London is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque cities in the world. With its beautiful buildings and wonderful atmosphere, it is a popular choice for a photography session.
From Londoners, who are looking to get some beautiful images captured in their favourite neighbourhood, to visitors booking a London photography session to remember their trip by, I photograph couples in the city all year round.
When couples book me I always help plan the session with them. Through the years of photographing, I have accumulated enough experience to know what works well for photos and the best photography location ideas in London and I am happy to offer any photography tips and advice.
This way they can consider all their options and make the most of their on-location photography session in London. I thought that writing up some outdoor photography tips could be useful to couples and families who might be considering a London photography session and also to other photographers who might not be as familiar with London.
Plan your timing
Most photographers, myself included, like to shoot in the soft and golden light. You can find this type of light within the first hour after the sunrise or an hour or so before sunset.
The so-called golden light is usually considered the most flattering light for an outdoor photography session. On an overcast day, you will not get the beautiful golden glow but the light will still be softer early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
The rest of the day the light is harsher, creating more contrast and shadows. An experienced photographer will still be able to create beautiful photos, playing with light and shadow or looking for areas where the sun is obscured. The resulting images will often look more dramatic.
On an overcast day, you will not get the warm, golden light but you can get great photos just the same. The weather in London is unpredictable, so the best thing to do is just to embrace it and go with whatever you are given.
My favourite time for a London outdoor photography session is early in the morning. I will try and meet my clients as close to sunrise as possible. That is more so the case when the weather is set to be sunny on the day of the session.
Pretty light isn’t the only bonus that early in the morning – during the weekend, there is hardly anyone around at that time of the day. I personally find it exhilarating when I am walking through some of the prettiest London areas and have them all to myself.
Early morning session in Hampstead Village and Hampstead Heath.
Being out early, when it is quiet, also helps the couple to relax and enjoy the session. Anyone would feel awkward and self-conscious while having their photos taken if there are dozens of people looking on.
I would especially recommend an early start if you want to have photos taken near any popular sights. On a nice day, Southbank will soon fill up with people trying to get their photo taken with St Paul’s Cathedral or Tower Bridge in the background.
Same goes with other popular areas like Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden or anywhere in Notting Hill.
Southbank gets busy during the day, so head there early to beat the crowds.
I understand that getting up and ready in the middle of the night just to have your photos taken isn’t something many get excited about.
But I encourage my clients to make the effort as I really believe it will make a big difference.
Starting the session early is a big step to achieving beautiful images and a relaxed atmosphere. I have had plenty of clients who were not thrilled about the early start before the session and not one that regretted it afterwards.
When afternoon is the preferred option
In late afternoon the light is equally pretty but the city is much busier. Whatever the time of year, on a nice, sunny day everyone is out in London.
Your best bet for a good London photography session in the afternoon would be a less known area. Or you can look for quieter, residential streets away from the high street.
In Notting Hill, head to Hillgate Place and surrounding streets for pretty, candy-coloured houses without the crowds of Portobello Road.
I found Bloomsbury very quiet during the weekend, while still offering plenty of London charm.
South of the river, Battersea Park is another good photography location. Not many tourists venture there and it is large enough that you can always find a quiet corner.
With views over the Thames, the Pagoda and plenty of other pretty corners, it offers plenty of variety for good photos.
The sun is setting and creating beautiful soft light in this late afternoon session in Battersea Park
London photography through the seasons
A great thing about a London photography session is that the city offers stunning backdrops all year round. While parks and forests around England tend to look pretty dull in the winter months, the city never loses its charm.
Winter photography ideas in London
From mid-November until the end of the year London puts on its Christmas costume and areas like Covent Garden, South Kensington and Chelsea look especially festive.
An added bonus is the fact that the sun doesn’t rise until 8 am, so you can get a decent amount of sleep even if you are planning an early morning session.
Winter mornings can be cold but they offer beautiful light even later in the morning.
Spring photography ideas in London
London is at its prettiest during Spring. As soon as it gets warmer outside the city adorns itself in blossom. First blooms magnolia, then cherry trees followed by wisteria.
Take a stroll anywhere in west London, from Chelsea and South Kensington to Notting Hill and Hampstead to find the most stunning displays of blossom framed houses.
Camellias and cherry trees are in full bloom during this April session in and around Holland Park
Summer photography ideas in London
Summer is a very popular season but I often find it the trickiest for a London photography session. The number of visitors increases over the summer, making an already busy city even busier.
Sun is up early and for a morning session with pretty light, I would ask you to meet me in the city as early as 6 am.
Covent Garden and Trafalgar square are still quiet early in the morning during this summer London session
Autumn photography ideas in London
Autumn is another great season for a London outdoor photography session. You can usually find pretty autumn colours in more leafy areas like Hampstead, Richmond, Wimbledon and Greenwich.
Or try various gardens and parks within central London.
Autumn colours in Cannizaro Park in Wimbledon
Location, location, location
One thing I just love about London is that its neighbourhoods offer such a varied look and atmosphere. Within just a few tube stops you might arrive somewhere completely different.
Elegant Kensington is a stark contrast to the industrial and hip Shoreditch, while the historic and sombre look of the City could not be more different from the postcard-perfect Hampstead.
How far apart are the areas?
London areas might look close to one another on a tube map but in reality, it may take some time to cover the distance by tube, let alone on foot. When you walk around an area and you frequently stop to take photos, time can pass very quickly.
So be realistic about how many areas you can cover in one photo session. Talk to your photographer ahead of the session if there is more than one specific area that you wanted to visit. This is even more valid if the session involves young children who cannot walk fast or far.
While full of students during the week, Bloomsbury is quiet over the weekend
Best London locations for a couples photography session
I always tailor a London photography session to my clients, which includes finding the right spot in the city for their photos. Whether you are looking for a pretty, English village-like setting, imposing historical buildings or edgy industrial vibe, London has it all.
I love exploring new areas around the city. I always enjoy it when locals bring me to their own neighbourhood and show me its hidden gems. That and wandering aimlessly through the city by myself is how I often find good locations to shoot in.
Below I listed some of my favourite London areas that I return to, time and time again. Please keep in mind that this is a subjective list of London photography locations and by no means exhaustive.
If you know of other areas and particular roads that would work great as a setting for an outdoor photography session, I would love to hear about it!
This couple asked to have their session in Crouch End, an area they lived in at the time.
+ Ideal for capturing the main London sights
This is a location usually preferred by visitors who are keen to include some well known London sights in their photos.
Most of the popular sights, like the Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Millenium Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Globe Theatre and Tower of London are located on either side of the river Thames between Westminster tube station and Tower Bridge.
A brisk walk between the two can take up to half an hour but this does not include the time for stopping to take photos. Allow enough time depending on how many sights you would like to have captured!
First rays of sunshine peeking past St Paul’s Cathedral and the area is still quiet this early in the morning on the weekend
Shoreditch and Clerkenwell
+ Ideal for industrial looking background, graffiti and hip cafes
If trendy and fresh industrial look feels more you than grand historic houses or pretty cottages, then east side of London is the place to go.
North of Shoreditch High Street overground station and Bethnal Green Road the streets are full of one-off cafes, trendy storefronts and industrial buildings. These offer a perfect backdrop for photos.
Brick Lane to the east is a mecca for food and art lovers and suitably full of colourful street art. Clerkenwell is similarly modern – head to Exmouth Market and wander the streets around there.
The Old Finsbury Townhall is around the corner as is the popular bar and restaurant Bourne and Hollingsworth, which is gorgeous inside and out.
Shoreditch offers modern and colourful background for a session
Notting Hill and Holland Park
+ Ideal for quirky and colourful setting and pretty mews
This is possibly one of the top choices for a London photography session. When you have a stroll around the area it is easy to see why. From beautiful stretches of pastel-coloured houses to London’s prettiest mews, there is no shortage of stunning backdrops.
Mews were originally built in the 18th and 19th century as service roads behind the grand houses of the Georgian and Victorian elites. Today these are rows of unique houses of character that have been tastefully restored for modern living.
Mews are often hiding along quiet cobbled lanes and therefore a perfect setting for photos. Just keep in mind that some of the prettiest ones, like Codrington Mews, St Luke’s Mews and Holland Park Mews are London’s worst kept secret – head there early in the day to beat the crowds.
We planned this session in Notting Hill early in the morning to avoid the crowds and have the pretty mews to ourselves
South Kensington and Chelsea
+ Ideal for white-pillared mansion houses and pretty mews
As two of London’s most affluent areas, these are lined with beautiful Victorian houses and high-end shops and restaurants. Also home to many art galleries and museums, the main roads are often busy.
But as soon as you stroll down the side streets, you will find much calmer areas and mews that are just as pretty and a lot quieter than the ones in Notting Hill.
In South Kensington head to Kynance Mews and explore streets nearby. In Chelsea, I suggest walking around Cadogan Square Gardens and the mews surrounding it (like Clabon mews).
Kynance mews bathing in the early morning light
Hampstead, Richmond, Wimbledon and Greenwich
+ Ideal for a pretty, village-like setting with Victorian cottages and cobbled streets
You will have to venture outside of London’s central zone to visit these neighbourhoods but it will be well worth it.
While still within London and all accessible by tube, these will make you feel like you have arrived somewhere in the English countryside.
My advice would be to start anywhere along the high street and then just stroll around. Take time to explore the off lanes for any pretty corners. The central area in all of these neighbourhoods is quite small and easily covered on foot.
Pretty sights found in Hampstead village
Another plus is that all of these are based near a large park. Hampstead Village borders Hampstead Heath, while Richmond is nestled on the corner of Richmond Park.
From Wimbledon Village, it is a short walk to Wimbledon Common and you can capture some of the best views over Greenwich from Greenwich Park. If you are after a session that would include both, an urban setting as well as nature, then one of these London areas would be a good pick.
On a side note, there is nowhere better to capture a village setting and countryside vistas than the actual English countryside. If you have the time and opportunity I would suggest planning a session outside of London for some truly breathtaking views. See this Jurassic Coast engagement session for an idea.
I have plenty of suggestions for beautiful English countryside areas that would make a perfect backdrop for a session. But that’s a topic for another blog post. If this is something you would be interested in, do get in touch and we can plan it further.
Other things to note
Before I finish I should advise that most indoor places around the city, especially churches, museums and galleries, will not allow professional photography within the building (unless it is for a wedding held there).
In some cases that also includes certain immediate areas outside the building. Please be respectful of any rules and signs that you may encounter.
And as much as I wrote about the perfect time and location for a London outdoor photography session, these for me are both secondary when it comes to shooting.
What I look for most during the session is a genuine connection between the people in front of my camera. That said, beautiful surroundings and good light can really enhance the photos. I usually create my best images when I manage to combine all three.
Whether you are planning to get your photos taken in London or you are a photographer planning a session, I hope that at least some of the London outdoor photography tips and ideas above were useful to you.
If you have any questions, suggestions on other great London locations or would like to book your own London session, do get in touch.