Taj Mahal appears as ethereal. I would share with you 6 essential photography tips for the Taj Mahal.
Taj Mahal Photography – The Gears I Used
I used a full-frame camera body which gives me with a broader dynamic range and better low light handling capabilities. I could crank up the ISO if required and still manage decent quality images. Most photographers shooting architecture and landscapes prefer full frame bodies for wider focal lengths and shallow depth of fields.
I used a Canon 5D Mark III body, along with a 16mm wide angle lens, a 80mm prime and a 100-200mm zoom lens. For amateurs’ a cropped body with a wide angle zoom lens could suffice the purpose.
Composition, perspective and lighting could be the key elements to a unique shot of the Taj Mahal. Often the light could be suboptimal and not suitable for a perfect exposure. In such scenario you can get up close and personal by concentrating on architectural details, patterns, medieval carvings and artwork and manage to get coveted shots of this mythical monument.
Always shoot raw while using a DSLR which would give you more leverage in post processing.
Best tips for photographing the Taj Mahal
Let’s discuss 6 innovative ideas and tips for capturing the Iconic Taj Mahal.
# Be amongst the first visitors at the Taj Mahal
Photographing the Taj Mahal at sunrise without people is a chance you won’t like to miss. The white mausoleum bathed in the glory of the morning sun is a treat to the eye. With some luck an intermittent shower the previous night could leave some scattered clouds at sunrise, creating a magical moody sky.
So plan your shoot the previous day. Like most other heritage sites in India, the gates of the Taj Mahal open at sunrise and close at sunset. Check the sunrise time the previous day and be at the ticket counter at least half an hour before sunrise.
Once the gate opens your belongings will be inspected which can be a time consuming exercise. Abstain from carrying any eatables, flammable and sharp objects.
After entering the Taj Mahal premises rush to the center podium which offers a 360 degrees strategic view. Get acquainted with the ambient light and adjust your exposure accordingly.
(Note: Of the 3 entry gates to the Taj Mahal, the East gate is least congested.)
# Arrange Taj Mahal entry passes well in advance
The heritage site of Taj Mahal is under the supervision of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and all issues of ticketing belong to custodian department i.e. ASI. You must attempt to book tickets at least a day earlier, preferably online through www.asiagracircle.in. Else make a stop at ASI office’s counter at 22 Mall Road in Agra. Dos and don’ts of tourist behaviors inside the iconic memorial are conspicuously instructed on the entry passes. Familiarize all the information beforehand so that you are well prepared.
Wasting time in the morning selecting tour guides is not advised. If you feel the need for assisted trips, you can hire them during day visits to the Taj.
(Note: The best time of the year to visit Taj Mahal is during the winter season, from October to December, or before summer, from February to March. During these periods, the climate is benign with picturesque skyscape and beaming light.)
# Photograph Taj Mahal with human subjects in your frames
On an average nearly 70000 people visit Taj Mahal daily inclusive of domestic and international visitors. Even in times of the pandemic The Taj Mahal was the most visited ticketed monument in financial year 2020 with a footfall of 4.4 million. So photographing Taj Mahal without the human subject won’t portray the true picture.
The Taj Mahal is a quintessential human creation, filled with sagas of endurance, perseverance and yearning. It is recommended to depict the romanticism in it as authentically as possible. Including people with actions in some of your frames will enrich content of the images. Human figures produce a forefront and scale the structure of the monument against people.
People add meaning to your images and help convey a message. So don’t forget to include the human factor in your compositions.
# 5 Photo Spots to shoot the Taj Mahal
Capturing Taj Mahal from within the premises : If you intend on capturing Taj Mahal in the glow of the morning sun or bring in the human factor into your images you ought to be within the premises of the Taj Mahal. You may also focus on the architectural efficacy with minutest of details and even try out on different perspectives of the iconic monument.
Taj Mahal photography from Mehtab Bagh : Mehtab Bagh, a Mughal garden perfectly aligned with the Taj Mahal on the opposite bank of river Yamuna. The garden was originally built by Emperor Babur as the last in a series of 11 parks on the Yamuna’s east bank. 100 years later it was identified by Emperor Shah Jahan as the best place to view the Taj Mahal. No doubt the emperor was right.
Mehtab Bagh serves as an ideal location for photographing the Taj Mahal at sunset. A moody sunset sky with a panoramic view of the Taj Mahal along with the East and West gates offers a perfect frame. Just after the monsoons when there is enough water in the river Yamuna, you can shoot memorable sunset moments of the Taj Mahal with vibrant reflections in the waters of the Yamuna.
Mehtab Bagh had also acquired the name “Moonlight Garden”, because of the vivid view of moonlit Taj Mahal with its sparkling reflection on river Yamuna.
Photograph Taj Mahal from a boat : View Taj Mahal from a boat : Facing the main entrance of the Taj Mahal if you turn right you would find a narrow lane running along the periphery of the Taj which would take you straight to Dussera Ghat. A sublime location on the banks of river Yamuna far from the madding crowd, yet in close proximity of the Taj Mahal.
If you are on a tight schedule and don’t have the time to make it to Mehtab Bagh, Dussera Ghat could be the perfect vantage point to photographing the Taj Mahal from a different perspective. With some luck you might find a few stray country boats to add in your frame or even amplify your experience by taking a short boat ride on river Yamuna. A truly magical feeling.
Aerial view of the Taj and it’s surroundings from a hot air balloon : The hot air balloon is not something you will get round the year. Its part of a Taj balloon festival that happens every year in winters by the end of November. Once you get on this balloon apart from the chilling cold and smog that prevail, the experience is truly mesmerizing. Not only do you get to photograph the Taj Mahal, but even the view of the river Yamuna snaking it’s way through the landscape like a circuit cable and the aerial view of Agra Fort is an experience of a lifetime.
Photograph Taj Mahal from Agra Fort : If you have a high end zoom lens of 200mm or above in your kitty, photographing the Taj Mahal from the top of Agra is an option you can explore.
Agra Fort offers several vantage points from within the forts to view the Taj Mahal including decorative windows, balconies, and towers. These vantage points could harness your creativity and exploit your photography skills.
Historical facts reveal that Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan used to admire the Taj Mahal from the confinements of Musamman Burj palace while in exile at Agra Fort.
# Explore Taj Mahal Photography in moonlight
From 21st August 2021, night viewing is resumed at The Taj Mahal with COVID appropriate behaviors. Discerning tall shadows of the minarets and the big radiant dome against the moonlight, as if in bluish-white electroluminescence, is quite the sight.
The Taj at night is more intimate, evocative. Mark your calendar for the next full moon and plan a night-time visit to this marvelous mausoleum.
# Explore multi-faceted architecture of the Taj Mahal
Take your time and dive into the realm of extensive artwork involved in making of this Mughal gem. Symmetry of structure is one aspect that makes the Taj Mahal architecturally brilliant. The architects and craftsmen of the Taj Mahal were masters of proportions and tricks to the eyes. When you first approach the main gate that frames the Taj, the monument appears incredibly close and large.
But as you get closer, it shrinks in size. And although the minarets surrounding the tomb look perfectly upright, the towers actually lean outward: in addition to providing aesthetic balance, the pillars would crumble away from the main crypt in a disaster like earthquake. Indulge yourself shooting more frames from different angles. You can take shots of the intricate works on Taj Mahal walls, the minarets, the mosque, the Yamuna river behind, or the Charbagh garden around Taj Mahal. Find inspiration in the tiniest of details.
(Note: Outside the East side gate, a few meters away is the serene Taj Mahal nature walk with different trails leading to various vantage points.)
# Shoot like no-one’s watching
Photography is the manifestation of your vision and it is exciting to experiment with your creative ideas. Keep shooting, come rain or shine, you never know when and where a brilliant opportunity presents itself. Surprise yourself with innovative photography ideas. We hope the tips shared in this article will inspire you to achieve your goal to capture unique and creative Taj Mahal photos.
Checkout engaging and unique images of the Taj Mahal that you can use for your creative projects.
To summarize the Taj Mahal photography tips :
- Arrange passes to enter Taj Mahal a day prior.
- Reach Taj Mahal gates before sunrise.
- Make use of the morning light.
- Explore different aspects of the Taj Mahal architecture.
- Derive inspiration from minute details.
- Utilize people around as subjects.
- Shoot Taj Mahal pictures from different locations
- Wait till dusk to capture sparkling reflections of the Taj Mahal with vibrant skyscape on river Yamuna.
- Create magical moments by photographing Taj Mahal on a full moon night.
Extend your views and share your ideas on different Taj Mahal photography tips that one can explore. Leave a comment below!