The capital city of the United Kingdom offers plenty of photography opportunities. Whether you enjoy cityscapes, street photography or architecture – there’s something for you.
So let’s look at ten great locations where you can practice your photography in London.
1. Palace of Westminster
The palace of is an iconic building not just in London, but around the world. You can photograph it in various ways, and from several locations.
- Westminster bridge – You can take an iconic photo of the palace of Westminster from the bridge. It’s a great opportunity to take a long exposure photo with bus light trails passing through the photo. Or use a shorter exposure juxtapose a London bus against the palace.
- The south bank of the Thames – The Palace sits on the north bank of the river Thames. One of the better angles to photograph the building from is the south bank. Just around the corner from Westminster bridge.
- Detail photos – This building has one of the world’s most famous clock towers, Big Ben. The name actually derives from the bell inside the tower. The photograph will be of the clock that sits at the top of this tower. Other detail photos might include the exterior walls. Or the famous statues of people against those walls.
The palace of Westminster is undergoing an extensive renovation program at the time of writing. This program will take years to complete. Check the building status before planning your photo.
Best time to visit – Blue hour
Location – Palace of Westminster
2. Tower Bridge
After the houses of Parliament, this bridge is London’s most well known site.
There are several excellent angles to photograph this bridge from.
- On the bridge – A very popular photo to take is traffic light trails going through the archways of the bridge. Those arches make a great frame for the photo. The bridge also provides a nice viewpoint to photograph the Shard on the south bank. And the tower of London on the north bank.
- The north bank – This is a really popular photo. Include the dolphin statue and the Tower Bridge in the background. The statue is on the same side as the Tower of London, and is just a short walk away.
- The south bank – There are some nice ways to compose a photo of Tower Bridge from the south bank. Sunrise photos of the bridge are also a good option from here, or the nearby London bridge.
3. Coca-Cola London Eye
This was a relative newcomer to the London skyline at the turn of the millennium. Now it’s beginning to feel like part of the furniture.
The giant Ferris wheel lends itself to a number of photography techniques.
- Inside the capsule – It’s popular to take Instagram portraits inside the capsule. Get a wide angle lens on your dSLR though, and photograph the capsule just in front of yours. Press the shutter just as the Ferris wheel begins to descend. Try to fit a capsule, and the palace of Westminster in the same frame.
- Get the whole scene – Photographs of the entire Ferris wheel are great as well. There is a line of trees leading up to the London Eye, and it provides a great leading line. Or why not photograph the wheel from the north bank of the Thames?
- Add some creativity – The London Eye makes an ideal subject for zoom burst photos. Use a zoom lens to zoom into the central area of the wheel, and then zoom out to create the photo.
4. The London Underground
The London underground is literally interwoven into the fabric of the city. It’s the world’s oldest underground system. But there are also plenty of newer stations with interesting modern architecture.
The weaving tunnels on some northern line stations make great subjects for photography. Likewise the newest section of the Jubilee line has some great locations to photograph.
These include the London Bridge and Canary Wharf tube stations.
One of the classic photos is juxtaposing a waiting passenger against a moving train. This is a great Instagram image to take of your friend!
Best time to visit – Avoid the rush hour, any other time of the day is good.
Location – London Bridge Station
5. Borough Market
London has many markets, so picking one for photography is tough. These locations are great for street photography, photos of merchandise, and wider establishment photos.
Borough Market has a very photogenic wrought iron roof. That’s one of the big reasons why photographers enjoy coming here.
Other Notable Markets
Leadenhall market is particularly eye-catching. But it doesn’t have the same street photography potential as Borough Market.
You could also try markets in Camden, Portobello road, and the Old Spitalfields Market.
Best time to visit – Early morning on Saturday, or mid-morning mid-week. Markets are closed on Sunday.
Location – Borough market
6. St Paul’s Cathedral
This cathedral was designed by Christopher Wren as a replacement for the old St Paul’s. That one burnt down during the fire of London.
It’s not possible to photograph inside the building. You need a special permission to do so. It has a beautiful and very photogenic exterior though, dominated by the large dome.
There are several ways in which you can photograph this building, the two most popular are as follows.
- The millennium footbridge – This is the bridge that leads away from St Paul’s, and towards the Tate Modern. You can get nice photos by aiming straight along the bridge. You can also walk off the bridge and down onto the south bank. Compose your photo with the bridge leading the eye towards St Paul’s.
- One New Change – At the back end of the cathedral you can find a location where a modern shopping centre can be juxtaposed against the cathedral. This is a favourite shot of St Paul’s with the reflections coming off the windows.
7. The Shard
Part of London’s new modern skyline, this skyscraper is the highest in the European Union at the time of writing. It rises to 309 metres. The building is a popular tourist destination, with great views of London.
Be aware you’ll not be allowed to bring a tripod into the building. No tripod realistically means you’ll need to photograph from the viewing gallery during the day.
If you have an alternative to a tripod that allows your camera to remain steady for a long exposure, the night view from that high up is amazing.
The building also makes a great focal point in a cityscape photo of the tower itself. And with a worm’s eye-view you can get some interesting creative photos of the tower as well.
Photographing the Shard from Tower Bridge is a good option at blue hour.
Best time to visit – Day time from the viewing deck, and blue hour for photos of the tower.
Location – The Shard
8. Buckingham Palace
It goes without saying that your photo of Buckingham Palace will be of the exterior of the building. It’s a fairly standard photo and composition. Aim to arrive early to both avoid the crowds and get the morning light at a nice angle. What most people visit the palace for is the changing of the guard.
Changing of the Guard
The ceremony starts at Buckingham Palace at 11am, except for Sundays when it starts at 10am. It’s essential to arrive here early, as it’s always crowded.
There are a few locations you can choose from. I recommend the Victoria memorial. Should you choose to get up to the palace fence, you’ll need to arrive even earlier to get a chance of a good view.
This guide will give you some useful information about the ceremony. And some other potential locations to take photos from.
Best time to visit – Arrive for the changing of the guard, and ideally an hour before the ceremony begins.
Location – Buckingham Palace
9. The British Museum
London has lots of top class museums and galleries, so picking one out is difficult. The British Museum stands out from a photography perspective. That’s because of the photo you can take there juxtaposing the new modern roofing against the older buildings.
The photograph angle that people aim to take can be found near the entrance, and up two flights of stairs. Now you’ll have a view over the British Museum. You’ll need a good wide angle lens to properly capture the entire scene.
Beyond this angle there are other photos you can take in other parts of the museum. Not all parts of the museum are open to photography so take care what you photograph.
Other Museums and Galleries
There are many other museums and galleries to visit in London. Check whether you’re allowed to take photos beforehand. Even when you are allowed to take photos, be careful. If your photo contains another work of art in it then you’ll need that artist’s permission to use the photo in a commercial way.
Another popular museum for photographers is the Natural History Museum for its interior architecture. You’ll need to visit early to avoid the crowds.
The Tate Modern, and the Tate Britain also have some interesting interior architecture opportunities.
Best time to visit – Early morning before the crowds.
Location – The British Museum
10. St James’ Park and Green Park
London has a number of parks offering a little escape from the urban jungle. St James’ Park, and the nearby Green Park are two great ones. They’re right in the centre of London, and very close to Buckingham palace.
These parks offer opportunities to take portraits against natural backgrounds. And to take big scene setting photos that have a lot of green in them.
St James’ Park also offers the added feature of a pond that runs the length of it.
There are lots of other parks to choose from as well, and it’s not possible to list them all. You can get nice views over London from Hampstead Heath in North London. Richmond Park to the Southwest offers similar opportunities.
Then a little further afield you’ll find Kew Gardens with its green houses, and the recently installed hive sculpture.
Best time to visit – Look to visit in spring, when the fields are full of daffodils.
Location – Green Park and St James’ Park.
Instagram Photography in London
Travelling to a nice new location can be a great opportunity to get some new selfies and wefies for your Instagram. London has a good selection of places to do just that!
- Platform 9 and 3/4 – The many Harry Potter fans will be lining up to take this photo. You can find it at King’s Cross railway station.
- Abbey Road – The location of the famous Beatles album cover has become a tourist attraction, with fans replicating the photo with groups of friends.
- Madam Tussauds – The famous waxwork museum lets you see a replica of your favourite celebrity up close, and of course the opportunity to take a selfie with them!
- The red telephone box – There are plenty of these scattered across London. A popular one for selfies is found near Westminster Palace. If you’re feeling adventurous you can visit Kingston to see a sculpture of these famous red boxes.
- Leake street – This is sometimes referred to as Banksy tunnel, with its graffiti walls. You can either take photos of the street art, or use those walls as a background for your portraits.
Tips for Better London Photography
Getting good photos while you travel is all about good preparation, and taking the right equipment with you.
Here are some tips to ensure your London photos turn out great.
- Get an early start – Good photos and crowds of tourists don’t usually go well together. The onus will be on you to beat the crowds, by arriving early at your photo location.
- Look for the sun – Where the sun is, or isn’t, can make a huge difference to your photo. Use Suncalc to find the optimum position for the sun, and what time you need to be there. This site will also give you information on blue hour, should you wish to photograph at this time.
- Research – Make a list of photos you’d like to take, and think about when the best time to visit these locations is. Articles like this one will help you to that end.
- Take a tripod – The best results are going to happen when you have a tripod. For cityscapes and architecture photography. you should use digital blending. A tripod will also allow you to take self and group portraits. Some locations don’t allow tripods though, so find out which ones do ahead of time.
- Use variety – Think about the types of photos you’ll be taking. It’s best to get a balance. Try and take a mix of portraits, landscapes, detail photos and some more creative concepts.
- The right lens – The workhorse lens for your travel photography is going to be a wide angle lens. It’s worth having a telephoto zoom with you as well. Some photos work better with lens compression. Finally take a good prime lens for street and portrait photography, such as a 50mm.
London is a huge sprawling city. It will take you a bare minimum of five days to properly explore it as a photographer. Having a list of photographs and locations to work from will help focus your mind. This will give you the best results.
You can have a great time in London, and come away with some awesome photos. Plan that trip, and get the best photos you can!
Have you already visited the UK’s capital? What was your experience, and did you have a favourite place to photograph?
As always please share your thoughts, opinions and photos in the comments section to this article.