How to photograph Machu Picchu

by Steve Brock on April 3, 2012

Around this same time last year, my family and I traveled to Peru. Before we left, I went online to find out details regarding taking pictures at Machu Picchu. What was the best time of day? What restrictions do they place on your camera, lenses or tripods? How big a bag can you carry with you? What filters, if any, were most useful? What angles or locations made for the best shots?

How do you find a new way of photographing someplace as iconic as Machu Picchu?

Answers to such questions (and many others) were hard to find, especially in one place. So to make it easier for anyone traveling to Machu Picchu who wants to get the best photographs possible, I’ve prepared this guide:

How to Photograph Machu Picchu

You can link to it directly above, or find it in the Tips and Tools section here on The Meaningful Traveler.

But wait! There’s more!

You may be thinking, “That’s great, but I have as much of a chance of getting to Machu Picchu as I do of spelling it correctly without help.” So you may assume this guide is as relevant to you as socks are to someone wearing flip-flops.

Not so.

This is actually a guide on how to take great travel photos anywhere. I just happen to use Machu Picchu as the example. So if you want to get better shots on your next trip, take a look.

Who knows? If you follow these tips for taking better travel photographs, you may find that your trip turns out to be – could it be? – even more meaningful. And if not, well, you’ll still have better images to show your friends…

So take a look and let me know what you think. If you have any tips for taking great travel pictures, share them as well.

If you found this interesting, why don't you share it with others?

  • That is really interesting that they charge a fee to use professional photo gear.

  • And not just a small fee. I believe it is something like US$300. Pretty steep but I’m starting to see that more and more places. Maybe not to that degree, but definitely restrictions on professionals or just the use of tripods. Museums, gardens, popular attractions are all starting to either charge or restrict access (e.g. at The Getty Museum in LA, you can’t film or photograph the place during normal operating hours. You have to pay a fee and come in with an escort before the museum opens). We live in a visual society…

  • Thank you very much for the Machu Picchu photography tips! Best regards, lien

    • Steve Brock

      I hope they are useful! Thanks for checking in and if you have any tips you find particularly helpful, please share as well. Thanks, Lien.

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  • David Slaughter

    This article was VERY helpful!
    I’m heading there in late April with a Nikon full frame dslr. If you were me what lenses would be in your kit?

    • Thanks, David. I’m glad the article has been useful.

      To answer your question and to confirm my own suspicions, I just went back and glanced through the EXIF data for my Machu Picchu images. I would say that probably 80% were shot at 18mm on my Nikon (AFS-C sensor) which would be 27mm on your full frame.

      So my top recommendation would be a wide angle, depending on what you have, but the 17-35mm would honestly cover probably 90% of your needs there. If you have a 10-24mm or 12-24mm, that would work as well. If that was the case, I’d take that really wide lens along with a 35mm prime and then throw in a telephoto because I did use my longer lens on Wayna Picchu looking down at the ruins. If you have the 70-200, that would be more than enough (and a bit heavy, but you’d be well covered). You could throw in the 50mm prime as well for your middle range if needed, but again, if you want to go light, pack the wide angle, a light and fast prime (the 35mm if you don’t have the 17-35 or the 50mm if you do and more for bokeh than for light since the whole place is pretty bright during the hours you can be there) and then a telephoto but definitely no need for a super zoom, at least that’s what I found.

      I thought about suggesting a macro lens for some of the interesting bugs and flowers around the place, but I would just bring an extension ring(s) and use one of my primes for the few times I wanted a macro shot.

      So in conclusion, if I had one lens it would be the 17-35mm which would cover almost all my shots there. Make panoramas if you want wider. But I would have the zoom just in case (especially if you like to capture some of the antics of the other tourists especially with the llamas).

      And as I noted in the article, I’d definitely bring a ND grad filter and polarizer.

      Hope this helps but let me know if you have other questions.

      • David Slaughter

        perfect! thanks!

  • Andrew

    Thanks for the great tips, heading there this April, can’t wait!

    • Glad it was helpful, Andrew. You’ll be there the same time we were so hopefully you’ll have the same great weather and green mountainsides and fields as we did. Have a great trip!

  • John L

    As an article/blog post, the only value were high result links that also came up in my primary search.

    I appreciate curated content, but… expect a greater value add than links.

    • John L

      Steve, I should have complimented you on the linked article you’d written… well done.

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