Top 7 Tips for Taking and Editing Photos of Historical Sites

by Anna Hicks

Fayette, Michigan buildings by Dave Alexander

Fayette, Michigan buildings by Dave Alexander

If taking photos is your passion, you have probably not only gone to many historical sites, but used presets to edit those same photos as well. The thing to remember is that taking and editing photos of historical sites and buildings is a little different than taking and editing shots of other things, such as weddings and people. With that in mind, read on below for a few of the top tips out there for doing both the right way.

Get Up Early 

Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Officer Row Windows. Photo by Kathy Alexander.

If you want to take photos of breathtaking historical sites like Fort Laramie, you need to be an early riser so you can get it in the right light. Although very few people want to wake up early on a vacation, for us photographers it’s a really big advantage. What are the benefits of taking these photos in the early morning, you might ask? Simple, you don’t have to worry about people stepping into your shot. After all, you’re there to photograph the site, not the people. Also, it lets you take the shot in a soft, gentle light, which also helps with editing later on down the line.

Make Sure to Go in Fully-Equipped 

Whether it’s Black Mountain or an old Civil War building, you are going to appreciate a wide lens when capturing your shots. Historic buildings and other historic sites are usually immense, and you want to be able to get everything in your image. If the day is bright and sunny, make sure to include a polarizing filter in your camera bag. This is the perfect way to ensure no pesky reflections in windows come through to ruin your shot. While editing can do a lot, it may not be able to take out those reflections.

Remember, not every day is going to have the perfect conditions for taking the gorgeous shots you want to take. It is possible that the historic site you are photographing has bad light conditions, so never fail to bring your tripod with you. Not only does this make it possible to get panoramic images, but it helps when capturing images that have a smaller aperture, to help you get crystal clear details.

Use Varied Conditions 

Don’t just take your photos in the morning light, using varied conditions can make all the difference in the photos you get, and even the photos you decide to keep during editing. Try returning to the site during the evening, in a different light, or even in different weather to get the best shots you can. For example, taking photos of historic sites at sunset can add a dramatic touch to your photo that might not have otherwise come across in different conditions. You can use Lightroom Presets to enhance the colors, depth, and composition of your photos.  

Taking photos of John’s Modern Cabins along old Route 66 in Missouri.

Shoot from Unconventional Angles 

Shooting from unconventional angles is another way to ensure your shots are unique and you are getting the historic site from every angle possible. For example, capture the building from the opposite side of where people are gathered, for a lonely, forlorn look, that often speaks to the history of a building. Don’t ignore the atypical shots and views, however, as they have their place in these photos as well.

Put Your Focus on the Details 

As you have probably been told most of your life, the devil is in the details. Photography and taking photos of historic sites are no different. Close-ups of gravestones in the local historic cemetery, or the moss-laden tree at the historic haunted church you are visiting, can pack quite a punch after editing is done. If you arrange the photos into a photo series, you can really capture the building’s overall atmosphere and take people’s breath away with your work.

Always, Always Take Your Time 


Buildings on Alcatraz Island, 2009. Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

The one thing you always, always want to do when snapping photos of historic sites is to take your time. Take your time and enjoy the passion you have for not only historic sites but photography as well. There is nothing wrong with slowing down and loving what you’re doing. Whether you are taking the photos for a local magazine you work for, or just because it’s your hobby, you want to enjoy it. Whether it’s in the morning, evening, and in good or bad weather, take your time and be patient. After all, these historic sites have stood in these spots for many, many years and have stories to tell. You can capture those stories one frame at a time.


Now that you have your gorgeous photos and have followed the tips above to capture them, it’s time for editing. Of course, you already have Lightroom and are using the presets. You want your images of historic sites to rock though, even more than they already do, don’t you?

Well, you can do that by doing the following things.

  • Make sure your composition is right. If not, crop it.
  • Check your highlights to see that they are perfect.
  • Check the shadows in the photo, just in case you overexposed the image.
  • If you shoot wide, it is possible that you have dark corners, vignetting, in your photos. Check for these problems and then fix them.
  • Check your color and hue. This is up to you, as everyone wants different colors and hues in the subjects they photograph.

Editing doesn’t have to be hard, as a matter of fact, it can be as simple as taking the photograph was. Many photographers have a passion for taking photos, but the editing, not so much. With Lightroom Presets, the editing is quick and simple, and the results can be downright stunning.

These are just a few of the tips and tricks out there you can use to photograph, then edit the historic sites you visit. Whether it is for work, photography contests or it’s something you just love to do, following these tips will ensure that your historic pictures can become pieces of history themselves. Happy picture taking everyone! 

©Anna Hicks, November 2018

About the Author: Anna Hicks is the blogger behind While she once wanted to be a teacher, she now gets her history fix by writing on the subject. She also enjoys writing about DIY, personal finance, and her terrible cooking skills.

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