A city steeped in history and full of iconic architecture, London is truly one of the world’s great capitals. A city where world-class museums and art galleries are free for everyone, and where pop-up street food events happen right around the corner from Buckingham Palace — it’s impossible not to feel energized here. To get you inspired for your trip, here are the 15 best photo spots in London, with tips on getting the perfect shot.
1. Big Ben and Westminster Bridge
Big Ben is the most popular London icon on Instagram, which means it’s also the most photographed. Spending a little longer in a place, and being a little more inquisitive, can help us make a unique image. Head to the Westminster Bridge underpass — an oft-overlooked spot, though the secret’s beginning to get out — for a new angle on Big Ben. Stand inside and use the archway to frame your image. Hold your camera in portrait mode and, if you’re using a camera phone, use the HDR setting for best results.
2. St Paul’s Cathedral from One New Change
Popular with city folk but not yet on the tourist circle, the One New Change shopping center has a great viewing platform. Take the elevator to the top floor and avoid the temptation of the bar. Head to the deck and take in the London horizon or St. Paul’s Cathedral. Use your device in landscape mode; this is a great place to use the panorama feature on your phone if you have one.
3. The views from a Thames Clipper
Instead of taking a Thames boat tour, go for the commuters’ favorite and hop on one of the Thames Clippers plying the river. Catch the boat from the dock at Embankment Pier and ride to Greenwich and back. Take an outside seat at the back of the boat for the best chance of capturing all the famous buildings along the river for your Instagram account. A zoom lens will be best for capturing multiple images near and far from the edge of the water. This is the best way to get up-close to HMS Belfast from a different angle. If you do go to Greenwich, make sure you explore the area as there are great panoramic views of the city near the Royal Observatory.
4. Light trails at Harrods
A trip to Harrods is a must, but if you prefer photography to shopping, head there when it’s dark. Harrods is lit like a Christmas tree all year round and makes a great spot for long exposure photography. There’s a crossing point on Brompton Road where you can position your camera and tripod with the widest lens you have. Use your camera’s timer function if you don’t have a remote. Be patient and wait for a bus or a taxi — it won’t be long until either are in your frame.
5. The Shard from St Dunstan-in-the-East
Ever heard of St Dunstan-in-the-East? This ruined church and gardens is really hidden, but its tranquility is a haven from the business of Central London. From here you’ll get a different perspective of The Shard — set your focus point on it and use your flash to highlight the ruins in the foreground. If you’re using a camera phone, select the HDR mode if it’s available.
6. Leadenhall Place and the Lloyd’s Building
Leadenhall Place showcases some of London’s oldest architecture juxtaposed against some of the city’s more recent buildings. On one side you have the Lloyd’s Building — Richard Rogers’ ‘inside out’ design — all metal and glass on the exterior — was completed in 1986. It’s situated next to Leadenhall Market, a beautiful covered market that dates back to the 15th century. With the widest angle lens you have, stand in Leadenhall Place and look straight up to the roof of the market to capture all the old and new contrasts.
7. Leake Street Tunnel
A forever changing space only a few steps from the London Eye, this is a dark, dirty and awesome place for taking images. Leake Street Tunnel is great for photography at any time of the day. A wide-angle lens and a tripod would be best, but it’s also worth going up-close and capturing the textures. With all the layers of paint, brickwork, and a generally dirty, industrial environment, there’s a lot to photograph in here.
8. Reflections on The Gherkin
The Gherkin, or 30 St Mary Axe, is one of London’s most recent iconic buildings, though it’s slowly disappearing from the skyline due to all the new buildings popping up everywhere. On a sunny day, the clouds reflect against its glass really well. Stand right at the bottom and look up. Use the portrait orientation and look for reflections of the clouds and the various different buildings around you.
9. More London
More London, also known as London Bridge City, has great views of the capital and is a great alternative to busy South Bank. Put your camera or phone in a clear plastic bag (or use a waterproof camera) and wait for the fountains to shoot up in the air. Point towards either the Shard or Tower Bridge. Stick your protected camera into the water and snap away for a very different perspective.
10. Crossrail Place Roof Garden
Head to Canary Wharf on a weekend and it’ll feel worlds apart from the Monday to Friday bustle. Crossrail Place Roof is a brand new garden that’s so peaceful you wouldn’t think you were in one of London’s top business districts. From here you won’t get your stereotypical London image. Look up and instead have your image filled with skyscrapers and palm trees.
11. The colors of Kelly Street
Portobello’s colorful houses are ever popular on Instagram, but why not venture to a different part of the city? In between Camden and Kentish town is this little gem of a street. Nice colors and a gentle curve in the road make this a great place to photograph. Use a wider angle and look at everything in your frame — there are a lot of rubbish bins in the gardens, so position yourself so they’re not in the picture.
12. Mayfair’s Mount Street
Mayfair is known for being one of the most expensive properties on the British Monopoly board. Head to Mount Street or Berkeley Square and you’ll see expensive cars, stores, and amazing architecture. Try getting low and angling the camera up to make the buildings feel bigger in the image, or look for an expensive car to showcase the kind of area you’re in to others.
13. Parliament Hill
Situated in Hampstead Heath, Parliament Hill is a great alternative to the regular choices of Hyde Park or Regent’s Park. It’s where the local go to walk their dogs and take in the views of this ever-growing city. This is quite a steep hill, but the view is worth it. Use a wide-angle lens and use the trees as foreground for natural framing. Once you’re finished with the view, head towards Hampstead Heath station to see some beautiful streets and houses.
14. Summer street feasts
In summer London’s heaving with pop-up food events that take undeveloped areas and make them hip temporary hangouts. A great place to try experimental foodstuffs, these spots also great places to take photographs. Model Market in Lewisham is a brilliant example. There’s an elevated seating area where you can chill out and also take a great image while enjoying great food. In this environment, either use a wide angle to capture the scene, or get close up for macro images of the food you’re sampling.
15. Richmond Park
Richmond Park is a huge green space in London that’s home to wild deer — lots and lots of wild deer. They look so majestic in their home territory, just going about their day unperturbed by the local dog walkers, runners, and cyclists. You could go to the zoo to play with animal photography, but seeing the animals roaming free in their natural habitat is a lot more pleasing. Using the longest zoom lens you have, with a large aperture like f4.0, focus on the deer and try to blur out the background. Don’t get too close; these are wild animals after all.
Paul K Porter is a travel photographer from London. He has supplied images to governments, tourism boards, luxury destinations, and a variety of other clients. Find him on social media @paulkporter or head to www.paulkporter.com for more information.