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A Photographer's Guide to London

by Philip Greenspun, 2001


Digital photo titled trafalgar-tourists-and-pigeons-horizontal You probably won't come to London to take pictures. The population tends to be reserved, the weather inhospitable, and many of the most famous attractions of the city, e.g., the world's best theater and music, are simply unsuited to photography. On the other hand, if business or pleasure brings you to London, there is plenty to satisfy an itchy shutter release finger. If you've a special interest in architecture and are willing to pack a tripod and a perspective correction lens, you'll find that London contains some of the world's most varied building designs.

Starting Out on the River

Digital photo titled thames-and-tour-boat Many of the most famous sights of London are spread along the banks of the River Thames (from the old Celtic word teme, meaning "river", named by the Romans in AD 43 when they established Londinium). These include the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, just behind which is Westminster Abbey. You'll see Christopher Wren's St. Paul's Cathedral, the Tower, Tower Bridge, a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theater, and dozens of modern buildings.

Hop a boat up the river to Kew Gardens, browse around this extraordinary botanical garden, then take another boat to Greenwich and the Millennium Dome. Take ISO 400 film and a zoom lens that extends to at least 200mm (on a 35mm camera).

Christopher Wren

If you're passionate about architecture, it is worth touring the works of Christopher Wren (1632-1723), the leading restorer of London after the Great Fire. Wren's most famous work is St. Paul's cathedral but there are 30 others scattered around the city. To do the job properly, you'll probably want to bring a wide-angle perspective-correction lens (see the relevant section of "Building a 35mm SLR System"), though sadly I've not yet toted one to London myself.

If you climb to the top of St. Paul's, you'll also find that it makes a reasonable post for photography of the Thames and London rooftops.

People Looking at Animals

Don't forget that London has one of the world's best zoos, right downtown in Regent's Park. Go on a fine day and you'll be able to take great photos of people gawking at the animals.

People Looking at Art

Digital photo titled british-museum-assyrian-relief Art museums throughout London ban or restrict photography. For photos of people interacting with art treasures, head to the British Museum. Photography and even flash photography are allowed but tripods are banned. In December 2000, the British Museum opened a new courtyard comprised of a modern roof over the old round reading room. It is one of the more dramatic and successful pieces of new architecture in London. The museum is free and open 7 days a week.

The Tate Modern, opened in December 2000, does not allow photography inside the galleries but the lobby areas are interesting and you can get some photos of the river from the top floors.

Just east of the Tate Modern is a reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theater. The 30-minute tours are interesting though ideally if you're in London in the summertime you'll get a ticket for a performance.

People (sort of) running around in wigs

For photographs of lawyers walking around in wigs, get down to the streets around the Royal Courts of Justice in Holburn. From 9:30 to 4:30 pm you can attend a trial and watch the be-wigged barristers plead. A lot of important and photogenic old buildings surround the courts.

Photographic Exhibitions

Digital photo titled zwemmer-photo-bookstore Pick up a copy of Time Out ( www.timeout.com) at a newsstand for full listings of photography shows at galleries and museums. The Photographer's Gallery, in two separate buildings near Leicester Square (5 and 8 Great Newport Street), usually has an interesting show. In one of their buildings they've got a nice bookshop and in the other a cafe. Around the corner on Charing Cross Road is a comprehensive specialty photography book shop: Zwemmer.

Skip The Royal Stuff

Unless you like to wait on lines and stand around in crowds, skip all the royal stuff in London. If you're wandering around the city and your route takes you past Buckingham Palace, great. But don't wait around for the changing of the guard or a glimpse of the royal family.

Shops and Photo Labs

Digital photo titled the-classic-camera-sign Napoleon dismissed the English as "a nation of shopkeepers" and there is certainly little about London to contradict this characterization. What is most interesting about shopping in London is the high proportion of specialty shops run either by or for obsessive eccentrics. There are shops that sell only umbrellas. Shops that sell only pipes (but not tobacco). Shops that sell only Leica cameras. Shops that sell only books about movies. Charing Cross Road and Bloomsbury are particularly interesting for browsing old books, new books, 18th and 19th century engravings, and literary effluvia.

For standard professional camera gear, visit Leeds Photovisual, Brunswick Centre, WC1 (tube: Russell Square), or KJP, 93, Drummond Street, NW1 (tube: Warren Street). The pro labs are Metro on Clerkenwell Road, EC1, and Joes Basement on Wardour Street near Trafalgar Square, W1 (24 hours per day!).

If you're interested in Leicas or collectible cameras, visit Pied Bull Yard off Bury Place across from the British Museum. This courtyard contains The Classic Camera, a Leica-only dealer, and Jessop Classic Photographica, with a fine collection of old rangefinder and twin-lens reflex equipment.


Digital photo titled sushi-bar-at-my-hotel-bloomsbury If you need Internet connectivity from your room, you're out of luck! As far as I can tell, there aren't any hotels in London with 10base-T jacks in the rooms. Like a Jaguar or Rolls-Royce, English hotels look wonderful but they aren't very practical in the modern business world.

London is very large and very neighborhoodish. Pick your preferred area first and then your hotel. My personal favorite area is in Soho near the theaters. A very nice small hotel is the Covent Garden at 10 Monmouth Street, phone (020) 7806 1000. Farther from the theaters but larger is the Savoy Hotel. The Savoy has history, views up the river, and a rooftop swimming pool. It was built in the late 1880s by Gilbert and Sullivan's business manager, Richard D'Oyly Carte.

I've stayed at "MyHotel" in Bloomsbury. For $300 per night I got a stylishly decorated room about 1 meter larger all around than the bed. There was no minibar in my room but the bathroom was unheated and quite cold enough to use as a fridge for cold drinks bought from the convenience store around the corner. Despite double windows the noise from the busy street below was loud enough to require earplugs at night. And when I woke up in the middle of the night and wanted to surf the Internet, I just put on some clothes. There was no in-room Ethernet but across the street is an easyEverything 24-hour Internet cafe.


Digital photo titled chinatown The Michelin Red Guides are the most reliable source for restaurants throughout Europe. If you care about food, you'll definitely want the Michelin Red Guide London . Indian and Asian food in London tends to be quite good. There is a Chinatown area around Gerrard Street just north of the National Gallery where you can get a dim sum lunch seven days a week.

Among the fast food chains, Pret a Manger chain is my favorite, with clean and simple sandwiches and salads.


Digital photo titled up-river-from-st-pauls Dorling Kindersley's Eyewitness London is the most useful guidebook, especially for a photographer, because the book contains a small snapshot of each site. Thus you're able to make an informed decision as to whether or not the journey will be photographically worthwhile. The Dorling Kindersley guide is also good about indicating whether or not photography is allowed within a site. Finally, the guide contains a London Underground map on the back cover, a small street atlas, restaurant recommendations, and hotel listings.

Getting There

Digital photo titled orange-street-sign Most international nonstops fly into Heathrow (LHR). Traffic from Heathrow into downtown London goes over the insanely busy M4 highway. If you've arrived during the morning rush hour, it may be much faster to take the London Underground, which stops right in the terminals (40 minutes to downtown), or the Heathrow Express train (15 minutes to Paddington Station). Try to avoid Gatwick (LGW) airport, which is twice as far from central London as Heathrow.

For airline choices, see the photo.net guide to international airlines. Bottom line: British Airways is most likely to have a nonstop flight from wherever you are and happens to be as good as it gets in the airline business.

Getting Around

Taxis in London can be expensive. Rates are high and the distances are vast. On the plus side, every driver of a London black cab will know every street in the city. The Underground covers the city very thoroughly, is fast and runs every few minutes at peak times. For scenery on a budget, hop a London bus (the driver will give you change!). The bus will be your only option after midnight when the Underground shuts down.


Digital photo titled palace-theater American citizens don't need a visa to visit England.

The time in London is GMT, i.e., five hours ahead of New York. Thus if it is 9:00 am in New York, it is already 2:00 pm in London.

Electricity in England is 240V at 50 Hz. Most laptop computer and digital camera power supplies can function on this power and at most you'll need a mechanical adaptor. Business hotel rooms often are equipped with an American-style plug near the desk. If not, the hotel will lend you an adapter.

The country code for England is 44.

Money is the pound rather than the euro. You can get pounds with an American ATM card from just about any bank machine. The exchange rate is usually around $1.50 per pound.

Going Beyond

Many of England best sights are within a two-hour drive of London. The Roman city of Bath, just to the west, makes a good base for exploring Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral, and a variety of rural hamlets. In the summer, a one-hour train ride south to Brighton is worthwhile for photographs of English seaside tack. You won't need a car to explore the waterfront. Both Cambridge and Oxford are close to London. If you have to pick one for a photography excursion, Cambridge is probably the better choice.

British Rail can take you directly to most towns in England but for photographing the countryside, you're much better off renting a car. Driving in London itself can be intimidating. You might be better off taking the Heathrow Express to the airport and picking up your car there.

Cultural Preparation

Digital photo titled british-library-tower Read Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie, The Forsyte Saga , by John Galsworthy, and Bleak House , Dickens's best and modest modern novel.

Bone up on British history with A History of Britain : At the Edge of the World, 3500 B.C.-1603 A.D by Simon Schama, the Shakespeare king plays, and Memoirs of the Second World War by Winston Churchill. To see how much fun the post-war generation was having, read or watch John Osborne's Look Back in Anger .

Or start right now with "London" by William Blake...

 I wander thro' each charter'd street.
 Near where the charter'd Thames does flow
 And mark in every face I meet
 Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

 In every cry of every Man,
 In every Infants cry of fear,
 In every voice: in every ban,
 The mind-forg'd manacles I hear

 How the Chimney-sweepers cry
 Every blackning Church appalls,
 And the hapless Soldiers sigh
 Runs in blood down Palace walls

 But most thro' midnight streets I hear
 How the youthful Harlots curse
 Blasts the new-born Infants tear
 And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

If you run out of books, you can always stop into the British Library (the English equivalent of the Library of Congress).


I'll be returning to London every few months for the foreseeable future. So I hope to be adding to this guide after every trip. Right now this is more of a magnet for reader experience. Please contribute your knowledge by clicking on the "add a comment" link below.

Text and pictures copyright 2001 Philip Greenspun. Most of these photos were taken with an Olympus E-10 digital SLR.

Article created 2001

Readers' Comments

Add a comment

Paul Ashton , February 23, 2001; 11:20 A.M.

Phil, you've done a great job of distilling so much into a concise guide for the visitor to London. I wouldn't know where to start, having lived in London, having run an office in London by commuting from Houston every other month for three years, and being a great fan of one of the top three walking cities in the world (I include New York and Paris in the trio).

I would stress the walking part because I have worn out more shoe leather in London than anywhere else. My regular office commute was from Waterloo Station to Mayfair and was just as easy to walk as by tube or bus.

Londoners are not reserved. Problem is often finding one in the first place! A Londoner will be more than ready to give an opinion, share a joke or meet you half way in a discussion. Don't expect to be invited into their homes though as that probably won't happen. The most likely Londoner to test this theory on is a taxi driver.

Edward Rutherford's novel "London" is a fantastic companion to the city as it manages to compress 2000 years of history into a 1000 pages. You'll learn more about London's history from this book than from any other source.

I strongly recommend the "Thames Walk", a system of footpaths along the River Thames which is well signposted. Start at the Thames Barrage and walk upstream past Greenwich, the Docklands, Tower Bridge, Westminster, Chelsea. Do five miles a day, taking time for detours, etc., and it can be done in less than a week.

Like most frequent travellers I quite like London Gatwick. It's smaller than Heathrow and the Gatwick Express from Victoria station is as efficient as the new train service from Heathrow.

I used to get my films processed at a Gujarati-run kiosk in Mayfair. The immigrant community has taken to London extremely well, adding to its cosmopolitan atmosphere, contributing much from their diverse cultures. Other cities aspiring to be "world class" have much to learn from London.

Edward Hahn , February 24, 2001; 08:25 A.M.

The English have more energy and drive than Californians! Thanks for giving us some not commonly seen views of this place. One of the things which intrigues me about London, is the sheer number of details you notice everywhere. It seems every nook and cranny of the streets and shops are crammed with something...and the new stuff is detailed as well, but more in terms of good design details rather than the old bric a brac style.

Yes, you can shoot a ton of film in London, and have good food too. Nice people.

David Adams , February 25, 2001; 04:44 P.M.

Metro's location is Clerkenwell Road not Clerconwell Road. There are other branches too. Gatwick may be twice as far as Heathrow, but a train from there to central London is quicker than the Underground from Heathrow. The Heathrow Express, as you mention, is faster than both and said to be the most expensive train ride in the world by distance.

Other than that, speaking as a long term resident, this is as good a 10 minute guide as one could wish for.

Patrick Ward , February 26, 2001; 02:29 P.M.

I second Philip's recommendation of British Airway's as the airline of choice. Unfortunately, from Philadelphia, BA only flies direct to Heathrow. US Airways (our other choice in Philadelphia), which is inferior in every possible way, flies into Gatwick. I prefer Gatwick because in my experience the lines at immigration have always been much shorter. This more than makes up for the slightly longer (yet cheaper) ride on the Gatwick Express.

While you're in London, definitely take the time to get a bit out of the center and visit places like Greenwich, Highgate, and Hampstead, which give you a real sense of London's origins as an amalgamation of villages. As far as photographic fodder, I've always found markets to be great sources of local flavor. London has plenty of markets of every sort. Check the tourist guides (my favorite is TimeOut) for descriptions and times.

Mike Scott , February 26, 2001; 04:54 P.M.

Bring a tripod. ©2000MikeScott

My favorite London guidebook is Rick Steves' London (updated yearly) – he’s written great European travel books for years. Have a look at www.ricksteves.com for more information. I’ve stayed in a small, family run hotel in a nice, London neighborhood (Kensington) – with full breakfast included – for less than $125 (£74 at last check). As for Heathrow or Gatwick: I prefer Heathrow since it’s on the Tube line – Gatwick only connects with the city by train, which is more expensive. Definitely bring a tripod to photograph city landmarks – with often rainy weather many locations look better by night…

Patrick Hudepohl , February 27, 2001; 04:46 A.M.

London Underground

Travelling from Europe, and especially The Netherlands, Belgium and France, you might consider taking the Eurostar train through the tunnel. Up to 300 km/h on main land, sadly it goes considerably slower in England. But it does bring you very neatly to Waterloo International station, in the heart of London. Most likely, one or two Underground rides or a short cab fare will bring you to your hotel.

Paulo Bizarro , February 28, 2001; 10:15 A.M.

I think Phillip's "guide" is a bit shallow. He will have time in his next visits to fully understand what is going on. I have lived in London for one year, studying, so one of my recommendations would be to visit some colleges, and the magnificent parks. Oxford is just a short time away, too. I can not disagree more when Phillip says that there is not a lot to photograph in London. The list is endless. Inhospitable weather? This statement is a joke. Inhospitable is Moscow with minus 25 Celsius, and even so I took some nice pictures.

T Armstrong , March 01, 2001; 05:07 A.M.

London does offer a whole host of people shot opportunities, but you have to put up with a lot of jostling and jousting in order to get them (there was talk of installing "speed lanes" on the footpaths in Oxford Street ... and fining people if they walked to slow – theres an indication of how crowded it can get!) Plonking a tri-pod in the middle of the footpath is simply not an option (or even standing in place for longer than a few seconds)

One of the best ways to get acquainted with London is to jump on the Number 14 Bus from the Thames River in Putney and ride all the way into the city, It passes through Sth Kensington, Past the Natural History Museum, Harrods, Hyde Park and all the way to Tottenham Court Road … all that for £1. Or you can jump on the double deck tourist buses which provide a running commentary and some good photo oportunities. A day pass (lets you get on and off for 24 hrs) is around £8

London also offers more public park space than any other capital city in the world! Hyde Park offers rollerblading (you can rent from nearby Bayswater) Boating, Horse riding or just good old wandering, as well as the entertaining Speakers Corner. Regents Park has some fantastic flower gardens as well as an outdoor Shakespearean theatre in the summer. Also near Regents Park is Baker Street, home of the Sherlock Homes Museum. A bit further out is Richmond Park, where Deer still wander around (and some good Cycling tracks are on hand!)

For people opportunities the Markets are your best bet, esp on the weekends. Camden Markets is famous for its “alternative” offerings, Also Notting Hill, Portobello, Petticoat Lane or for something very unique the Brixton Markets.

If you intend to use the Public Transport (Buses and Tubes) you can purchase single day passes which are a very cheap way to get around (comparatively) I one day pass for the central zones is currently around the £4 mark. These allow the use of all public transport.

And for food … every single Pub in London will serve up a good cheap feed – English Style, not to mention a Pint of its best …

And Lastly, I’d hate to visit the zoos that Phil puts below the London version, It is a true example of Elizabethan living conditions … cramped, impoverished and sad!

Martin Davidson , March 01, 2001; 08:26 A.M.

As the executive producer of Simon Schamas A History of Britain, I am glad you recommended the book! Though more specific books about London would have to include Peter Ackroyds book LONDON a Biography; and Roy Porter, History of London.

You might also have a read of Zadie Smiths WHITE TEETH, for a more contemporary, less glamorous picture of multi-cultural London.

And dont forget (though it will COST) that London's restaurants have been transformed over the last twenty years; I actually think you can now eat better here than in New York; and even as well as in Paris (well, just about!!)

Dont forget to have a go on the London Eye ferris wheel!

Keith Nichols , March 01, 2001; 12:11 P.M.

Is the Leica shop still in Pied Bull Yard? I was by there in December 1999, and it was gone. And it's not mentioned in the company's catalog from Vienna, which used to list it.

Helen Back , March 01, 2001; 09:30 P.M.

I'd also recommend Simon Schama's A History of Britain (the book), but if you can, try to catch the program on TV (the History Channel in U.S.) or video. The television program tells the history of Britain as if you're hearing it for the first time. (Great job Martin! Eagerly awaiting the upcoming episodes . . . .)

As someone who has spent a fair amount of time in London and once lived in the suburbs, I'd also recommend Francis Chichester's pocket map and guide of London. Small enough to fit in a pocket, this atlas of central London includes just enough detail and 3-D drawings of major landmarks to keep you oriented. No matter how winding the road, no matter how many circuses in your path, this guide will help you find your way around London like a native, and you won't have to stand on those busy sidewalks trying to fold and unfold a big map.

A copy can be hard to find, however. I stumbled on my first one in 1985 and have treasured it ever since, but it had started to get dated. I looked everywhere -- online and off -- to find a copy, and was told by more than one bookstore that it is not in print. While in London last November, I decided on a whim to stop by the address printed in the guide book (9 St. James's Place, SW1) and found that the company actually still exists and sells the guides right there, underneath the Chichester family home! The man who sold me my new copy told me that one of the company's main markets is custom orders, with corporate names/logos imprinted on the cover for corporate give-aways, but that several London bookstores do carry them.

Guan Yang , March 02, 2001; 04:41 A.M.

Immigration? They actually check your passports? Ha ha ha. That's hilarious.

And when Schengen is fully implemented some time in March, we won't need passports, either. (Of course, the UK isn't part of Schengen, but for the rest of Europe.)

Michael Moon , March 02, 2001; 10:41 A.M.

So far, an excellent beginning. Could turn into a definitive guide to photography in London, and I look forward to tracking its progress.

By the way, most of England IS within 2 hours of London - by the fast lane of the motorways.

Tom Burke , March 02, 2001; 02:23 P.M.

Just one further comment about Heathrow - there are persistent stories that the Customs & Immigration staff at Heathrow really don't like photographers, and have their radar machines turned up very high - to the point where they can fog film. This is probably of more concern to Brits returning into Heathrow with exposed film that others bringing unexposed film through, but it may be worth bearing in mind. Customs staff at Gatwick are reputed to be much, much more considerate.

Martin Davidson , March 03, 2001; 08:30 A.M.

Leica at Pied Bull Yard...

This yard has hosted a number of Leica/Classic camera shops, in various manifestations, for years. The Vienna Camera Fair you mention went out of business some time back. The shop Philip took his picture of is also an offshoot of an earlier shop that went bust -- run by Andrew Riley (v nice guy). If leica is your bag, few shops are more fun to visit.

York cameras, a big Canon dealer has also now moved there (into the old Vienna Camera Fair shop). Jessops classics is there; and last time I visited, so too was a Vienna off-shoot (ie set up by ex employees of the defunct Vienna Leica dealer, on a smaller scale, and with emphasis on old classic; I think they now trade as Museum Camera Shop, or something.)

David Barts , March 12, 2001; 08:13 A.M.

For pics like most of the above (a tad on the mainstream side, what), one would be better off with $3-worth of postcards than $3K-worth of photo gear. There are more atmospheric images in the Time Out guidebook (which is otherwise excellent, too).

Pete Cutter , March 13, 2001; 09:10 A.M.

Re: X-Rays at Heathrow

The stories may be true, and maybe it's a different story in different terminals, but I recently came back through Heathrow from Australia with a fair number of exposed films, and did not experience any fogging problems.

Of course it would be sensible to put film into protective bags, but you can shoot a lot of film in 3 weeks!

Girish Menon , March 19, 2001; 06:44 A.M.

I've been to london a couple of times but the weather was very much not suited for photography. I did click but more often than not caught dark backgrounds. This guide to london on photo.net has shown me a way with a new perspective. I'll keep in mind some of the things written here next time I fly to london and hopefully get lucky enough to snap a few clicks and share it with you.

Evan Zamir , March 21, 2001; 10:38 P.M.

I just got back from a trip to London, and I have to say that I think it is a very photogenic city. Of course, that's when it's not raining. Even when it is just cloudy, though, there is plenty to keep the trained eye captivated. What they call "bright spells" over there means that the sun comes in and out, and you really have to take advantage of it when it's shining. This photo of Big Ben really is more dramatic when the sun hits the clock tower just the right way. I had to wait for the right timing while the sun kept playing hide a go seek between the clouds. The final shot was worth the wait. However, there are beautiful gardens all over that really photograph well under cloudy conditions. When I go back I'm bringing my tripod. I found that handholding did not let me get the depth of field that I wanted sometimes, when it was overcast. I brought along my monopod, but that really doesn't help all that much. In consequence I wasn't able to do any twilight shots, which are my favorite. Anyway, that's my two cents.

Image Attachment: clock_105_horiz_small.jpg

Simon Evans , March 22, 2001; 06:55 A.M.

Re: X-Rays

Why not get films processed before flying back? London has a vast number of film processing outlets. Look in the labs thread or pick up a copy of weekly British Journal of Photography. This has adverts by quite a number of the better pro labs, most of which are easily accessible from the city centre. Joe's Basement, Sky, Metro, Graham Nash, Primary Colour are just a few names that come to mind.

There are plenty of galleries and places to buy film too - for these and film processing contacts try the Resources section (under Information) at The Photographers' Gallery.

Jason Campbell , March 26, 2001; 09:42 P.M.

As far as legal subjects go, I like the criminal justice courts at the Old Bailey, near St.Paul's- esp. the statue of justice on the roof with sword in one hand and scales in the other. However, it should be noted that although the court galleries are open to the public, cameras may not be taken inside for any reason..and they cannot be checked anywhere to be picked up afterward.

Other great subjects include the Inns of Court (eg Middle temple, Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn etc,)

Paul Ashton , March 27, 2001; 07:24 A.M.

I just returned from a few days in wet, cold and even snowy London. One comment about the London Underground. I was taking a photo with flash at Canary Wharf Station and was approached by an official who told me that flash photography is not allowed on the platforms. Apparently, for security reasons, train drivers will hit the emergency button if they see anything strange (such as a flash) when entering a station.

Patrick Morrison , April 03, 2001; 04:25 P.M.

In two months in London, my favorite night was participating in a 'London Walk' (link below), guided tour of Belgravia. The guide, Emily, was a charming, informed, pint-sized wonder who brought wonder and mystery and history as she guided us through many blocks and three pubs. They offer many other walks, and apparently there's a very strict policy about whom qualifies as a guide. Well-paced, well-priced, well-worth-it in bringing London alive through connecting its places with its people and past in an intimate way. Another vote for Gatwick. I've been through both airports half-a-dozen times, and the general rule of 'smaller airports are less hassle' seems to hold true. The Gatwick Express to Victoria Station drops you right in the heart of London, once you've made your way out of the airport.

Louisa King , May 18, 2001; 08:35 A.M.

On the subject of flash photography on the underground.. yes - it's correct that flash photography in such places can have unexpected results.

Here in London, we do have a problem with terrorists occasionally. A flash from a camera can be hard to tell from a potential bomb in that split second that you see it. I'd therefore ask people to just take a moment to think before using flash photography in such a place.. it takes just a couple of moments to ask before doing so to find out if it's ok :-)

Much safer than suddenly finding yourself in the middle of security people bearing down on a 'suspect' LOL

Matthew Pulzer , May 20, 2001; 09:23 A.M.

I once asked the manager of a large underground station why flash is such a no-no and he said it was simply safety. They don't like the idea of a flash gun going off infront of a driver, who's eyes have been accustomed to a dark tunnel. Seems reasonable to me - nothing to do with terrorists.

Helen Laird , May 22, 2001; 11:00 A.M.

Londoner born and bred.

Having lived in London my whole life, I am always surprised at how many misapprehensions non-Londoners can have about the place. So to clear up a few things.

1) You cannot get to most of England by driving for two hours from London. Travelling south it can take up to 4 hours to get to the coastline and travelling north, anything from 6-8 hours to get to the boarders of Scotland (where, by the way, you'll get some stunning landscapes). Although there are a few cool places to go within two hours.

2) Like any city, London has a huge range of photo opportunities. The buildings themselves are pretty and have interesting architectures, but I suppose not very photogenic, unless the sun is out, which probably happens a bit more often than everybody thinks. But considering the huge diversity of cultures, the people shot opportunites are endless.

3) I've been in and out of Heathrow at least a dozen times and never once have I had any problems with films being clouded, nor have any of my friends and collegues.

4) I prefer to fly Virgin. They are honestly the only airline that have ever actually impressed me. Great food and good entertainment.

4) Officially, you have to ask permission to take photos on public stations. Unofficially, as long as you're not in the way, it's never usually a problem.

5) Overall It's a great guide to the tourist attractions, (apart from missing out covent garden, which, with it's buskers is full of photo opps). If you're interested in the real London, go to the markets, the festivals, the parks and the pubs. Someone else mentioned some of the good places. Camden market for funky young people and Brixton market for real ethnic diversity and colour and Kew gardens for beautiful exotic plants and gardens.

That's all I can think of right now.

Good luck with the guide.


Jane Dallaway , June 05, 2001; 08:57 A.M.

Picaddily circus

If you're going to travel around the UK from London, then don't forget Easy Jet a budget airline which operates out of Luton Airport (accessible from Liverpool Street). Luton Airport is a really nice small airport.

My favourite London book is London (Cadogan) which has a nice selection of history, walks, what to see etc. It doesn't have as much about where to eat and where to stay but has really good explanations.

Definitely make use of the London buses, they are a really good way of seeing around the city, without paying the earth.

Despite having lived in London for 7 years, there are still many parts I haven't investigated fully. It's definitely a city to explore over time and to return to time and time again.

Jeroen Wenting , June 07, 2001; 03:07 A.M.

X-Ray machines at LHR can indeed devastate your film (processed or not). I have found that lead-lined bags or boxes (I use Hama filmsafe) prevent damage. I now use them always, not only do they protect my film, they also make for faster filmreplacement (important during actionshoots).

BAA officials do not like photographers in general, and aircraft spotters in particular. They have probably had too many negative experiences with them in the past (as well as being probably the most security conscious airport staff outside Israel and the former USSR).

Chris Gillis , June 11, 2001; 01:00 A.M.

To clarify the above. The carry on baggage scanners at LHR do not harm film. End of story. I have brought many rolls throguh with no hand inspection. Most of these were push three stops wtih no adverse results. It is a myth that modern carry-on scanner can cause harm.

The stronger checked baggage scanners are dealy. This is a crucial distinction to make. Also, in rare cases a check baggage style scanner is available at the gate if a stronger scan is needed, but this is not a first options and is rarely used.

Jeroen Wenting , June 19, 2001; 04:55 P.M.

Maybe I got unlucky then, as I visited during a period of high IRA activity (I heard the blast that took out most of the windows in the financial district from my hotelroom).

Nigel Nagarajan , June 29, 2001; 07:23 P.M.

Perhaps it is just me, but I think that there is something missing here. London is one of the most ethnically-diverse cities in the world. Sadly, this aspect of London is absent both from Philip's photographs and from the other comments (in Philip's defence, it is very difficult to do full justice to a city's personality in one or two short trips).

If you have more time, instead of just concentrating on standard architectural shots why not also explore photographing the people of London? Brick Lane in London's East End is now famous for its large Bangladeshi community, although there are also refugees from e.g. Somalia and the former Yugoslavia living there. In previous times, however, it welcomed Huguenot refugees from France and Jews fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe. I think I am right in saying that there is a building just off Brick Lane that is now a mosque but that used to be a synagogue and before that a Protestant Huguenot church. Other areas of London also have their stories to tell and are associated with particular ethnic groups. The Time Out Guide to London mentioned above is a good place to start if you want to find out more.

Philip is right that people can be reserved, but this comment probably applies to people in most big cities. My own (admittedly very limited) experience with people photography (admitedly mainly confined to other countries rather than in London) has taught me that patience, a smile and a sympathetic approach to your subject can pay dividends. Here's hoping that there will be some nice people shots posted here one day by Philip and others.



stuart whatling , July 12, 2001; 11:10 A.M.

A few extra points from a local.

- On the museum front, the Victoria & Albert (usually just known as the "V&A") in South Kensington is the best for photography, especially the spectacular Casts Galleries. Handheld photography and flash are fine but no tripods. Light levels in most of the galleries are pretty good. They also have their own outstanding collection of photographs, a tiny fraction of which are displayed in the dedicated gallery. (The National Portrait Gallery by Trafalgar Sq also has a good mix of photos)

- Hard-core architectural photographers who want to know what exactly they're shooting are advised to invest in a copy of the relevant volume of Pevsner's Guides to the Architecture of Britain (I think there are about four covering London). This series, which is regularly updated, is one of the most amazing pieces of scholarship in the history of publishing. As I always say, Pevsner is never wrong - if it appears otherwise then reality has probably made a mistake. The little square paperback "London: A Guide to Recent Architecture" by Samantha Hardingham is likewise indispensible for modernists.

- "Grays of Westminster" near Victoria Station is a MUST for Nikonites. Feels more like a Saville Row gentleman's tailors than a camera shop but a wonderful place for the enthusiast. Check out their typically elegant website: www.graysofwestminster.co.uk

- Don't miss out on old pubs like The George on Borough High St (which hasn't changed much since the Pilgrim Fathers left). Won't do much for your photography but helps make the weather tolerable and allows you to get attuned to the locale. And yes, the beer is flat, brown and warm. We like it that way!

- I'd second the opinions expressed above about visiting the more ethnically diverse areas like Brixton Market or Brick Lane (justifiably famous for it's Bengali curry houses!) Probably the best way of getting away from the cliched red-bus/big-ben stereotypes.

- Finally, regarding the weather, the last few days prompt me to mention the oft quoted description of the standard English summer: "three hot muggy days followed by a thunderstorm..." Get a rain-hood for you camera and make the most of it!

If anyone has any specific queries, I'll be happy to answer them - address is in the usual place. Enjoy. Stuart

Manish Vij , July 24, 2001; 07:33 A.M.

You can get some spectacular night photography in the Embankment area:

- The London Eye is lit with multicolored lighting at night

- The walkways by the Thames are lit with thousands of small light bulbs

- Westminster Abbey projects a golden reflection onto the waves of the Thames

- The houses of Parliament by Westminster Abbey are lit with odd, subtle red and green shades that look like the paisley linings of antique books

Christmas is a particularly good time of year, you can get Westminster Abbey, its giant Christmas tree and the Eye of London in one frame. Make sure you bring warm clothing.

I've never flown BA, but Virgin Atlantic has absolutely amazing service and entertainment.

dj clark , July 29, 2001; 08:38 P.M.

A further note on driving in and out of London; distance is not equal to time. Unless very early or very late getting clear of London (say 12 miles from the centre to the M25) will take at least an hour -- on Friday afternoon it could be two hours. So not much of England can reliably be reached in 2 hours from London but a lot more can be reached in three or four hours.

s wan , July 31, 2001; 01:30 P.M.

>Electricity in England is 240V at 50 Hz.

Actually it's 230V/50Hz, but older 240V appliances will still operate without damage.

Get a good map. Recommend Stanfords in Covent Garden (http://www.stanfords.co.uk/) who are excellent for just about any location.

This (http://www.stanfords.co.uk/mapdetails/mapdetails?item_code=7212&loc_id=1297) is overkill but I challenge anybody to get lost if they have one, otherwise this (http://www.stanfords.co.uk/mapdetails/mapdetails?item_code=7197&loc_id=1297) is probably a good bet...

Note that "black" cabs are not necessarily black in colour though most will be of similar design, see www.londontransport.co.uk for details. Beware any taxi not displaying the white license plate on the back, probably uninsured so you take your chances if you get into it. Licensed cabbies can refuse fares over 6 miles. It's illegal for any cab to tout for business, most that do are unregulated... better safe than sorry, stick with the black ones (check for the license)

Ref London Underground, there are countless different types of fare. If sightseeing all over the place get a Travel Card which allows unlimited travel WITHIN THE SPECIFIED ZONES, on underground, buses (except Night buses) and surface trains from 9.30am to when the system shuts down (last train from central London typically 12.15-12.25am). Travel Cards are valid all day on weekends.

London is divided into 6 zones, fares are charged according to zones of travel (1 being central). LT Cards are functionally the same as Travel Cards except that they are valid before 9.30am and are more expensive. Weekend Travel Cards are valid Saturday & Sunday, and are cheaper than two separate ones. See www.thetube.com for current details.

Flower lovers should not miss Kew Gardens, accessible from the Underground. It's one of the largest botanical gardens in the world with the a huge collection of rare orchids.

Tower Of London is also worthwhile. You can't take pics of the Crown Jewels but no visit to London is complete without coming here, I'd liken it to going to Egypt and skipping the Pyramids...

Jim Cheesman , November 11, 2001; 04:17 P.M.

As someone Kew born and bred, I feel I should second and third the comments about Kew Gardens - if you like plants or flowers, GO! It's one of (if not the) best gardens in the world. If the weather's nice, the walk by the river (down the towpath) from Kew to Richmond is very pleasant and quite photogenic, as is Richmond itself. (You probably won't bump into Richard Attenborough or Mick Jagger, but that's where they live...) Richmond Park is beautiful, especially in autumn with a little mist arou nd and the deer calling (?).

andy ellam , November 29, 2001; 06:54 A.M.

Best to avoid driving from London unless you live here (the traffic can be awful) but there's lots of interesting (and photogenic) places that are only an hour or so from London on the train, e.g. Cambridge. It's under an hour from Kings Cross station, and it's exceptionally photogenic, particularly in the summer. Train times from Railtrack or Cambridge University.
Cambridge station is about a mile out of town - get a bus or taxi to the middle of town. Ask the taxi driver for "Kings Parade" if you want to arrive in the middle of the old colleges.

Brighton's an excellent day trip from London, also. Unusually cosmopolitan for a seaside town.


YC _ , April 12, 2002; 11:09 P.M.

E-6 processing in London is problematic and pricey. Joe's basement at Wardour Street is convenient but very busy during peak hours and the care taken varies (I've had scratched transparencies more than once) Joe's head office near Old Street tube station is quieter and very professional (caters to corporate clients), but they're just as willing to process a single roll of E-6 and at the same price as Wardour street.

People staying in London longer term might want to try the considerably cheaper (by UK standards) processing at Fujilab.co.uk by way by postpaid mailers. Check their site for film+processing included deals.

So far, I've only found Kew gardens worth photographing in London.

Jin Ru Ong , April 19, 2002; 04:41 A.M.

I too found Joe's Basement a little less than professional. They seriously messed up my B+W prints the only time I sent it to them. They are also the only lab in London to do Agfa Scala processing and I found smudge marks over 5-6 slides. They are expensive too, which makes it even less acceptable. A brilliant E-6 mail-order lab I've found is Peak Imaging. They have a very good reputation and very competitive prices. Their website is http://www.peak-imaging.co.uk. Turn-around time is 3 days for E6 processing (including postal time!). I've not had a scratched slide from them yet!

Peter Sharp , May 15, 2002; 08:57 A.M.

I believe the new carry-on scanners at Heathrow have variable power so that they start low and increase if they can't get through. This is unconfirmed, but it's what I have heard. I have brought countless films through both heathrow and Gatwick and never had any problems.

Liz Vater , September 06, 2002; 09:27 A.M.

Some suggestions for photo-treats off the beaten track in London: markets like Leadenhall (beautiful Victorian structure, weekdays), Spitalfields (old market buildings juxtaposed against new glass buildings, Sat and Sun), Columbia Road flower market (early Sunday morning) and Camden Passage antiques market, Islington (Wed and Sat mornings) offer a busy, bustling slice of London life. Then there are the many old cemeteries (Highgate, Abney Park in Stoke Newington), with atmospheric statuary, often overgrown and eerie. The river walk along the South Bank takes in many sights as well as groups of skateboarders, performance artists and occasionally some interesting birds along the shoreline. As someone else mentioned, London is better viewed as a collection of villages so try and get out of the centre to really appreciate the diversity the city has to offer.

Maria Bostenaru , January 19, 2003; 04:29 P.M.

I was visiting London two times this summer :) and I'll try to repeat my visit if I can next year. I'm Romanian and need a visa :( <br> I totally disagree with your oppinin of bad weather in London. I was there totally 21 days and it rained one .... errr .... two, but one of them I was on the antique Britain tour (Stonehenge and Bath). Here in Karlsruhe (Germany) it rains all the time and especially on weekends.<br> I stayed once at Earls' Court and once in Notting Hill. Notting Hill was great, I could walk through parks (Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, St. James Park) till the Thames and then along it. I have a Hyde Park squirrel somewhere else on this site. There are grey squirrrels and this is why the red squirrel population is diing out :(<br> Don't forget the modern architecture in London: not only the courtyard of British Museum but like Lloyds building or the extention of the National Gallery.<br> My favourite is the Big Ben though, where I was the first time I visited London, that's why I'll put a picture of it here.

Image Attachment: 03.jpg

Mike D , February 24, 2003; 11:32 A.M.

Unfortunately, Joe's Basement has closed down.

Alternatives I've seen mentioned are:

  • Metro Imaging, 74-76 Clerkenwell Road, EC1
  • Ceta Imaging, 1-5 Poland Street, W1
  • Visualeyes, West St, Covent Garden, WC2H
I've not tried any of them personally, yet, though.

simon peace peace , April 07, 2003; 02:47 A.M.

For an page entitled 'photographers guide to London' to begin with the words 'you probably won't come to London to take pictures' is a little worrying to say the least. Particularly when the opposite is in fact true. Not only is London a photographers dream, but the overcast skys, described by Philip as 'inhospitable', cast an even light illuminating the scene perfectly.

The text which follows in his guide, actually goes on to describe many photo opportunties available to the visitor and reads as if, even the unimpressed Phil, is beginning to uncover the city's wealth of opportunity.

He appears to have another unfortunate lapse when he suggests 'skip all the Royal stuff in London'. On the contrary, trooping the colour or the changing of the guard, offer another great opportuntity to capture the flavour of the Capital, in all it's glory.

On the subject of 'excursions outside London' One of my favourite places happens to be Brighton. Condemed in Phils guide as as a chance to photograph seaside tack. He would be better pointing out the possibilities of photographing victorian architecture or ichonic British seaside images (as well as the tack).

It sounds like Phil plans to return to the Capital regularly. I wouldn't mind betting that he soon discovers for himself that, for a photographer, the streets may well be paved with gold.

Bas Scheffers , April 11, 2003; 08:31 A.M.

I won't state again that there is more to photograph here than Philip lets you believe.

Some pointers, though:

- London "pro" labs suck and are overpriced. So are the consumer stores in the high street and mail order is your only real option.

- Despite the reputation, LHR security is among the worst in the world. It just looks bad because they are slow due to understaffing, but to speed the experience up, the aren't very tight. Never had a problem with the X-Ray machines there.

- Avoid "low cost" airlines to/from europe. (Mainly Ryanair and Easyjet) Unless you book months in advance and only fly tuesday-thursday on them, regular airlines are usualy cheaper and operate from the real airports (LHR and Gatwick, LGW). Low cost applies to their operating expenses, not your ticket price. Avoid Luton and Stansted airport, they are miles away and anything you save on the ticket price, you have to make up in train fares.

- Like Philip said, people aren't very open and photographing in marketplaces and such is often frowned upon by the subjects. Apperantly they are very ashamed of their stalls or things they sell. Fortunately there is enough architecture and buskers/street artists don't mind as long as you are polite and leave them a little tip, it's what they do for a living.

- There are many beggars. Of the 12 million pounds they hassle off you each year, 10 million goes to alcohol and drugs. You make up your own mind.

- Take a tripod and/or some pretty fast film and/or lenses, even when the sun is out in force, in the many shadows in the city, you could be pressed for light.

- If architecture is your thing, go to "The City" (financial district, around Bank underground) on a Sunday. There is nothing residential there and it will be deserted.

- Avoid any restaurants around Leicester Square, except maybe chinese food in Chinatown. Not only do you pay the "West End Rip-off", the quality is appalling, even at chains that serve pretty good food elsewhere in the city. Most notorious are the Aberdeen/Angus steak houses.

- Even hostels are amazingly expensive here, and usualy a dump. The best one I have seen is the HI at Kings Cross, but pay anything less than their 24 pounds and you will most likely be staying in a dump.

But it is a great place to visit, even to live, so enjoy!

gazz proctor , July 12, 2003; 04:33 A.M.

Here's the only lab I'll use in London: Metro Imaging. They have several locations - Chelsea, SoHo, Islington, but I've only ever been to the Islington lab (on Clerkenwell Rd.) My last job there was 55 rolls of E6, cut & sleeved how I wanted them, done in about 4 hours. If it's late afternoon during a weekday, I suggest hanging out at the light tables for a bit and counting all the moto messengers dropping off bags full of 120 & 220 - nice to know that local working pros use this place as well. Another plus: my last V.A.T. refund from them was credited to my account about 10 days after I flew out. Stellar.

Eric Cantona , July 13, 2003; 07:37 A.M.

Where do I start?

I have lived in London all my life and have an obsessive interest in photography so I was looking forward to reading Philip's take on London town, but from the first sentence clearly something was not right here: "You probably won't come to London to take pictures".

I have to say I agree strongly with Paulo Bizarro's earlier post on this thread. All Philip can come up with is architectural photography?!?! What's in your pipe Phil?

London is an enormous city of around 8 million, one third of which consists of an extremely varied and culturally vibrant ethnic minority population.

London is not only a city of cultural variety but also one of extreme social contrast: photo opportunities range from the bustle and reeking capitalism of the City financial district on a week day to Brick Lane or Portobello markets on a Saturday (or if you're a bit more of an adventurous tourist, Brixton, Southall and Hackney).

Btw, the reason market workers tend to be so camera shy is very simple: many of the casual labourers in London markets are claiming Social Security on the side (which is illegal) and may suspect you to be a social security inspector (seriously). Also markets such as Portobello and Camden have a thriving drug trade (mostly soft) so if some dodgy looking character tells you to stop taking his photo you probably should not argue.

I have to second some of the other recommendations above to visit London's innumerable stunning parks. In particular, Richmond Park (London's biggest park) with its deer and vast open spaces is a special treat. You also will not want to miss Hampstead Heath and the numerous historical gardens and houses, such as Kenwood House and Keats’s house, that lie within its boundaries (avoid visiting the heath after dark when the park's visitors come for a very different motivation).

“By the way, most of England IS within 2 hours of London - by the fast lane of the motorways.” Michael Moon

Er, no Michael, not unless you are doing 180 and there’s no traffic. Cornwall, Yorkshire, and the Lake District are three of the best attractions outside London that England has to offer and there is no way you can reach them in two hours. It is more realistic to say that most of Engalnd can be reached in 3-4 hours or less by train from London, but then trains are significantly more expensive than car travel in the UK.

Overall there is too much to even begin to comment on … buy a good guide book and take your pick of what to see. I’ve lived in London for 24 years and I can’t even pretend I know a fraction of what it has to offer…and remember, always visit between March and August or else the weather may make you come down with mild SAD at best or feel suicidal at worst.

John Latchford , August 28, 2003; 07:46 P.M.

As a born Londoner you (and the comments) seem to miss a couple of other interesting visits. Take the train to Hampton Court Palace is a spectacular set of building surrounded by huge formal gardens in turn surrounded by a deer park. Also take a trip downriver to Greenwich from Charing Cross pier for a view of London. Hotels are expensive 'cos real-estate here is expensive; complaining aint going to change that.

T Armstrong , September 30, 2003; 10:07 P.M.

Just a couple of extra comments, from a tourist that spent 7 years in London!!! Metro Imageing just off Kings Road in Chelsea are Excellent, once youve found the front door and ventured down the stairs that is ... worth hunting out though. They even offer a courier service so you can have them pick up and deliver, and I have yet to see better packaging and presentation and quality of service!! And while there, the Kings Road is an excellent spot to sit down and have a coffee, and watch how the other half live, chances are you'll see as least one famous face wandering around exploring the fashion stores.

If you do want to get out of london, some of the tour bus packages are excellent, for example we did Leeds Castle (stunning) and Canterbury Cathedral on a day tour for 12GBP, leaving from Central London. Better that battling the traffic (driving on the wrong side of the road for all those across the pond) If you do venture out in a rental, always give way to Postal vans and motorcycle couriers ... those guys are nuts!

Try and get hold of the TNT magazine which comes out every monday free of charge, from boxes outside just about every tube station in London. Its aimed at the Antipodean Backpacker market, but with decades of experience in quality cost driven travel on offer we have pretty good footsteps to follow in!

The budget airlines are cheap if you can book in advance, we flew to Biarritz on Ryan air for less than 10GBP, as well as destinations in Italy and Ireland but you have no comeback if things do go wrong, cancelled and delayed flights are not uncommon and can wreck a tight schedule. And as mentioned it can be costly getting to the various airports if you dont know your way around. Lufthansa is another quality airline ALA Virgin if its an option. Speaking of which, if you do arrive at Heathrow, another alternative to the Tube is the Heathrow bus, which goes through Shepherds Bush, Bayswater (plenty of hostels / hotels in this area and right beside Hyde Park) and up through Oxford Street into the central city. Bit better viewing than the back of the head of the bloke in front of you on the underground!

And lastly, do keep an eye on your belongings, esp around Oxford Street, airports and train stations, and any time when you use a cash machine. NEVER be distracted, plenty of people get caught out on that one!

Cliff Docherty , November 13, 2003; 06:07 P.M.

Intersting take on my home city, if a little flawed. On thing: please, please, please be careful about interchanging the terms Britain and England, as in "the British Library (the English equivalent of the Library of Congress)". The two are not interchangeable and it's intensely irritating when people do this because Britain is not just England, but two other countries as well, namely Scotland and Wales. It may seem pedantic but in one fell swoop the Scots and Welsh and their rich cultures cease to exist everytime people do this.

Rant over. And yes, check out my name. It's Scottish :-)

sean essy , January 14, 2004; 07:56 P.M.

Hmmm, not sure that the best things to photograph in London are really Les Mis at the Palace and Big Ben - buy a postcard if you must, you're not going to beat it. Another boring view of the Thames? There's an awful lot to see and learn in this massive city, I advise others not to waste time on the tourist trail - unless that's the subject of course.

Similarly with Brighton being good only for tack - hasn't Mr Greenspun seen Martin Parr's seaside photgraphy? An example of how to comment on cliches, rather than taking pictures of, yawn, Big Ben in the summer.

Great technical advice on this site, but the photo appreciation borders on the banal very often!

Richard Allen , June 22, 2004; 08:30 A.M.

I'm British and have lived in and around Londond for 53 years now. I just wanted to make one point about Westminster and Big Ben.

Big Ben is one of the bells inside the Tower of Westminster and not the tower itself which is part of the Houses of Parliament.

For me my favourite place is the South Bank of the river Thames as i quite often walk along from Tower Bridge to Westminster just for the joy of it.

Richard Allen , June 22, 2004; 08:33 A.M.

St. Nicholas church at Deptford

I'm British and have lived in and around Londond for 53 years now. I just wanted to make one point about Westminster and Big Ben.

Big Ben is one of the bells inside the Tower of Westminster and not the tower itself which is part of the Houses of Parliament.

For me my favourite place is the South Bank of the river Thames as i quite often walk along from Tower Bridge to Westminster just for the joy of it.

And while you're here visit Camden Market on a sunny Sunday as you'll find a wealth of photographic opportunities there as well as food from all over the world.

Heather Stark , July 15, 2004; 06:54 A.M.

London is a relatively safe city, and personally, as a Londoner, I am pretty happy to walk around on my own just about anywhere - during the day. But not every neighborhood in London is a place I would be happy flashing a fancy camera, or carrying a bag that was obviously a camera bag. If you use your common sense you should be fine. Just don't forget it's a big city.

Maria Bostenaru , July 25, 2004; 03:42 P.M.

Yesterday the red busses in London had their 50th anniversary and will soon not be in use anymore :(

Great to see a photo of this symbol of London right near the title!

Jon Reades , September 21, 2004; 08:47 A.M.

One of the 'relatively' new additions to London is a wealth of high-concept/high-controversy architecture. You'll no doubt have read about the Gherkin (Swiss Re Building), but having just taken advantage of London's Open House (www.londonopenhouse.org) I was thrilled by the striking lines and interesting features of buildings that I hadn't even known existed.

A walk along the South Bank is particularly rewarding, IMO, because you work your way from the OXO tower, past the Tate Modern, and on to the new City Hall (another Rogers' building). I second the recommendatin of shooting in The City (of London) on weekends -- none of the financial types are to be seen and the place is almost eery in its emptiness.

It's also very easy (if not always cheap) to get out of London for the day or weekend -- hiking in the Chilterns, strolling along the Thames, Oxford or Cambridge University... The English countryside (to say nothing of the Scottish or Welsh!) is beautiful in a very tranquil, idyllic way. I've also had a strong desire to visit the Thames Flood Barrier but haven't quite figured out how I'd get there early in the morning...

Jon Reades , October 21, 2004; 05:10 A.M.

An event of particular interest to photographers would be the annual Wildlife Photography Awards at the Museum of Natural History. For about 5 quid you can wander amongst about 100-odd prize-winning entries in a variety of categories (not all of them have to contain wildlife, for instance). This is a fascinating way to see some spectacular photography.

More details are available from the Natural History web site, or here's the BBC article that reminded me to go visit this year: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3761114.stm.

Ian P , November 24, 2004; 07:36 A.M.

The Tate Modern, opened in December 2000, does not allow photography inside the galleries but the lobby areas are interesting and you can get some photos of the river from the top floors.

Tate Modern does allow photography, providing you don't use a flash; there are quite a few museum and galleries like that. I do agree that there are some great views from the top floors

Maria Bostenaru , March 21, 2005; 05:16 A.M.

Museums are great to visit in London and I agree with the above comment on the Natural History museum. While I was there the one couls see outside "The World from Above" posters - quite a highlight. While that one was temporary, the fountains in the inner court of the Royal Academy of arts are permanent, and a beautiful outer space design, definitely worth a photo.

Image Attachment: royal_academy_of_arts.jpg

ben conover , May 31, 2005; 06:19 P.M.


I lived in London for 20 years, I love it. You cannot simply go there and say I've done London, impossible. There is an extremely rich fabric of culture and history which you may scratch the surface of in 20 years. Takes time to see the place, my memories are photgraphic, although I never used a camera there, I got to know it well. The people will always change, so next time I go I will feel a fresh look on the grimey old heart I love and miss.

Anthony Jones , December 04, 2005; 06:00 A.M.

Battersea Power Station | Print For Sale

I am a photographer based in London who has recently exhibited my work at an art fair in London.

Jim Batty , January 15, 2007; 06:52 A.M.

Less Obvious London

London Docklands Viewed Across Millwall Outer Dock

I'm another photographer based in London. I can't imagine running out of subject matter in this great city. Obviously the fun challenge is to photograph the big London icons in a novel and interesting way. But if you're tired of that, here are a few visually interesting but slightly more off-beat locations:

1) Borough Market - moody, almost subterranean atmosphere under the network of railway arches just west of London Bridge station. A little fill-flash is useful. On a Saturday, lots of smoking grills, stacks of vegetables, piles of exotic breads on tables, hawkers, working men's pubs and Bridget Jones' flat (Rene Zellweger, in the movie).

2) Docklands - fabulous steel and glass postmodern environment built around the former East India Docks (and other basins). Elevated trains (DLR), Dutch barges, urban green spaces with water features between skyscrapers, the international banking crowd all in a hurry (thus long exposures great) and good cafe scene. Hand-held photography OK, but be prepared to be moved on if you are using a tripod.

3) Clerkenwell - lots of tight traditional streets with an infusion of hi-tech offices at ground level. Smithfield Market is the largest dead meat market in the country and a hive of activity in the early morning, with meat porters and city workers not-quite-colliding. The market structure is great; a massive stone and Victorian polychrome ironwork affair sporting dragons and other sculpture. BTW, The Hooper Gallery on Clerkenwell Close is an excellent photographic gallery if you want inspiration.

4) Graffiti - there is some excellent graffiti scattered around London (except the City/Square Mile, where they clean it up). Includes stuff by Banksy, stencilled animal characters making politics, text art, topsy-turvy communication graphics, walls of colour. Some of the best appears on temporary hoardings around buildings.

Matthew Kitchin , September 09, 2007; 06:45 P.M.

I am not yet in a position to comment on photographing London, but having arrived tonight I Googled 'Photographing London" and this page was top of the pops; I'm off walking in the morning!

Just wanted to provide one up date I can speak to - we are staying at the Thistle Trafalgar Square, which does not have Cat5 (Ethernet network) connections, but has a very responsive BT Openzone WiFi Hotspot set-up. GBP10 per 24hrs, or around GBP30 for the week.

There are other hotspots that popped up, but I went with BT. I am pretty sure that most establishments around London will also be similarly served. Several months ago I stayed in Salisbury, near the Cathedral, and while there was not strong connections in the room there was a WiFI hotspot in the common area that was available for free. I was lucky enough that my room was close enough to get a signal that not only supported web surfing but was fast enough for VOIP telephone calls home. I suspect that like the US, if you look around it is possible to find some establishments throughout the country that make 'free WiFi' a drawcard.

Thanks for the info on London.


Michael Houghton , October 21, 2007; 01:41 P.M.

To add a sad note, Jessops Classic Photographica is no longer. There is a modern Jessops in its place (at the moment).

hack photo , February 29, 2008; 01:05 P.M.

Hello, Recently visited London and Belgium and used my high speed film. I placed all the film in a zip lock bag and asked that it be hand checked. They refused British Airport Authority(BAA) guaranteed that my film would be safe? Well I lost one complete roll and I also lost another 4 rolls due to something else in total about 150 shots. So when they guarantee that their machines are safe photographer beware? They have an asinine attitude even when you ask and you will not be given a chance to get it done because they do not care. I really dislike the BAA because they say that they are willing with some reasonable request to consider not x-raying your film. However in my case they just said NO!!! All my film presented in zip-lock out of canister and clearly showing 800 speed and better? The hospitality is an absoulte joke. I hate the BAA and their so-called experts of their x-ray machines. They are not safe for high speed film and they know enough about high speed film to just reach the stupid BAR!!! Will definitely avoid England w/film. Hackphoto.

Ceri Jones , September 05, 2008; 10:07 A.M.

A good guide to London, but please do not come to UK and not go outside London. The UK is small and you can get to most locations by car in a day from London. Visit the beautiful coastlines of Devon and Cornwall, or the Mountains of North Wales or Scotland. Breath taking landscapes can be found in South Wales Pembroke and Brecon Beacons or Derbyshire and Yorkshire Dales. So I urge you to leave London for a few days and explore the scenic beauty of the UK. Cheers Ceri

Joe Moor , October 29, 2008; 09:50 A.M.

Two processing places that MUST be known about but just incase...

Bayeux Ltd opperates just off Oxford St and is a very pro place which can process and print anything to a very specific spec. - no job is too big.

Photofusion is just next to Brixton Tube Station and they offer C41 and B&W processing at a very good rate.

sebastian Sussmann , August 17, 2009; 11:36 A.M.

I run a darkroom/lab in London, offering darkroom rental, developing and printing. I'm based just next to the Olympic development site in Hackney wick. For prices and contact look at www.sebsussmann.co.uk

and click on the darkroom section

Reggy Brooks , December 13, 2009; 06:24 P.M.

Such a massive subject tackled in one article - great job!! Living in London myself I am often astounded by the countless tourists that pass through the city, particularly when they appear to be shooting a half built wall or some other insignificant object in a run down area of town. I ran across this site which seems to have some classics of the city - www.londonimageshop.com. Always nice to see it from another angle.

Urban SIN , December 24, 2009; 01:39 P.M.

London is so far my favourite city in Europe... just after Barcelona ;)

Best think about this city is that you can always find so many interesting events going on, and so many people willing to be photographed (Camden).

I'm lucky to live here...

Photo Studio London | Urban SIN

GERARD WHITTLE , December 29, 2009; 04:37 A.M.

Just at the moment in and around London photographers are being approacher by the local police to ask why they are taking pictures of certain places, they are not so much botherd about p&s cameras but some get a bit over zelous when the see you placing a large dslr with tele lens on a tripod, they then start spouting about anti terrorist prevention but if you tell them your just after that special shot most will leave you alone, so be warned and be aware. Regards Gerry.

Steve Morgan , January 20, 2010; 07:11 A.M.

I agree with T Armstrong and Jim regarding Richmond Park. It's an incredible place to have in such a major city and is fairly easy to get to from Central London. There are hundreds of deer plus other wildlife to photograph with the London skyline as a backdrop. Well worth a visit.

Saadi Kawkji , January 21, 2010; 05:13 P.M.

Colleagues, great info indeed, I'm going to London next week, what do you suggest i carry as lenses with me? I have a canon 500D with 10-20mm, 17-70, 70-200, and 30mm-F1.4.

Any special beautifull place for photography in this weather?


Omar Ordonez , April 25, 2011; 11:22 A.M.

I was working on a photo project in London and something quite odd happened.  In my camera I found a picture of a man on a bicycle.  I didn't take this picture, nor do I know how the picture was taken.  I'm trying to figure out who this man is.


shatha iraq , November 20, 2011; 10:26 A.M.


i like beauty,i like freedom, and this collection is very beautiful i like London love it lots and hope that i will visit it one day.


Image Attachment: shatha iraq.png

Yangchen Lin , January 04, 2013; 08:53 A.M.

Many thanks for this guide. As some commentators have mentioned above, I'd like to highlight that the old yet vibrant London transport network can potentially be a very interesting subject for various photographic genres ranging from street to architecture, in addition to the fabulous landmarks of London. I discovered that while taking pictures for my upcoming London Underground Photo Exhibition. Check this out if you're in London in March-April 2013 - hopefully it will fire your imagination.

Tom Wallace , October 18, 2015; 10:03 P.M.

A bit late to the conversation, but, yes, agreed - the subject is vast. My personal preference while visiting London has always been taking pictures of River Thames at night. The scenery, lights and bridges (for instance, as shown at the top of this London hotels webpage) are simply magnificent.

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