Photographs without People

Photography is an essential part of vacations for most people like me. Whether you agree or not, one of the most attractive prepositions for a vacation is an opportunity to indulge in photography. Even though human element looks good in most photographs, every once in a while we would love to capture photographs with no people in them. So how do we do it especially when the world population is so high and even the least popular tourist destinations seems to be full of people?

St. Andrew's Church in Kyiv

(St. Andrew’s Church in Kyiv – Captured using a compact inexpensive camera. The photograph was clicked in the early part of the day. Observe the lengthy shadows and the directional light from one side. The photograph below was taken in the later half of the day when the tourists were thinning out and yet the stairs are full of people)

(St. Andrew’s Church in the later part of the day – Notice the crowd on the stairs)


The four simple do’s to avoid people in the photographs –

Be Early

Reach the destination early. Not everyone on a vacation likes to get up early in the morning. If you reach the location early, there are high chances that there will be almost no one there. Click to your heart’s content and enjoy the bliss. Being early also helps with lighting. The early morning slanting light can be wonderful for photography. Add to it the least amount of dust and fine weather. The photography experience itself will improve. So try to be early at your destination if you want to avoid people.

Visit on a working day

Visiting a tourist destination on a working day also helps. At least the people who are resident of that place will most probably be in their respective offices. Less of crowd!

Hang Around

Spend sometime at the place from where you want to click photographs. As the numbers would have it, the people usually seem to come in groups. Once the first group passed by, you might be able to click a couple of frames before the next tide of tourists. Be patient and once the opportunity comes when there are no people, grab it.

Bird’s Eyeview

Taking a photograph from a high view point helps in avoiding people standing close-by. This is what press photographers do for photographing popular parades on crowded streets. Articulated LCD screens are useful here.


Mysore Palace

(Mysore Palace – On a busy tourist day. Just a five minute wait provided me with a clear view without any people. Nikon FM2 with Nikkor 35mm lens using Fuji Velvia film, scanned on a multifunctional inexpensive printer-scanner)


People still might appear and spoil your photographs. There are two techniques that can help here.

Motion Blur

Mount your camera on tripod and use a really dark ND filter to get long exposures. Moving people will not be able to create an image. This technique may however be useless when the exposure time is not very long or if the people are not moving around much.

Image Stacking

This is a darkroom technique. The principle behind this technique is that multiple pictures of the same scene are clicked while keeping the camera stable. The people who are moving around will be at different locations in each frame. When these photographs are stacked on top of each other, the anomalies which appear in some pictures but not in others are removed, which in this case happen to be people.


How to do photo-stacking?

Mount the camera on a tripod. Similar images is the first prerequisite for good stacking. Keep the camera settings same for all the photographs.

For good stacking, click about 20-25 photographs at enough intervals that people actually appear at different locations. For a double storey building where people are moving across the frame, an interval of about 5-10 seconds is fine. For a five storey high monument, where the people are hovering around the monument, 15-30 second intervals might be required.

Import the photos to your computer and select launch your favorite photo-editor. Most photoeditors have their own methods of stacking.

On Photoshop, select file>scripts>statistics. This will open up image statistics. Select median in the choose stack mode field. from this dialogue box itself, select all the photos that you have captured for stacking. Once the stacking is complete, merge the layers using ‘flatten’ function.

(I’ll be writing about stacking sometime soon in a dedicated article)

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