As part of my on-going quest to find awesome photography locations around the world to share with you, I recently headed to London, a city I know and love, to see if I could put together a guide to the best photography locations in London.
The bar has already been set high, with my guides to photographing Yosemite, capturing the Grand Canyon at sunrise and sunset and my 12 favourite San Francisco photography spots proving popular, and being British I obviously wanted to do London justice.
I decided to focus on some of the more popular photoshoot locations for this guide that would happily fit into a weekend trip to London – it would partner up nicely with our 1 day or 2 day London itineraries.
Obviously there’s endless opportunity and countless photography locations in London, and I’ve included some additional resources at the end of the post to give you even more photography ideas for London.
One up front tip – if you want to save money on getting in to the attractions on this list, grab yourself a London Pass, which both saves you money and time on all the best attractions in London (read our full review of it here). Now, let’s get on with:
The Best London Photography Locations
1. Tower Bridge
Definitely up there as one of my favourite bridges in the world, Tower Bridge is marvellous to photograph both during the day…
… and at night, as a long exposure. It’s also good from both sides of the river, although if you go to the south bank then you can frame it with the Tower of London as well, which is nice. There is plenty of space to stand along both sides of the river, so you shouldn’t struggle to find a space. The closest tube stops are Tower Hill, or London Bridge.
Since you’re already here and on the south bank, you can just pan your camera to the left to get a great shot of HMS Belfast and some of the skyscrapers that make up the “City of London”.
And here’s my gear taking those shots. There’s a part of the footpath here that has a little alcove where you can set up so as to get a nice clear shot without having to include the path or railings, which is nice.This is also a great London selfie spot location, as you get both Tower Bridge and the Tower of London in the background.
Now, let’s head over to the other side of the river, and visit:
2. The Tower of London
Two things to be aware of in London. First, the weather can change mind-bogglingly quickly. I got the above shot about five minutes before the below shot, and you can see how dramatically quickly the light and clouds have changed!
The other thing to keep in mind are the crowds. Attractions like the Tower of London get really busy. If you want to get relatively people-free shots like these, you have to do what I did, and get up early.
If you arrive at the Tower of London as early as it opens (around 9am, check website for up to date hours), then you will get a good bit of time without too many people around. You might even get a bit of time with a Beefeater, who are very friendly folks, and will even pose for you if you ask them nicely:
As you can see from the shots, my favourite subject in the Tower of London is the White Tower. It’s photogenic from multiple angles, but my favourite place is to shoot it from near the entrance to the Crown Jewels, or, as with the case of the Beefeater above, with Tower Bridge in the background.
The closest tube to Tower Bridge is Tower Hill. The Tube is a great way to get around London – just make sure you pick up an Oyster card to benefit from the best fares. Tower Bridge is also included on the London Pass, which will help you save some money if you are visiting a number of sights.
The centre of London is also very walkable, so do check if it might be quicker to walk before jumping on the tube – the tube map is not a good way to estimate walking distances!
3. Westminster Abbey
Moving down to the City of Westminster now, and London’s most famous church, home to Royal Weddings, Coronations (all of them since 1066!) and a whole host of famous dead people – Westminster Abbey.
You’re not actually allowed to take photographs inside the Abbey, but that’s ok, because the outside is very photogenic. Unfortunately, the folks in charge of civil planning tend to ignore the needs of photographers, because there’s a rather inconveniently placed road right in front of the Abbey’s two stunning towers.
Your options are to work with this road, perhaps incorporating an iconic London Bus or taxi into your composition, and shoot from across the road.
Or, you can get up close and personal with a wide angle lens, and shoot through the bars in front of the abbey to get shots like this.
Whatever you choose, you should get some photos you’re happy with! The closest tube stops are Westminster or St. James’s Park.
4. Houses of Parliament
Just across from Westminster Abbey are the incredible Houses of Parliament Building, with that iconic clock tower, home to the giant bell – Big Ben.
My favourite place to shoot the Houses of Parliament is from the other side of the river, or atop Westminster Bridge. Here you can get some excellent long-exposure shots of passing traffic (try and frame a passing bus if you can!), with the light lines leading your eye to the Houses of Parliament themselves.
You can also get some fabulous shots from along the South Bank – just position yourself somewhere between the London Eye and Westminster Bridge, and you should be able to find something fun. The lights that run along the south bank are pretty cool as foreground material!
The closest tube is going to be either Westminster or Waterloo. Now, since you’re here, turn to your left, and you’ll find:
5. The London Eye
Another London landmark, the London Eye offers great potential for photography. My favourite place to shoot it from is standing on Westminster Bridge – the same spot I like to shoot the Houses of Parliament from. You get a great view of the River Thames, and as the day fades away, the wheel lights up beautifully.
The other option for shooting the London Eye is of course from inside the London Eye! This ride offers an incredible view over the London Skyline, particularly at sunset, and is very much worth doing. Just be aware that you have to shoot hand-held – you can’t set up a tripod inside the pod.
The closest tube for visiting the London Eye is either Waterloo, or Westminster. Tickets are available online here – we recommend you book in advance so you get a guaranteed entrance time.
6. The Shard
Last on my list, and another one where you unfortunately can’t use a tripod if you go inside – the Shard. A relatively new addition to the London Skyline, the Shard offers an incredible view of the London skyline from far above the ground.
Like the London Eye, it’s also best visited for sunset – we advise booking your ticket in advance to be sure to get the right time slot for your visit. It’s also included on the London Pass, which is a great way to save money on London sightseeing.
You might find yourself struggling with reflections up here.
My tip is to head up to the second floor where there is only one pane of glass rather than two, which cuts back on the reflections. Then, hold your camera lens right up against the glass, which will cut out pretty much all the reflections. If you have a sun-hood fitted, you’ll want to take it off.
Finally, you can get great shots of the Shard without actually going up it! This shot above was taken from around about the same place that I shot the first picture of Tower Bridge from – on the riverbank just outside the Tower of London. Here again you can see HMS Belfast parked up, and a variety of other buildings to lend scale.
More Photography Locations in London & Resources!
This post has only touched on some of my favourite photography locations in London, all accessible over a couple of days of photography. Obviously, I’ve not been able to fit all my favourites in, and some notable locations including St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge, Buckingham Place, Trafalgar Square, Camden, Borough Market, Primrose Hill and more have fallen by the wayside in this round up.
But, if you’ve got more time on your hands and want some more ideas for where to shoot in London, then here are some excellent resources to help you get the shots you want. I’ve also added in a few more articles to help you plan your trip to London.
- The official Visit London folks have ten spots for a photo opportunity, geared more towards good spots to get a photo of yourself in
- If you’re looking for something a bit different, here’s Timeout’s Guide to 8 locations that look nothing like London
- If you want something to take along with you, here’s a Kindle book that goes into epic detail on the best photography spots in London, covering nearly everywhere you could possibly want to go!
- If you are looking for a tripod (and if you’re serious about your photography, you absolutely should have one!), then Vanguard have an excellent range. The VEO system I was using for this shoot is specifically designed for travel, meaning it’s super-light and easy to use, plus they won’t break the bank.
- Not photography related, but if you are in London for a few days and want to get some sight-seeing in, check out the London Pass for a great deal on sight-seeing and transport!
- If you’re in the market for a new camera, check out my definitive guide to the best travel camera, with something for every budget
- My other photography location guides, to get you the best shot in destinations around the world
- We’ve also written a number of guide to London to help with your planning. Take a look at these posts for inspiration:
- A Two Day London Itinerary
- A Three Day London Itinerary
- A Six Day London Itinerary
- Harry Potter fans will want to check out our guide to the key Harry Potter filming locations in London
- Tips on Buying and Using the London Pass
- Eight Things to Do in Kensington
- The guide to the best military museums and memorials in London
- A guide to public transport in London
- A detailed London packing list to help you pack
- A guide to getting into central London from all London’s airports
- Finally, if you’re looking to learn more about photography, I run an online travel photography course which covers everything I know about photography, plus you get one on one feedback directly from me as you go! Check it out and let me know if you have any questions.
Enjoy, and don’t forget if you are inspired to invest in a tripod (an essential part of your photography gear!) you can save 20% on everything in the Vanguard US store. Just enter the coupon code FindingTheUniverse (FindingTheUniverseUK in the Vanguard UK store) (all one word, case sensitive) at checkout to get the discount! Alternatively, Amazon have an excellent selection of Vanguard products on their store.
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