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Taj Mahal At Sunrise








A creative take on the Taj Mahal through an archway of one of its nearby red sandstone mosques.

Intro: After visiting India’s famed Taj Mahal amidst the sunset crowds, we returned first thing the next morning so I could get some clean shots of this testament to love during a peaceful sunrise.

When booking our trip to India, I knew that I wanted to visit the Taj Mahal at both sunset and sunrise, and considering it is one of India’s most impressive sites, Charlene had no problem in going there twice.

After arriving in Agra from Varanasi, we visited the Taj Mahal at sunset to catch the beautiful, golden light just as it was hitting this amazing, marble structure. But late afternoon is a popular time for visitors and the place was absolutely packed. Hundreds, thousands (maybe even tens of thousands) of people filled the area, so I was excited to go back in the morning when there would (hopefully) be less people and I would be able to get a photo of the Taj Mahal when no one else was around.

For our visit to the Taj Mahal, my wife and I had researched online in order to find out the best time to visit. I wanted to make sure we had a detailed plan, given the size and popularity of the attraction, and I didn’t want to have any problems, especially since this would be our only opportunity to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise.


Arriving at the entrance to the Taj Mahal in the pre-dawn hours when there was hardly anyone else around.

On the day of our second visit to the Taj Mahal, we woke up early and got ready, and around 5:30AM our driver Nandu and tour guide Shankar picked us up from our hotel. The commute was relatively easy, as we were staying at the Radisson Blu Hotel, which is located only a few minutes away.

Charlene proudly holding her ticket for entry into Agra’s Taj Mahal as we waited for the gates to open at 6AM.

We were in line by 5:45AM, and about forty or fifty other people were already waiting, although the doors didn’t open until 6AM. Like the day before, Charlene had to wait in the line designated for women, while Shankar and I waited in the line for men.

When the doors opened, we would have to go through security before entering the complex. As a photographer, I needed to know beforehand what I could bring with me into the Taj Mahal and what was prohibited. During my research, I learned that security did not allow tripods and that it was best not to bring a big backpack. So all I brought were two DSLR cameras and two separate lenses (24-70mm and 70-200mm). Charlene and I split the items between us, to ensure we could get both cameras inside.

Tourists waiting outside the main gate of the Taj Mahal in the early morning hours, before its official opening time of 6AM.

As we waited in line, the atmosphere at the Taj Mahal was already different from the evening before. With less people, it was quieter and much more peaceful. It was also still dark when we arrived, gradually becoming lighter as we waited in line, but the sunrise didn’t actually happen until closer to 7AM, later than I had hoped.


The Taj Mahal looking ethereal at the end of its reflecting pool during our early morning visit.

Despite the lighting conditions, the doors did open on time, and after going through the security check, I dashed into the complex. I ran across the giant courtyard, through the main entrance, and right up to the famous spot where the Taj Mahal reflects in its elongated pool. Before I could catch a breath, I was already clicking away with both my cameras, getting a variety of shots, including both close-ups and wide angles.

Tourists busy snapping photos of the Taj Mahal at the end of its famous reflecting pool.

But I was not alone for long! A few minutes after I arrived people were already lined up right next to me for photos of their own. But in those few short minutes I was able to get some clean shots of the Taj Mahal, without any people in the frame.

An HDR image taken of the Taj Mahal at sunset, with my camera placed on the ground (no tripods allowed inside the site).

Since we had visited the Taj Mahal the afternoon before, we spent only about twenty minutes inside the complex the second time around. It was a nice, cool morning, and although there were some people around, it was not nearly as crowded as the first time we had visited the afternoon before. As a result, I was able to take more creative and interesting photos, including some high dynamic range (HDR) ones.

My beautiful wife with the equally beautiful white marble mausoleum of the Taj Mahal.

I used Canon’s in-camera HDR feature (not that great), but also placed the 5DM3 on the ground to take multiple frames at various exposures. Since I wasn’t allowed to bring a tripod into the Taj Mahal (plus the sun was quickly coming up) I had to find alternative solutions to get these HDR shots.

After we had our fill of this beautiful testament to love, we left to capture a different view of the Taj Mahal…which turned out to be one of my favorite excursions on our entire trip to India.

Some final words of advice. If you want a photo of the Taj Mahal without any people, you will have to arrive at the gates very early. Plan to arrive by 5:30AM, so that you are near the front of the line by the time the doors open at 6AM. Bring only items that are allowed, to ensure you get through security – that means no tripods for photographers! And don’t forget to have a good time!

Together in front of the Taj Mahal, with not another tourist in sight!

Even though we did not spend all day inside the complex, we still had a great experience. I was happy to get some photos in the early morning light and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere at that time of day. I can certainly say that sunrise at the Taj Mahal is a very different experience than sunset.


  • 1: A visit of the Taj Mahal is not complete if you don’t come for a sunrise view.
  • 2: Plan on arriving at least 20 minutes before the gates open to ensure you’re one of the first visitors.
  • 3: Leave any tripods with your guide since they are not allowed on the premises.
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