Top Tips for Taking Great History Photos | History Hit

Top Tips for Taking Great History Photos

Teet Ottin

01 Aug 2023
Image Credit: 19 STUDIO / (left); ©Teet Ottin (right); History Hit

The world is filled to the brim with beautiful historic sites that are just waiting to be photographed. Be it medieval castles, ruins of lost civilisations, ancient statues or remains of bygone industry – historic photography is an incredibly varied and fun field. But how to make sure your photos stand apart from the rest? Finding ways to capture landmarks that are tourist hotspots in a new and fresh way may feel almost impossible. Having an image that is unique is the goal for many a hobby or professional photographer, filling one with a sense of achievement and pride.

To assist you with your photographic journey we are sharing some tips for taking great history photos.

Know your equipment

Possibly one of the most important pieces of advice is to thoroughly know the inner and outer workings of your camera. To take great pictures you don’t need to have the most expensive equipment, but you do need to know how to use them to their full potential. Have you tried playing around with your camera’s shutter speed, ISO, aperture? Does your camera have internal image stabilisation, is it weather sealed, what are the autofocus settings? Paying attention to those things can really improve the quality of your images.

View towards Arundel Cathedral from the Arundel Castle grounds, April 2021

Image Credit: ©Teet Ottin

Find something that excites you

Historic photography is incredibly varied, allowing you to try out many different styles and ideas. The best pictures are created if the photographer enjoys what they are doing, which means finding the right subject is crucial.


Do you enjoy portrait photography? Try taking pictures of old statues and busts. Do you love capturing fine details? Try photographing old coins. Even if you don’t know what you are passionate about, go out and start taking pictures, you will soon discover which things draw your eye.

San Sebastián Cathedral, July 2021 (original image cropped)

Image Credit: ©Teet Ottin

Use a tripod

Tripods are great at allowing you to stabilise your image. This is especially important if you are taking long exposure photos in which the camera’s shutter is left open during a somewhat lengthy period of time. This allows you to take high quality images in darker places or get the silky water effect for shoots near bodies of water. But don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a tripod, it is a very useful tool in certain situations, though not needed all the time.


The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome. May 2022

Image Credit: ©Teet Ottin

Check the weather

Do you have an image idea in your head? Start preparing the details. Checking the weather forecast is quite important if you are planning on taking outdoor pictures. Light is crucial for photography and different types of weather will give your photos a different feel. The early morning and late evening sun are usually the best if you want your pictures to be rich in warmth and soft lighting. Stormy days may offer you dramatic dark clouds, while cloudless skies open up a perfect backdrop for black and white photography.

Menai Suspension Bridge, June 2021

Image Credit: ©Teet Ottin

Know the history and be respectful

It is always a good idea to know some of the history of the sites or objects you are photographing. This can help you to single out especially significant parts of a building or help you to stay out of trouble. Some sites have strict rules, not allowing any photos to be taken (some religious buildings for example). Make sure that no damage is done to any of the sites or objects you decided to capture with your camera.


Telford Suspension Bridge, June 2021

Image Credit: ©Teet Ottin

Think about composition

When taking a photo you should keep in mind how all elements in the frame are positioned – composition is king. Move around and try taking pictures from different angles and play around with your zoom. These steps will help you to find a composition which has not been repeated a thousand times by others. With some buildings, instead of focusing on trying to capture the whole structure, you can experiment with photographing smaller details and elements to create a more unique image. You can also utilise magnifying glasses or even normal reading glasses to create interesting effects with your camera’s focus.

The dome of the Pantheon in Rome, May 2022

Image Credit: ©Teet Ottin

Take your time

If you want to take truly amazing images, then take your time and don’t rush. Only very few photographers are able to make every single of their photos a ‘winner’, for most people the best strategy is to take a lot of images and pick out the best back at home. If you have multiple camera lenses try out taking the same shot with different gear, you will be surprised how varied the results can be. The more you shoot the more likely you are going to find the perfect shot.


Ancient ruins in Rome, May 2022

Image Credit: ©Teet Ottin

Use editing software

Once you have taken a satisfying amount of pictures with your camera the last step begins – photo editing. The majority of images you see online have been retouched to achieve the perfect results. This includes colour correction, decreasing or increasing contrast and vibrance, removing elements from the image, cropping to achieve the perfect composition, etc. With programs like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom there is no end what you can achieve, though even some more simplistic editing tools can help your photos to stand out.

Angels on the St Angelo Bridge Rome (original image cropped)

Image Credit: ©Teet Ottin

Teet Ottin