austin travel tips

Day or night, Rainey Street rocks. (Photo: Getty Images)


How to ‘Keep Austin Weird’ as You Photograph This Capital of Cool

There’s Texas, and then there’s Austin. This eclectic capital city is an oasis of cool in a land of honky-tonk that’s best known for its live music scene and keeping things weird. A hotbed of art and culture, Austin marches to its own drumbeat. There’s more magic than expected to capture here through photography, it’s hard to know where to start.

That’s where photographer and influencer Alejandro Toro comes in. He visited SpringHill Suites by Marriott Austin Cedar Park to shoot the sights of this Texas gem and came up with a list of six Instagrammable Austin photo destinations that with a little digging, go beyond expectations. From flying bats to stunning murals, here’s your guide to can’t-miss snaps in America’s quirkiest city.

Rainey Street

If you’re looking for Instagrammable Austin moments, Alejandro says spending an afternoon on Rainey Street is the way to find them. Here, bungalow-houses-turned-bars, food trucks and other funky hangouts line the block, and both Austinites and tourists mingle and meander on the streets.

Instagram Tip: At this location, Alejandro encourages photographers to think beyond their Instagram grids. “You could make good Instagram stories with everything that’s happening on this busy and fun street. On my visit, I got to try Little Lucy’s Mini Donuts, and since the doughnuts are made fresh in the moment, I snapped a nice Boomerang.”

Capture the experience in ways your audience might not expect, like close-up videos of the doughnuts being made, to tell the story of your day.

Desert Door Distillery

what to photograph in austin
(Photos: Courtesy of Desert Door Distillery)

Located just beyond Austin’s city limits in Driftwood, Texas — wild sotol country — this distillery is known for its sotol spirit handcrafted from the plant. This versatile spirit replaces everything from vodka to tequila in your favorite cocktail, and here your bartender mixes it up in craft margaritas, mules and more.

Instagram tip: Desert Door’s natural light and regional art displays make it the perfect photo spot.

“Besides delicious cocktails, the tasting room offers huge windows that allow for lots of light to come in and white walls that reflect light, acting like the perfect bouncer,” says Alejandro. “My suggestion: Find a shaded spot with lots of reflecting light and snap a photo. When the light is right, it doesn’t really matter what camera you use.”

Texas State Capitol

what to photograph in austin
(Photo: Getty Images)

They say everything is bigger in Texas, so it’s no surprise that the Texas State Capitol is the largest state capitol building in the nation, and it’s about 14 feet higher than the U.S. Capitol — bigger than most visitors expect.

Completed in 1888, the pink granite structure features Renaissance Revival architecture and makes a stunning photo backdrop on sunny days.

Instagram tip: For Alejandro, photo editing begins right before he takes a picture. The focus, framing and lighting come together to form a message as soon as he clicks the shutter, so he focuses on planning the shot before taking it.

Practice this technique at the Capitol building to create better images, but don’t miss the surrounding scenery. The Capitol grounds feature a stellar view of Austin’s commercial district on one side and the Colorado River on the other.

Uncommon Objects

(Photos: Connor Sharp)

Filled to the brim with knickknacks showcasing Americana culture, this emporium was assembled by 24 antique sellers, and everything here is for sale. Expect a daily restocked barrage of antique photos and bottles, unsettling masks and busts, and an assortment of old children’s toys. Come to snap, shop and take a walk down memory lane.

Instagram tip: When it comes to photographing here, choose objects that stand out — that exceed expectations. Perhaps a toy that reminds you of one you had as a child or anything else that evokes a sense of nostalgia.

Alejandro says, “Place your chosen object in either your hand — as far away from your phone as possible — or somewhere separated from the background.

Then bring your aperture as low as possible or choose portrait mode on your phone, focus on your ‘uncommon object,’ and snap!” Add a Vignette when posting to Instagram to draw the focus to your item.

“Greetings from Austin” Mural

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(Photo: Getty Images)

Austin is famous for its murals, but this “Greetings from Austin” postcard-style painting is Instagram gold. Recently restored, it’s better for ‘gramming than ever and free to shoot. Find it downtown on South 1st Street beside a business called Roadhouse Relics.

Instagram tip: Adding a shot here to your grid? Since the mural is wide, consider shooting your iPhone image in square to capture it all in the frame. If you’re toting a DSLR camera rig, note that you’ll have to step into the street to fit everything.

Watch for oncoming traffic, and don’t leave a camera set up on a tripod here. Add popular local hashtags to your post, like #austin, #austintx, #austintexas and #austinlife to increase your post’s regional exposure.

Congress Avenue Bridge Bats

On every summer night in Austin, hundreds of people gather to watch the world’s largest urban bat colony emerge from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge in search of food. When engineers reconstructed this bridge in 1980, they had no clue that the crevices they designed were an ideal space for bats to roost.

Today, more than 1.5 million of these Mexican free-tailed bats migrate here from central Mexico for the summer. And while Austinites were at first reluctant to embrace the bat population, over time the nightly flight has become a beloved attraction.

Alejandro says it was a highlight of his Austin visit. “For me, it’s a symbolism for migration and how it can be magical if we look at it as nature running its course.”

Instagram tip: While many people watch the bats from the bridge, you’ll get the best photo vantage point on the water. Take a bat-watching boat or kayak tour to snap spectacular sunset and bat pictures in one fell swoop.

Be in place about 20 minutes before sunset to shoot the bats as they first begin to take flight. Shoot a time lapse of the entire bat flight in Instagram to add to your story. Tag the location to maximize your views.

See More of Alejandro’s Journey in Austin