How to Photograph London in a day

There’s just so much to shoot in London that sometimes it’s hard to know where to start if you’ve only got a day to spend there. PhotoHounder and pro-photographer Jon Reid gives his suggestion for a dawn till dusk shoot in the UK’s capital. Get ready for some classic as well as lesser known locations as he shows us how to photograph London in a day.

London in a day

London is a world-class destination with something to impress even the most discerning traveller. For a photographer, it’s a playground with endless photographic opportunities. Although there’s a lot to be said for wandering around the city and just seeing where your journey takes you, the best way to ensure you return with your best shots is to make a decent plan for your outing.  So I put together the ultimate guide to help get you started on how to photograph London in a day.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge at dawn Tower Bridge at dawn – Jon Reid

Start dawn, before sunrise when London is asleep. This is the perfect time to photograph the iconic sites without the crowds. It can be difficult to get around this early, so it will help you to be based in zone 1, along the river Thames. Tower Bridge is the perfect dawn location and floodlit, which will help it stand out against a pastel sky. When photographing the bridge, turn your focus along the river towards the Shard to catch the reflections of the skyscraper in the river.

Westminster Bridge & Big Ben

Sunrise at Westminster Palace Sunrise on Westminster Bridge – Jon Reid

Before the sun crosses the horizon, head to Westminster Station. Cross the bridge to face the Palace of Westminster just as the first rays of sun strike the world-famous clock, Big Ben.

Kew Gardens

Spring bluebells at Kew Gardens Spring bluebells at Kew Gardens

Once the light gets too bright and contrasty, head take the District Line to Kew Gardens. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped out of the city and into an idyllic English village.Grab breakfast at the iconic Maids of Honour Tea Rooms before entering the gardens –  you’re going to need some energy! By now, the light will be challenging for photography, so use shady areas to flatten the contrast.  Even a whirlwind trip through Kew Gardens will take you up to lunch.

Borough Market

Head back to the underground and exit at London Bridge. Street vendors in the Borough Food Market will be serving a range of lunch treats. Keep your camera out as this is the perfect spot for street photography. Coffee lovers, don’t leave the area without sampling Monmouth Coffee.

Afternoon light can be tricky for outdoor photography for a few hours. This is the time to explore London’s hidden interior architecture. Why not take a look inside the revamped Tate Modern or one of London’s many museums, such as the British Museum.

I’ve now got two options for you for late afternoon onwards:

Option 1 – The East

Dramatic light at Victoria Docks Dramatic light at Victoria Docks – Jon Reid

The old shipping yards have been rejuvenated and are now referred to as the Docklands. From Temple, head to Bank Station and jump onto the DLR to Canning Town. Canning Town leads onto the Royal Victoria Docks. Here you can experience London’s only beach, complete with a wakeboarding course. The area is great for photography with a mix of converted warehouses, old shipping cranes and interesting residential sites. Take the Emirates Air Line across the Thames and photograph the O2 from the sky. From the 02, take a bus to Greenwich town centre. From the town centre, it is a quick walk to the Greenwich Naval Colleges.  Take a few moments to appreciate the Painted Hall which is a dinner hall designed by Christopher Wren and it is full of interesting paintings by James Thornhill.


It’s just a short walk up the hill to the Greenwich Observatory Point. From this point, there is an amazing view over the Baroque Naval Colleges contrasting with the modern architecture of Canary Wharf. Enjoy the sunset and watch out of the Meridian Laser, a beam of light projected from the Observatory Point.

Meridian laser projected across the Naval College at Greenwich Naval College from Royal Observatory Lookout – Jon Reid

Option 2 – The West

Take the underground line from Temple to Victoria and then take the over ground-line to Battersea Park Rail station. Battersea Park is a large park, that is worth exploring, but because you’re taking photos, head straight to the Peace Pagoda – a large Buddhist monument built on the banks of the Thames River. The contrast of the Buddhist architecture and English park makes for an interesting subject.

From the Peace Pagoda, walk along the Thames River and cross the Chelsea Bridge. The bridge is a great location to photograph the Battersea Power Station – an iconic London site – that is possibly best known for being on the cover of a Pink Floyd album.

OXO Tower

Sunset from the OXO Tower Sunset from the OXO Tower

After watching sunset at the power station, take the tube from Sloane Square and head to Black Friars Station. From here, it’s a short walk to the Oxo Tower. Few restaurants in London have a better view. Take in London at twilight whilst enjoying a cocktail and if you’ve still got the energy, continue along the Southbank to Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge to make the most of the blue hour light.

Millennium Bridge, North Bank

View across to the Shard and Southbank from Millennium Bridge View across to the Shard and Southbank from Millennium Bridge

How to Photograph London in a Day

So you see it’s possible to pack a fair amount into a one-day shoot in London, provided you have a plan and the stamina and energy to get through it!  If you want to put together your own itinerary, take a look at the PhotoHound guide to photographing London which I helped to create. I’ve included some of my favourite spots in the capital and all the information you need to get there, find the exact location and some local and creative tips to help you get some great shots. Use the PhotoHound app as you go and make use of the planning, navigation and weather tools with maps to help you plan your trip with ease.

Have fun exploring and don’t forget to tag any shots you post @photohound so we can follow your personal journey around London.  Wishing you great light…. Jon Reid

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