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Photography Tips for Archaeological Sites

By Ana Torres |

Follow these photography tips for archaeological architecture at one of the most famous destinations in the world: the Mayan region in Southeast Mexico.


Photography is a way to translate our feelings into pictures. Nowadays, travelers bet on this media to immortalize the memories of our journeys. Just like the American writer Susan Sontag once said: “Today everything exists to end in a photograph”.

But in order to have a travel photo album that makes everybody sigh, it’s necessary to apply some strategies that help transform the landscape into a magical environment. Even though there are places that possess unique beauty, the art of photography is not found within things; it is a balanced work the photographer creates between technique and experimentation. Because of thisDINKtravelers brings you some tips to create archaeological photography, using as an example one of the most famous destinations in the world: the Mayan territory in the southeast Mexico!


Take into consideration that in order to photograph architecture you basically need two things: a broad field of view –that is, to stand on a place that allows you to have a panoramic view– and a lens that guarantees the least distortion, so we suggest packing a wide-angle lens.

When it comes to big sized buildings, like the pyramids, try using a classic focus that covers the whole landscape and keep the horizon straight. Don’t forget to include enough space around the building in the picture, leaving enough room between your subject and the natural borders and sky that frame it. Remember that Mayan buildings weren’t built as isolated constructions, so the context around them is very important because it helps understand the design, location and functions each one of them had.


In order to try different shots, practice outdoors framing and avoid blurry photographs in darker areas, you’ll need to use a tripod. Carry it with you to practice indoors, like in the houses’ remains and the ceremonial centers that are open for visitors, where it’s common to shoot long exposure photography. Of course, ask the guards or at the archaeological site’s ticket office if you are allowed to use a tripod, because it’s a photographic accessory whose use is forbidden in many places, considering that it might cause other visitors to trip or damage the structures.


Some of the archaeological structures preserve details sculpted on stone that narrate mythological stories and important events that took place in the Mayans’ everyday life. Talk to the archaeological site’s guides and ask them to help you understand the engravings, and then use a zoom lens to create photos you can add to a part of your scrapbook dedicated to interesting and unique details.


When we talk about photography, light is essential. Both outdoors and indoors, play with lights and shadows. Analyze the different hours of the day and take advantage from the natural light at dawn and dusk in order to create photos with soft shadows and detailed images. Meanwhile, profit from sunlight at noon if you want to have strong and defined shadows. Of course, don’t forget about the famous blue hour that runs just after the dusk. During that time you can play with purples that seem to coat the buildings as well as the natural landscape.

Take into consideration that some particularly interesting archaeological buildings are commonly illuminated at night. That’s another perfect moment to capture elements that seem to hide during the day.

If you want your photographs to become your best souvenir, follow our tips and remember to share with us the best pictures you take on your next vacation!