Night photography in London

Exploring a city by night always makes it look different. But when you’re looking at London through a lens as well, it brings on a whole new perspective.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Night Photography Tour, London, England

I’ve never been very good at night photography. In fact, despite all the photos I take in my travels, I actually still don’t consider myself to be very good at photography generally.

My camera (a Canon 600D) is usually set on automatic. That’s fine when there’s good light and I’m taking a shot of something fairly static – like a building.

It’s when it’s dark or there’s lots of movement that I run into trouble.

That’s why I was grateful to get the chance to improve my skills at taking shots in the dark with a night photography course in London. It was just what I needed – an expert who could talk me through everything I needed to know as I tried it for myself and discovered what worked and what didn’t.

London night photography tour

Enter Luke Chapman, from The Official London Photography Tours.

He comes at photography from a design background and explains to me that his first thought is always about what story an image is trying to tell.

That resonates with me – but I wanted to cheat right from the start. I wanted Luke to tell me what settings to put my camera on and where to point it.

Not so fast, he urges me to have patience. Before we do that, we need to ask some questions.

Why are we trying to capture this image? What do we want the person seeing the photo to feel?

London night photography tour

I know that photographers always hate the question about what camera they use. There’s usually an implication from the questioner that the photo is only good because it’s been taken with a good piece of equipment.

Of course, there’s much more to it than that. I’ve often heard photographers respond, “Would you have asked Monet what paintbrush he used?”.

The point here is that if you are trying to achieve a particular effect, then maybe the technology you are using is relevant. But a good photo comes from the mind of the artist – and the camera and the lens are just tools to make it possible.


So that’s how Luke and I start to approach this night photography course, which I booked through the IHG Rewards Club.

He has chosen a route through London that takes us to some of the city’s iconic landmarks – but this isn’t a tour to learn more about these monuments.

In fact, he offers no information about them and I never have the inclination to ask any. He has included these spots because they present good opportunities to try different techniques and play around with the images.

London night photography tour

We start on Westminster Bridge, looking over towards the Houses of Parliament and Queen Elizabeth Tower (commonly referred to as Big Ben). It’s got everything that Luke has been talking to me about – leading lines, the rule of thirds, consistent exposure, movement, colours.

We play around with some angles and try to get the moving buses to produce colourful lines that take your eye towards Big Ben. I’m rather happy with how my first attempt at this kind of thing turns out:

London night photography tour

We then go along the Thames, stopping at a carousel at Southbank where Luke suggests I think about where the people are in the foreground and how that affects the image.

London night photography tour

We go up onto a bridge that gives a great view along the river with the London Eye and other iconic city sights. I play with some long exposure here but am not completely happy with the results.

I’ve started to realise the limits of the tripod I have. (I use a Joby GorillaPod tripod because I like how small and flexible it is when I’m on the road – but it’s not great for a situation like this when I really need something taller and more sturdy.)

London night photography tour

And then it’s on to one of the best photo spots in all of London – the Millennium Bridge.

At night it’s a fantastic spot because of the symmetry it offers, along with the water on each side and St Paul’s Cathedral at the end. Again, my tripod is not perfect for a spot like this but Luke helps me to think of some ways to be creative.

Interestingly, being forced to think outside the box leads me to trying some angles I might not have considered otherwise.

London night photography tour

A night photography tour like this is perfect for someone like me.

Someone who doesn’t need to be shown the sights of London but enjoys seeing them with fresh eyes.

Someone who is comfortable enough with photography to know what I would like to learn.

Someone who is uncomfortable enough with photography that I actually gain a lot of new tips and tricks.

And someone who enjoys walking around London at night with a couple of other people and have a good chat about photography and the city.

I hope you like my night photos. I’m pleased with them as an introduction to some new skills. Now I’ve got a lot of practicing to do!

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of IHG Rewards Club but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

10 thoughts on “Night photography in London”

  1. Beautiful shots! I wouldn’t be able to do this from the get-go. The one with the carousel is especially spectacular. I’m always impressed with people who manage to capture movement in photos.

  2. I love the photo of the moving bus towards the Big Ben, but it’s required a tripod which I don’t have haha. Lucky sometimes, my friend brought it or at least I should use something as a base of my camera haha!

    Sometimes I also cheat to use high ISO, but then there will be more noise at the photo :-/

    Anyway, nice pictures! 😉

    • Yeah, a tripod is a really useful piece of equipment but I find it a pain to carry, which is why I’ve got my little Gorilla one. I’m thinking of trying to find something the same size that will extend further, though. I also used to just bump up the ISO but that’s one of the main things I’m trying to change now. It makes a big difference to the final image when you’ve done a bit of editing to it.


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