On photographing the Taj Mahal, Agra
We would be millionaires if we had a penny for every time any one asked us which camera we use for our photos. Truth be told, photography is about scouting for locations, being patient, spending time (lots of it!) on capturing perfect frames. Good equipment can lend a helping hand but ultimately it’s your vision of a photograph that lends it that special something.
This is nowhere truer than at a place that boasts of being the most visited and most photographed monument in the world – THE Taj Mahal. How can one photograph the mighty Taj Mahal in ways that pay homage to the sheer splendour of the monument? I won’t lie – in the process you might have to walk through grubby alleyways, mucky passages, or sit on rickety boats that could give way any second 😉 But that’s how you find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!
Luckily for you, we did the dirty work (quite literally – there were quite a few soiled shoes at these excursions) and dug up our favourite places in Agra for clicking photographs of the Taj Mahal.
Getting to the Taj Mahal from New Delhi
The Taj Mahal is an easy four hour drive from New Delhi on the Yamuna Expressway. The highway is in great shape and there are tons of public toilets and restaurants along the way. Expect to pay INR 415 (£5) as toll tax.
The Taj Mahal makes for an easy day trip from New Delhi but we would suggest staying in Agra at least for one night. This is because sunrise and sunset are the best times to photograph the Taj Mahal. Here are five of our favourite places to photograph the Taj Mahal:
I) The compound of Taj Mahal for capturing it up close
You’ve paid the entry fee, walked around the complex of Taj Mahal, marvelled at the intricate carvings on walls, and it’s time to leave. But you don’t have a single photo that does justice to the sheer scale of the Taj Mahal. Fret not – just head to either of the two red mosques (preferably the one on the that flank the main ivory building inside the Taj Mahal complex.
While the main building is swarming with people at most times of the day, you’ll be surprised to know that less than 1% of these visitors make it to the brick-coloured mosques on either side of the Taj Mahal. The doorways and arches of these mosques provide the perfect frame for capturing the Taj Mahal. This makes for the ideal photograph of the monument.
If you are one of the first few people into the Taj Mahal when it opens at sunrise, you can get a perfectly symmetrical shot with the fountains in the front. Just remember that at any time one of the minarets of the Taj is under repair, which means scaffoldings might spoil the photograph. We got this shot at noon:
Entry fee for Taj Mahal: INR 40 Indian nationals, INR 1000 (£12) for foreigners. Food and camera tripods are not allowed inside the Taj Mahal.
II) Hathi Ghat for photographing Taj Mahal at sunrise
I will preface this one with a warning – this is only for serious photography enthusiasts. Tourists rarely make their way to Hathi Ghat because it isn’t on the regular tourist trail and comprises a muddy field that doesn’t have much to offer. EXCEPT a spectacular view of Taj Mahal at sunrise. The barren river bed is distinctly underwhelming during the day but I promise you this – it is the perfect place to photograph Taj Mahal at sunrise. The first rays of the sun shine on the Taj Mahal in the distance and create magic. See for yourself:
Entry Fee: Free but you might lose a pair of shoes to muck in the process – consider yourself warned 😉 You can ask any cabbie or tuk-tuk driver to take you there.
III) Mehtab Bagh for photographing the facade of Taj Mahal
These gardens, right opposite the Taj Mahal, are perfect spot for clicking the Taj Mahal during the day. Legend has it that Shah Jahan thought of the gardens as the perfect place for viewing the Taj Mahal and absorbing the beauty of the mausoleum. He was right because the gardens offer a great vantage point for absorbing the beauty of the Taj Mahal. Mehtab Bagh is great at any time of the day but we suggest visiting the gardens in the evening and sticking around for sunset.
Entry Fee: INR 15 for Indian Nationals, INR 200 (£2.5) for foreigners
IV) Photograph the Taj Mahal from a hot air balloon
The Taj Balloon Festival is a relatively new phenomenon and takes place in November every year. Of course we had to go check it out for ourselves. Of course, one barely needs any persuasion to hop onto a hot air balloon when the mighty Taj Mahal is part of the photo. But this hot air balloon ride offers so much more.
Despite the infamous layer of smog in Agra, we loved gazing at the Taj Mahal and River Yamuna snaking its way through Agra, from the comfort of our hot air balloon. But the real fun started after that! Hundreds of little kids waved at our balloon from rooftops of houses, schools, and shops. Dozens of them actually followed our balloon as it landed in the countryside and came to say hello. We’ve been on plenty of hot air balloon rides before but this was inimitably Indian and truly special. We loved it and got some great photographs of the Taj Mahal too.
Entry fee: Taj Balloon Festival is still in its nascent stages but flights are expected to be priced around INR15000 (£180)
V) A whole new way of photographing the Taj Mahal – from a boat!
Go against the grain. When you’re standing at the entrance of the Taj Mahal, turn right. A short ten minute walk will take you to Dussehra Ghat at the banks of river Yamuna. It’s just 10 minutes away from the hustle bustle of the Taj Mahal but it seems like another world. There is rarely anyone except a couple of security guards, priests, and stray monkeys here.
The view of the Taj from the Yamuna Riverbank is pretty cool, so you could click a few photographs here. Or you could amplify the experience to another level and take a short boat ride on a decaying old-school boat. There is just one boatman by the name of Manoj here as this isn’t a ticketed attraction – we went back twice to find him but it was worth it 🙂 It’s easy to click the Taj Mahal while floating and gliding on the waters of River Yamuna but Manoj happily obliges by clicking a few shots if you want to be part of that photograph too.
Entry fee: This isn’t a formal ticketed ride but expect to pay INR 200-300 (£3-5) for a 15 minute boat ride.
Accommodation in Agra
If you want to be close to The Taj Mahal and enjoy gorgeous views of the monument right from your hotel whilst indulging in some luxury, go for either Oberoi Amarvilas (just 600 metres from Taj Mahal) or ITC Mughal (close to the West Gate of Taj Mahal). Alternatively you can find plenty of hotels in Agra to suit all budgets here.
Hope this gives you some nice ideas for photographing the Taj Mahal. Do remember to take a few moments without your camera to absorb the magic of Taj Mahal and its surroundings 🙂
Planning on travelling in India? Read all our articles on India for some offbeat and luxurious suggestions 🙂