It’s fair to say that London has been through a lot over the years. After all, this is the city that survived the plague, a great fire, aerial bombardment during World War II. More recently terrorist attacks and even rioting. It’s risen from the ashes more than once to become one of the most significant cultural, financial and historical cities in the world. So it’s no wonder that London recently came top for the most visited city in the world. It’s even less of a surprise that it’s one of the most photographed places in the world. But with so much to see and photograph it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Here is our photography guide for capturing the best that London has to offer.
Head to the river
If you are after the quintessential photograph of the London skyline, you need to head to the River Thames. From the banks of the river and the various bridges that cross over it, you can capture almost all the famous landmarks London has to offer. The best time to capture these landmarks is early morning or late afternoon. The soft light will make them glow. Another good place to capture the skyline of London is St Paul’s Cathedral. You can climb to the Golden Gallery at the very top for panoramic views of London. You should check The Photographer’s Ephemeris for the direction of the light and plan your shoot accordingly.
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, The Tower of London and even the financial centre are all visible from somewhere along the river. Head further east along the river and you will reach the O2 arena and Maritime Greenwich. It is a World Heritage Site and famous for such historic landmarks as the Cutty Sark. It also gives you one of the most stunning views of the London skyline.
Capture London’s markets
Markets are great places to photograph and should be on every photographer’s shot list. London has no shortage of great markets to photograph. In fact, markets have been an essential part of London’s history right from their origins in the middle ages. These markets are now some of the best places in London get great food, original clothing and bargain antiques. For photographers, this means ample opportunities for great photos. These photos often capture the real London away from the glitz and glamour of the West End.
There are lots of markets in London. Here are some of the main markets to add to your shot list:
- Borough Market
- Brick Lane Market
- Camden Lock Market
- Columbia Road
- Covent Garden
- Greenwich Market
- Portobello Road Market
- Old Spitalfields Market
Go beyond the West End
Most of the photos of London you’ll see are of the famous landmarks or the icons like the black taxis or pubs, but to really capture the heart of London you’ll need to go beyond these tourist spots to the various communities that reside in the different parts of the City, for example, head to Southall and you’ll see why this area is often described as Little India. Venture to Edgware Road for a distinctly Middle Eastern vibe or head to Soho where you’ll find Chinatown. Or to Maida Vale for a slice of Italy with Little Venice. All of these communities help make London what it is and are often much more unique and rewarding to photograph than the famous monuments.
Head to London’s green spaces
There is no shortage of public parks and open spaces in London. On any given sunny or warm day, these parks will be filled with walkers, sunbathers, runners and cyclists. You’ll also see people playing team sports or relaxing whilst eating their lunch. These parks offer some of the best places to capture beautiful images that depict London. Some of these spaces are Royal Parks which house historic buildings such as Buckingham Palace or Kensington Palace. They are also teeming with local wildlife.
The main parks to photograph in London are the Royal Parks which consist of:
- Green Park
- St. James’s Park
- Greenwich Park
- Hyde Park
- Kensington Gardens
- Regent’s Park
- Bushy Park
- Richmond Park
Don’t forget Londoners
Often the best way to bring to life a destination is through its locals and London is no exception. It might be commuters heading over the Millennium Bridge on their way to work. Or a busker near some of the famous landmarks. Maybe a store owner watching the world go by outside their shop? These Londoners are what make London what it is and should be a must for any photographer.
London loves an event
There’s nothing more Londoners love more than an outdoor event. The biggest of these is the Notting Hill Carnival – Europe’s biggest street festival. It has been running since 1964 and it occurs at the end of August over 2 days in London’s trendy Notting Hill area. But there’s plenty more across the year worth photographing. Like St Patrick’s Day, St George’s Day, Thames Festival, Chelsea Flower Show, Trooping The Colour and The Lord Mayor Show. There are also various cultural celebrations such as Diwali and Chinese New Year.
Yes, it’s a cliche and they have been photographed a million times. But those iconic London things like black taxis, red phone boxes and the Queen’s guards are a part of what makes London so special. So don’t be afraid to photograph them. After all, they are a big part of the experience of visiting London.
London is a photographer’s paradise with so much to photograph and see. With careful planning and research and using this London Photography Guide, you can cover a lot in a few days. In fact, the only thing that might scupper your plans is the weather.
The author; Kav Dadfar is a travel photographer and C founder of That Wild Idea
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