Here’s a brief photography lesson on taking pictures of the outside of buildings. I’ll use this example photo from Angkor Wat:
Use people for scale
Photographing architecture is hard. Most of the reason is that it’s difficult to show just how big buildings are. My solution is to include people in the frame for scale. People are interesting and including them shows the real world. Most photos show a fictional world where temples are empty, I don’t like that world, it’s more interesting to show things as they actually are.
Focus on the building
Regardless of people in the frame the subject of the shot is the building, so I set the camera to focus on the building. Then I open up the aperture (in this case f/2) so that only the building is in focus and the people are blurred out. This gives the picture a three-dimensional feeling.
I like to squat on the ground. Shots from eye level generally look more boring that shots from low down. Low shots give a better sense of the architecture rising from the ground, and with architecture you want to be looking up, not down.
If I have time I wait until the people have symmetry in their positions. My general approach is to shoot one picture and then wait until I have another shot I know is better than the previous one. If I’m in a rush I won’t wait long, but in this shot from Banteay Srei I had enough time to wait until people lined up just as I wanted them to.
I hope this helps you take better vacation pictures next time you travel.