London is an ever-pulsing city of colour and light, a multicultural mesh of texture and tone. It’s a city thick with history and gleaming with modern creativity. Such an scene is inherently suited to the delights of a photo walk, offering photographic inspiration as you explore the city streets.
Whether you’re a first-time happy snapper looking for a new creative outlet or a bit of a pro, this list of London photo walks offers ideas and tips for your photographic adventures in London.
City Lights from South Bank London
Route: Walk along the river from Lambeth Bridge to the Millennium Bridge in Central London as dusk sinks into a shiny night.
Highlights: City reflections in The Thames, a view of Westminster and Big Ben, The National Theatre, The British Film Institute, the South Bank Centre, Tate Modern, The Design Museum, The London Eye, the many interesting bridges that span the river, bars and restaurants along the way.
Time: Allow an hour at absolute minimum (30 minutes of walking and 30 minutes of photo time) and up to three or four hours if you prefer to play more with your photography and perhaps include a drink or food break, some window shopping and general milling amongst the evening crowds.
Distance: About 3km (or just under 2 miles).
Challenges: Low light and movement are the two elements to master in night photography. While you can increase the ISO (sensitivity) in your digital camera to record more light in a shorter time, be aware that the higher your ISO is, the more grainy your image will appear.
Tips: Using a tripod or a flat, stable surface to rest your camera is a great way to eliminate the motion blur that comes with longer shutter speeds in low light. The flat railing top along the river bank, bench seats and bollards are just a few possibilities from the street furniture you will see along the way.
Street Art London in Shoreditch
Route: The beauty of a photo walk in Shoreditch is there’s so much to see that you can start and end where you please. Key streets to start from are Old Street and Shoreditch High Street. From there, weave your way through the compact area, hitting up Chance Street, Ebor Street, Club Row, Curain Road, Heneage Street, Blackall Street, Old Street, Kingsland Road, Rivington Street, Charlotte Road, Shoreditch High Street, Curtain Road, Batemans Row, New Inn Yard, Leonard Street and Great Eastern Street. There is something to see pretty much everywhere so just explore with a map.
Highlights: A hedgehog in Chance Street, a Japanese jellyfish in Ebor Street, the Phlegm stilt man in Heneage Street and a squirrel on Club Row… there is so much and it all comes down to personal taste.
Time: Depending on your route, and how often you indulge at bars and cafes along the way, this photo walk could occupy anywhere between two hours and six hours.
Distance: Again, the distance is entirely dependant on how long you wander, but the total Shoreditch area is less than 3km2, so unless you’re imitating a coil as you walk, you won’t be covering outrageous distances.
Challenges: Capturing others’ art in an interesting and personalised way can be hard. It is easy to rely on the creativity of the street artist as you document, instead of adding your own style to the frame, meaning your street art photos may end up looking like those taken by every other person who has wandered the colourful Shoreditch streets.
Tips: Play with your framing as you photograph graffiti. Instead of photographing artwork front on, with the entire piece in the centre of the frame, look for different angles to make the shot more interesting and see what other street features you can include or exclude to add your own personal style to the existing art.
If you are interested in other adventures around the Shoreditch area, check out Londontown Traveller’s article about exploring the urban East Side.
Architectural Appreciation in Central London
Route: Starting at Bank tube station, exit onto Threadneedle Street and walk along it until you come to the grand old Bank of England. After photographing the bank, veer left onto Old Broad Street until you see the dominating presence of Tower 42, an 80’s skyscraper with interesting lines. Turn right into Woodworm and Camomile streets, then right again into St Mary Axe, where you will see the curved glass of the iconic ‘Gherkin’. From there, continue along St Mary Axe, turn right into Leadenhall Street and left into Wittington Avenue to reach the dome roofed glory of the historic Leadenhall Market. Wiggle your way through lanes towards St Margaret Pattens Church of England to see an old spire among new city walls, then head across to the Tower Bridge on The Thames and cross the river to see the mighty Tower of London.
Highlights: Curved glass, skyscraper lines, glass dome roofs, authoritative stone columns, the most commonly confused bridge in London and the place with the dungeons and jewels.
Time: Just over 3km (or about 2 miles).
Distance: Allow two or three hours to complete the walk.
Challenges: It can be tricky trying to photograph a wide facade or twenty storey scraper when you’re battling the pedestrian stream at street level, so your photo walk will involve overcoming the challenge of finding a good point of view from which to shoot. Also, city shadows can change the quality of a shot dramatically, so consider what time of day you want to be walking the city.
Tips: While sometimes the grand impact of a building demands you including the whole structure in the frame, remember that sometimes emphasising details can produce a more interesting result. For example, framing a shot to emphasise lines, reflections, contrasting elements, are all good ways to mix it up.
For quality light, try to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon, so the sun is not directly overhead or drawing long shadows across your frame.
Foody Delights at Borough Market
Route: Keep it simple by wandering between the many stalls and lanes of The Borough Market in Southwark Street, near the London Bridge tube station.
Highlights: Wheels of cheese as big as your handbag, pots of steaming soup, towers of brownies and pans of paella, among many other delicious treats.
Time: You could spend a whole day in the marketplace by the time you do a few laps, eat a few meals and sit to watch the bustle. Allow an hour at least though.
Distance: This is a great photo walk for anyone who is feeling less inspired about the walking part of the day. The footprint of the marketplace is about
Challenges: The biggest challenge on this photo walk will be keep your hands food free while you try to photograph.
Tips: Photographing food from a low angle with a tight frame is a great way to emphasise the texture of the meal and make it look more appealing. Also, keep in mind that it’s polite to ask and/or buy from stall holders as you snap shots of their enticing eats.
If you’re looking for more market settings to tone up your skills, or want to know a little more about The Borough Markets, read Londontown Traveller’s article about the wonderful world of London markets.