Machu Picchu, the awe-inspiring Inca citadel nestled high in the Peruvian Andes, is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site but also a photographer’s dream. With its stunning vistas, ancient architecture, and mystical atmosphere, it’s no wonder that countless photographers flock to this iconic location to capture its beauty. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting your photography journey, or just travelling in Peru wishing to take some great pictures, here are a few valuable tips to help you capture the perfect shot at Machu Picchu.
1. Arrive Early for Magical Morning Light
One of the best times to photograph Machu Picchu is during the early morning hours when the soft, golden sunlight bathes the site. Arrive at the entrance gate with an entrance ticket with timeslot 6.00 – 7.00 before sunrise to get that magical glow on the ancient stones.
To be among the first in the gates at 6 am you should be in the bus line in Aguas Calientes at around 4.30 am.
Fewer crowds mean cleaner shots, too. Another good moment for people free pictures of Machu Picchu is 3 pm. By then most people have gone home and the site is blessed with a gentle light. Try to avoid shooting during the middle of the day: the light can be harsh and create strong shadows.
2. Use a Wide-Angle Lens for Epic Landscapes
To capture the grandeur of Machu Picchu’s expansive landscapes and intricate stone work, bring a wide-angle lens. This lens will allow you to include more of the site in a single frame and emphasize the vastness of the surroundings.
3. Experiment with Different Angles
While the classic postcard shot of Machu Picchu from the guardhouse is a must (make sure your ticket is circuit 1 – 2 that includes the guardhouse), don’t be afraid to explore different angles and viewpoints. Climb up to the terraces for a unique perspective or get close to the llamas in Machu Picchu to add a touch of character to your photos.
The Guardhouse overlooks the citadel and surrounding mountains, offering a breathtaking panoramic view that showcases the site’s grandeur and beauty.
4. Highlight Details with a Macro Lens
Machu Picchu is not just about grand panoramas; it’s also about intricate stone carvings and lush flora. Bring a macro lens to capture the smaller details that make this site so enchanting. Don’t underestimate great up-close Machu Picchu pictures.
5. Utilize the Rule of Thirds
Compose your shots using the rule of thirds. Imagine your frame divided into a tic-tac-toe grid, and place key elements of your photo along these lines or at their intersections. This simple technique can instantly make your photos more visually appealing.
6. Don’t Forget the People for Scale
Including people in your shots can provide a sense of scale and add depth to your photographs. Ask fellow travelers or use local guides to add a human element to your images.
7. Manage Your Exposure
The high altitude of Machu Picchu can lead to harsh lighting conditions. To balance the exposure, consider using a graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky while keeping the foreground properly exposed.
8. Capture the Mystical Fog
Machu Picchu often shrouds itself in a mystical mist. Embrace this atmospheric phenomenon in your photos. The fog can add a sense of mystery and drama to your shots.
9. Photograph the Sacred Rock, Intihuatana or Temple of the 3 windows
The Sacred Rock is a large stone formation where religious rituals were performed. The shape of the rock was carved to follow the silhouette of a mountain located behind and in the distance. It is one of the most photographed spots at Machu Picchu.
Another great spot for pictures of Machu Picchu is the Intihuatana: this stone structure is believed to be an ancient astronomical clock and is located at the highest point within the ruins. From here, you can get a stunning view of the ruins below, as well as the surrounding mountains.Finally, you probably don’t want to miss the Temple of the 3 windows. This stone temple is escorted by the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Condor. As its name indicates, it has 3 trapezoidal windows that were used for religious rites. The Temple of the 3 windows is one of the best examples of the symmetrical architecture so typical of the Incas you see all over Machu Picchu, thanks to the unique techniques of cutting and joining of stones the Inca’s used.
10. Hike to Huayna Picchu
The Huayna Picchu hike is a challenging trek up a steep trail to an overlook with breathtaking views of the citadel and surrounding landscape. Here you can take some truly Breathtaking Views of the Inca Citadel. To access the Huayna Picchu trail, you will need to purchase a separate ticket in advance (only a limited number of hikers are allowed on the trail each day). We recommend the use of a telephoto lens that allows you to zoom in and capture detailed shots of Machu Picchu from above, while a polarizing filter can help reduce glare and improve the saturation and contrast in your photos.
Tips for Beginner Photographers in Peru
If you’re a beginner photographer traveling to Peru, here are some general tips to enhance your photography experience:
a. Learn the Basics of Your Camera
Take some time to familiarize yourself with your camera’s settings and features. Understanding how to adjust aperture, shutter speed, and ISO will give you greater control over your shots.
b. Pack Essentials
Make sure you have the essentials: extra batteries, memory cards, a sturdy tripod, and a camera bag to protect your gear.
c. Research and Plan
Do some research on your destination before your trip. Knowing the best times to visit, popular photography spots, and any local regulations can make a big difference.
d. Practice Composition
Composition is key to great photography. Practice framing your shots and pay attention to elements like leading lines, symmetry, and balance.
e. Stay Patient and Experiment
Photography is an art that requires patience and experimentation. Don’t be discouraged by initial results; keep trying and learning from your mistakes.
f. Respect Local Culture
Remember to be respectful of local culture and customs in Peru when taking photos of people in Cusco or elsewhere, or religious sites. Always ask for permission when needed.Machu Picchu is a place of wonder and magic, and with the right photography techniques and some practice, you can capture its essence in your images. So, pack your camera, follow these tips, and get ready to create stunning memories of this incredible Peruvian treasure.