Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - Banner

5 Best Spots to Get Incredible Photos of the Taj Mahal

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

If you want to avoid the crowds of gawking tourists, the best time to visit is first thing in the morning.
If you want to avoid the crowds of gawking tourists, the best time to visit is first thing in the morning.

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:

Standing at the South Gate to the Taj lets you capture great silhouette shots.
Standing at the South Gate to the Taj lets you capture great silhouette shots.

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.

The South Gate is a building on its own. This is what it looks like if you face it, with your back to the Taj.
The South Gate is a building on its own. This is what it looks like if you face it, with your back to the Taj.

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.

The view from the ground level, standing in front of the garden's reflecting pool
The view from the ground level, standing in front of the garden’s 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.

The intricate façade of the Taj.  Notice the details, colors, and patterns.
The intricate façade of the Taj. Notice the details, colors, and patterns.

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.

The Taj is designed to convey a sense of longing.  Photographing it in relation to the other buildings around it will help bring your photos to life.
The Taj is designed to convey a sense of longing. Photographing it in relation to the other buildings around it will help bring your photos to life.

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.

A view of the Taj Mosque, shot from the ground, with back facing the Taj.
A view of the Taj Mosque, shot from the ground, with back facing the Taj.

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.

The inside of the mosque that sites to the left of the Taj. Notice the many layers of symmetry and cascading archways
Interior of the mosque that sits to the left of the Taj. Notice the many symmetrical layers and cascading archways.

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.

This lone bench, with a great view of the Taj Mahal, sits at the far, back right of the complex
This lone bench, with a great view of the Taj Mahal, sits at the far, back right of the complex

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.

The photos alone are worth a trip to the Amarvilas. Rooms start at about $400.
The photos alone are worth a trip to the Amarvilas, where rooms start at about $400. From the suites, you can take a bubble bath with a view of the Taj.

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.

Traditional Indian hospitality at the Oberoi Amarvilas, ranked one of the best hotels in the world by Travel & Leisure
A bellboy dressed in traditional clothing holds a frame at the Oberoi Amarvilas. (I tweaked the contrast to make the Taj stand out.)

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?

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A See Issuer's Terms Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit