Machu Picchu

How to Take the Best Photos of Machu Picchu with a Smartphone

The sacred Machu Picchu in Peru, South America, is one of those places that you need to capture photographically. Memories of your mission to this bucket list destination will live forever through your photos and videos, and thankfully for modern technology, most of us have cameras on us all the time by way of our smartphones. Even if you don’t have a DSLR, fancy zoom lenses or professional photography equipment, you can snap some amazing shots of Machu Picchu with your smartphone, provided you are equipped with the right information. Here are 5 tips on how to take the best photos of Machu Picchu with a smartphone.

Get an early start

Although not a smartphone specific tip, it’s an important one for anyone travelling to Machu Picchu. The venue is crowded with tourists all times of the year, you can’t escape this no matter when you plan your trip, but you can make the most of the early hours to avoid the real masses. Less people = less interference when taking the perfect shot. Get there as early as you can to savour the best of the sacred city before it’s inundated with people.

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

Many tours will arrive at Machu Picchu mid-morning to lunchtime, which is what you would like to avoid if possible. Choose a tour that reaches the ancient city at sunrise so that you can take advantage of the morning light while reducing the number of random people in your beautiful photographs.

To do this, it’s a good idea to consider booking an Inca Trail trek as opposed to a tour that simply just visits this famous landmark. If you wish to travel solo you can make your way there yourself and stay in the town of Aguas Calientes the night before you venture into Machu Picchu.

Our tips for getting there at the right time:

  1. Book a train ticket from Cusco or Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes well in advance, as these tickets get snapped up before you can blink
  2. Book a night’s accommodation in Aguas Calientes
  3. Buy your ticket to Machu Picchu before you go. There are no tickets to Machu Picchu available for purchase at the entrance, so buy yours in advance in Aguas Calientes
  4. The gates open from 6am so make sure you are there when they do
  5. Buses start running from Aguas Calientes at about 5:30am, so get on the first one you can to be treated to the best of the day

Buy a smartphone tripod

If you’re travelling alone and you want to be in some of your photographs, the best thing to do is set the self-timer and get in the shot. Using a tripod will make it so much easier to get a stable, properly composed photo that you can pose for with your brightest smile. The tripod is also great for shooting a hyper-lapse video of the goings on in the city. Consider the roaming clouds, the bustling tourists, the changes in light. It all makes for a memorable and magical movie.

Take a burst of photos

If you’re trying to get a few photos without people in them, try and shoot some on burst mode. You generally get about ten different photos to choose from and perhaps one will be without background tourists. If not, you can stitch the best part of the photos together later or even Photoshop the people out.

The perfect Machu Picchu shot

Anyone travelling to Machu Picchu has to get the perfect Machu Picchu shot that tells the world that you’ve been there and done that. Make it an obligatory selfie with your smartphone, but also set up your tripod and take a few shots with you in them, but not in selfie mode. That way you can capture the surroundings and you as if they were shot by a pro.

Getting to that perfect spot is easy. Simply hang a left as soon as you can when you walk in through the main gate. If you’ve arrived at 6am when the gates open, you will still find many tourists doing the same thing – they’ve all got the memo – but be patient and wait your turn because you simply cannot go all the way to Machu Picchu and forego this perfect shot.

Travel to: Machu Picchu

Head uphill towards the Inca Trail and you will eventually get to a flat, open landing that offers the most sumptuous views over Machu Picchu. You could well find that there are already countless people doing the same thing, so again… exercise patience and wait your turn.

Snap a selfie, get someone to take a shot for you and take a few photos with only the magic of the ancient city to tell the story. You’ll have the Wayana Picchu hill/mountain in the background to set the perfect scene.

How to Take the Best Photos of Machu Picchu with a Smartphone
Machu Picchu (detail)

Exercise patience

While there are many photographic opportunities at Machu Picchu, you will often have to wait for the perfect moment to take your shot. Bide your time and really take it all in. If you’re rushing to take the perfect photograph, you miss out on the essence of this magnificent place. Enjoy it and the beautiful photos will follow, we promise.

Machu Picchu has so many great angles for getting shots with your smartphone! My top tip is to be patient. Not only does the lighting and cloud cover change every second at Machu Picchu, but there are a lot of crowds as well. Try to find your best photo angle and then wait for the clouds and people to move. If you wait a few minutes, you’re bound to get a good shot. If you can find a spot with a llama then, even better! I found I got my best photos when the clouds were covering the bright sun and making the photo lighting less harsh. Snap a bunch so you have options! – Katie, The Travelling Spud

Antonia is a passionate writer and an avid reader. Eat well, travel often - are some of the words she lives by. When she's not writing or reading, she loves getting out in nature, hiking or losing herself in unknown cities.

Up Next:

The Most Accessible Destinations for Disabled Travellers

The Most Accessible Destinations for Disabled Travellers