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TPG Contributor Muhammad Lila knows a thing or two about photography — as a foreign correspondent, he travels the globe, DSLR in hand, reporting from some of the world’s hotspots. So what are his secrets to getting that perfect Taj Mahal photo to set your Instagram feed into a tizzy?
While the Taj Mahal might be the most photographed landmark in the world, it’s also the most mis-photographed. Every inch of the Taj Mahal complex plays with mirroring and shadows, as well as themes of hierarchical order and illusion — so it’s a shame that so many people just show up, stand directly in front of it, and snap away without considering its intricate beauty.
So the next time you’re there, remember to arrive early, use a DSLR and a wide-angle lens (my favorite is the Canon 10-22mm) and focus on these five picture-perfect photo locations:
1. Through the South Gate
Most people are in such a rush, they don’t stop to reflect on that first glimpse of the Taj. Stand right outside the first (South) gate, looking directly at the monument, and you’ll see its three gateways perfectly lined up in symmetry — it’s like looking through a series of keyholes. If you play around with lighting and shutter speed, you’ll get an amazing silhouette shot. Also notice the optical illusion: As you walk through the arches, the Taj looks like it’s actually moving away from you.
2. Reflecting Pools
After you enter, you’ll find yourself on an elevated platform. This is where most people stop to get their “I’m here” photo. Instead, head down to ground level and stand directly in front of the reflecting pools.
Mughal architecture puts a lot of emphasis on the reflective qualities of water, so pay as much attention to the water in your camera frame as the building itself. Remember: Symmetry is key.
3. Up Close
By the time you get right up to the façade, you won’t be able to fit the entire building into your shot. That’s okay. Take a look at the intricate brocades on the wall, made with turquoise and lapis lazuli. The workmanship is incredible. And coming back with close-up photos will make friends think you’re an art connoisseur.
4. Look to the Mosque
Some of the most iconic photos at the Taj aren’t of the Taj at all. The main white tomb (the one everyone takes pictures of) is flanked on either side by red, sandstone buildings.
Head to one on the left. It’s a mosque, so be careful to not go during prayer time. The Taj itself will be jam-packed with tourists, but chances are the mosque will be dead empty.
It’s full of symmetric patterns. And when it’s sunny, you’ll get that perfect “doorway to heaven” shot with the sunshine glowing through one of its entrances.
5. A Better “Princess Diana” shot
If you do need to get that Princess Diana shot, skip the bench near the front gate and walk all the way around to the far back. Just outside the jamat khana (the building on the right), you’ll see a single bench. Trust me, hardly anyone will be there. You’ll know you’re in the right place when the river is on your right, and the Taj right in front of you. If you have a wide-angle lens, the sky will perfectly wrap around the Taj like a canopy.
BONUS #6: The Amarvilas
With tens of thousands of people visiting every day, the Taj gets crowded quickly. One of the most serene experiences you can have (and one of my personal favorites) is a couple hundred yards away, from the balcony of the Oberoi Amarvilas. It’s quiet, shaded and opulent, and it feels like you’re in another world.
Where else can you have afternoon tea with white-glove service overlooking the world’s great monument to love? The Amarvilas is so close to the Taj that the hotel has a golf cart to shuttle guests back and forth. Swanky.
Have you visited the Taj Mahal? What was your favorite part of the monument?
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