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An India Bucket List for Photographers

The Taj Mahal, India

I think everyone should travel to India at least once in their lives, but if you’re a professional photographer or have a passion for photography as a hobby, then it’s an absolute must. Every corner and alleyway in India has something to marvel at — and of course, to photograph. Whether it was the ornate doorways of every home in the Golden City of Jaisalmer or the beautifully chipped pink paint in Jaipur’s Amber Fort, the stunning details of this country left me pretty snap happy. After traveling around nine different cities throughout North India, here are the spots I would recommend most for capturing this amazing country on camera.

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1. The Winding Streets of Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer, located in the heart of the Thar Desert is one of the most Western cities in India that I visited. Once you step foot inside the walled fort or get lost within the streets of the surrounding neighborhoods, you’ll quickly understand why it’s referred to as the “Golden City.” The yellow sandstone architecture is omnipresent, but what I couldn’t stop photographing were all of the intricate doorways that seem to be a staple for every home here. If you have a thing with doorways like I do, I can promise you won’t be able to put your camera away.

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2. Camelback in the Jaisalmer Desert

If you head to Jaisalmer, make sure to book a camel trek through the Thar Desert, as the photo opps are endless. Camel selfies. Camel silhouettes at sunset. Riding camelback along the sand dunes. How many creative ways can you photograph a camel? These animals have really funny personalities and are super entertaining to photograph.

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3. The Old City, Jodhpur

Love bright colors? If so, then the Old City of Jodhpur also known as the “Blue City” is a must on your list. I could get lost in the streets here for hours photographing all the various shades of blue that covered the homes and shops. The Old City surrounds the Mehrangarh Fort, so if you’re making the fort a day trip, include the Old City in your tour by simply walking down into the streets from the fort rather than taking transportation back out to the main hubbub of Jodhpur.

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4. Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi

As a rule, I wouldn’t recommend spending too much of your time in Delhi, but Humayun’s Tomb should be one of the must-visit spots in your city itinerary. It’s a great location for playing with symmetry shots or trying out different perspectives from varying levels of the structure.

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5. Jodhpur Stepwell

Stumbling upon this centuries old stepwell tucked away in the winding blue-washed streets of Jodhpur’s Old City was one of my favorite moments in all of my India travels. It’s the perfect location to play with perspective and scale–plus it’s just really cool and unlike anything you’ll see in the Western world. To find it, navigate to the hotel Raas in Jodhpur whose dining room overlooks this scene.

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6. Jaswant Thada, Jodhpur

We almost skipped this spot during our few days in Jodhpur, but I’m so glad we took the extra time to explore Jaswant Thada. It’s the quintessential picture of Indian architecture that one imagines before arriving. Featuring milky-white marble, domes galore and surrounding gardens, it’s quite a peaceful spot to visit to escape the chaotic streets of the city.

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7. Karni Mata Temple Hike in Udaipur

Sunrise hikes always seem to be some of the most rewarding photo opps, and this one up to Karni Mata Temple is actually fairly easy. It also doesn’t take much time to get to the top and is not super touristy, which means your wake-up call and trek up will be relatively painless. Double win! Don’t forget your tripod to make sure you get some epic shots of the white city below.

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8. Jama Masjid Mosque, Delhi

The Red Fort seems to be the tourist spot of choice in Delhi, but I found Jama Masjid to be an equally beautiful substitute and less touristy! Make sure to venture inside to get a glimpse of the majestic crystal chandeliers or pay a small extra fee to climb up the tower for a view overlooking the city.

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9. Mehrangarh Fort

Learning about Indian history and culture is the main draw for visiting Mehrangarh Fort, but I was blown away by the incredibly intricate architecture and details in every room and corridor. Make sure to pay the extra 100 rupees for your camera because it’s so worth it.

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10. Chandi Chowk, Delhi

I loved visiting the Chandi Chowk area in Delhi early in the morning to witness all of the locals buzzing about and setting up their shops for the day. Some were still sleeping on tuk tuks, some men were getting a shave on the sidewalk, and others were going through the mundane tasks of prepping for another day at work. If you’re starting your trip off in Delhi, this is a great first stop to soak in the local culture and get some great portraits.

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11. Lake Pichola, Udaipur

Udaipur is a stunning city to photograph any way you cut it, but I loved how capturing the waterfront by boat felt reminiscent of Venice, Italy with its white-washed buildings seemingly rising out of the lake. I recommend booking a boat for either sunrise or sunset to get the best tours of the harbor.

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12. City Palace, Udaipur

If framing photos is your thing, then you’ll go gaga over the City Palace in Udaipur which overlooks Lake Pichola on one side and a sea of white structures on the other. Plus, the beautiful interior and history of the City Palace is reason in itself to visit.

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13. Savitri Mata Mandir Temple Hike, Pushkar

Short-legged ladies beware…this is not the easiest hike to climb up for those of us of average height, but the views at sunset (or sunrise) are oh so worth it. Bonus: It’s free. Double bonus: There are tons of monkeys at the top that love to sit for you in Lion King-like poses so you can get that epic shot. I’m not sure if they do this every night, but we arrived at the top of the mountain as the monks were feeding some of the monkeys and I have about 100 pictures to show for it.

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14. Indique Rooftop Bar, Jodhpur

After a long day spent exploring the streets of Jodhpur on foot, a few friends and I were looking for the perfect place to grab a bite — and some peace and quiet, if only for an hour. Luckily we stumbled upon Indique Bar inside the Pal Haveli hotel which turned out to be super stylish AND a pretty epic spot to capture views overlooking some of Jodhpur’s top spots including the Clock Tower (pictured), Jaswant Thada, the Mehrangarh Fort and Umaid Bhawan Palace. Win!

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15. City Palace, Jaipur

You might recognize the above as the most famous doorway in India, located inside Jaipur’s City Palace — but the beautiful doorways are just a small portion of this palace’s beauty. I went gaga over all of the coral tones, oversized archways and chandeliers here. Ps – this doorway is way smaller in person than it looks on the cover of those guidebooks!

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16. Agra Fort

I must have lurked around these dimpled archways for a half hour waiting for a moment when all the tourists cleared. It eventually happened (clearly not for this photo), but it definitely takes patience to get the right shot at some of India’s mega tourist attractions like the Agra Fort. The good news is, this landmark is like a maze, so there are plenty of nooks and crannies to get lost in and simultaneously get creative with your shots.

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17. Amber Palace, Jaipur

If you love a warm color palette, you’ll go crazy for Jaipur’s Amber Fort which is washed in gorgeous shades of orange, pinks and corals. I was actually disappointed by how little time our guided tour spent here, so if you love to take extra time for photos, maybe ditch the guide or find one that will stay inside until you’ve snapped photos to your heart’s content. There are some incredible backdrops for portraits here, so plan your outfit accordingly if that’s on your agenda!

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18. Varanasi By Boat

Varanasi was one of the most fascinating places I visited throughout my month in India. Set along the Ganges, it’s an extremely holy city for Indians and thus is also a place where many Indians choose to be cremated after death. You can witness the cremation ghats on land or by boat (although it’s disrespectful to the families of the deceased to take photos here), but fear not — there are plenty of things to photograph from the river including nightly flower ceremonies, locals and pilgrims bathing in the Ganges, and swarms of row boats moving in between ghats.

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19. The Taj Mahal

Last but not least, you can’t talk about photographing India and not mention the Taj Mahal, but it’s actually a pretty tricky spot to shoot. Even if you arrive to wait in line at sunrise (like I did), you’ll still be hard pressed to get any sort of shot sans tourists. My best advice for capturing that epic shot? Ditch your shame and make a run to the front of the pack as soon as you get inside with camera ready. The rest is up to luck and creativity.

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  • Anna July 15, 2016 at 2:29 am

    Beautiful post, Michelle and a beautiful website you created. Congratulations. Wish you all the best and so much fun with your new blog and your travels 🙂