London offers an extraordinary range of photo opportunities. This is partly due to the incredibly varied built environment: endless styles of architecture; green and watery spaces; geometrically-planned neighbourhoods or crowded, organic developments; the pristine and the dilapidated. Even more dynamic is the flood of human activity that fills London’s streets, and this is commonly the focus of London street photography. In this post, we look at what street photography is and where to go to take some great London photos.
Street Photography in London
Street photography often captures a candid, unplanned moment in a public space. It is driven by simple curiosity and exploration of the world around. Street photography has flourished in bustling cities where the streets are full of little dramas and contrasts, and the setting can provide all sorts of evocative or interesting backdrops. A recent Museum of London exhibition also showed how street photography has given us a compelling documentary of the city’s recent history.
It is easier than ever to get involved in street photography. Many of us carry basic quality cameras within our mobile phones, and use them to snap interesting moments. Digital cameras have made it affordable to take large numbers of photos and then pick out the best scenes later. Some of the best street photos contain background details that the photographer didn’t even notice at the time of shooting.
If you want to know more, there are plenty of resources online, and several photographers run introductory sessions around the city. Practitioners also come together through various London street photography groups.
Where to Go?
Some interesting areas for street photography are:
- Bustling areas of varied street life e.g. Soho, Bloomsbury
- Market areas e.g. Spitalfields & Brick Lane
- The interesting landscape of Docklands, especially around Canary Wharf
- The new and old buildings of the City e.g. Bank, Monument
- Regenerated industrial areas e.g. Hoxton & Shoreditch
- The dynamism of the transport network
- Parks and wildlife areas e.g. Richmond Park
Some of the ‘villages’ pack a lot of variety into a small space. For example Greenwich has the river, a market, historic buildings and good viewpoints from the hill.
Visitors to London might prefer to see and photograph the more famous London landmarks. There will generally be lots of human activity here too! Some of the most popular London photo spots include:
- Along the Thames, especially the bridges like Waterloo and Westminster and the South Bank
- Good vantage points for skyline shots e.g. Primrose Hill, viewing areas in tall buildings
- The stunning museum spaces e.g. British Museum courtyard, Natural History Museum, Tate Modern turbine hall
- Popular squares and visitor hang-outs e.g. Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus
- Landmark buildings e.g. London Eye, Houses of Parliament, St Pauls, Battersea Power station
Our free interactive Visitors’ Map of London may help you decide where to go.
It may be best to avoid the busiest shopping areas like Oxford Street or rush hour bottlenecks. In areas such as around Canary Wharf or in stations, photographers also report that they are more likely to be stopped and checked due the current security concerns. Flash photography is not allowed in some places, such as on the Tube or in the Tate Modern. Tripods may also be prohibited.
Looking for Inspiration?
So where to start? You could whet your appetite at one of London’s specialist photographic galleries, which feature all types of photography. London street photography is specially showcased in online photo galleries such as the Flickr London Street Photography group or the London Festival of Photography gallery. Or just pick up your camera and your A-Z, and get out there and see what photographs you can take.