Photographing London's Skyline | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Photographing London’s Skyline

Travel writer and photographer Madeline McInnis shows Redbrick how to get the most out of a day in London with a camera.

As a photographer, I’m always on the lookout for the best places to take a great skyline shot. You do not have to go far to capture one of the most iconic skylines in the world — London! There is no shortage of places to go in London to capture that skyline either. But which is the best?

Whether you are new to photography or looking for your next print to sell, here is my breakdown of the best public places to take shots of the London skyline.

Sky Garden

This venue offers swanky panoramic views of the city, all from a beautiful, green garden space. The biggest bonus is that it is free, though you do have to book your spot in advance so it doesn’t get too crowded up there. I was able to book my spot about fourteen hours before going, but I would not recommend waiting that long, as I got the last spot.

I really liked it here and spent around an hour and a half. There is plenty of room to sit and more to do than just look at the skyline, which is nice. There are great views of The Shard and the City here, just impeded by glass, which did not produce much of a glare for me at all.

The only drawback is that it’s hard to take pictures from both of the sides (facing St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London, respectively), as the stairs run along either side and I felt weird standing there and blocking them. These stairs were the only ones, though, so hooray for not having to climb 35 flights!

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Coming in at a price of £16.00 at the door, St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of the pricier destinations that I have visited. This being said, it is one of my personal favourites. You’re not just paying for the view, like so many of the other destinations, but you are also paying for your tour of the cathedral.

There are two outside levels for you to take pictures from that are completely unimpeded, open-air. Especially as high up as the Golden Gallery at the very top, having a view like that without glass or webbing in the way is rare and incredibly useful for your photographs.

I would definitely not recommend this if you are scared of heights, however. There is a tonne of steps, some of which you can see right through. I’m fine with heights, but even I got vertigo! Also, be warned, you can’t take pictures inside the church unless it is one of the special photographer days.

The Shard

You probably noticed that this is a picture of The Shard and not from The Shard. The day-of price, £25.95 for a student, was way out of my budget. It was also supposed to be cloudy the day I was planning on going, so I did not want to pay that much to just see clouds.

I have no doubt that the view is spectacular — I’ve seen the pictures from their toilets and even that looks incredible, but as a student, it was just too much for me to justify.

If you plan ahead, you can get a ticket from £13.95 in advance, if you are a student. This would definitely be the way to go!


I had a notably great experience with the staff here, and I would definitely recommend everyone give it a visit. However, I think it would take a very particular kind of photographer to get the most out of their photos from the top.

Monument does have netting around its views (with good reason — it is a small place with a fair number of people) but I personally found it just made for interesting framing. I did not regret the walk up, and I really like how my photos turned out. However, if you’re looking for unimpeded views, this might not be the place for you.

One note here is that the stairs are absolutely incredible. They were so steep, and you had to turn sideways to pass people going the other direction! Definitely not for the faint of heart — or those with large camera bags — but it is worth it when you manage to get up to the top.

Tower Bridge

I got the joint ticket for Monument and Tower Bridge, so I was not really expecting much more than a discounted experience and a quick run through. However, I managed to hit Tower Bridge at sunset and it did make for some gorgeous pictures!

The bridge itself has plenty to photograph, but in terms of skyline views, it just is not tall enough for the full effect. You have The Shard and the walkie-talkie, but that is about it.

I would recommend this attraction for history buffs, not photographers. I had a fantastic time, but the views were nothing to envy. The glass floor was really cool, but, again, I would not recommend it to anyone who is afraid of heights.

The London Eye

Everyone should be a tourist and go on this attraction once, but I wouldn’t really recommend it for photographers. I went several years back, and I doubt much has changed since then. You are always photographing through the glass, and I found it to be a little dirty as well.

There is an undeniable aesthetic from within the pods, and I would like to go back again with my new camera to take some more pictures eventually to try and hone it, but at £27.00 day-of for 30 minutes, I think I might have to wait a while for that one.

That’s the entirety of your ride — 30 minutes — and you spend only a fraction of that at the top. You have to be very quick to get what you want, and I found I never really looked up from my camera and enjoyed the view because of it.

Primrose Hill

Do you love dogs? Of course, you do. This is your perfect place. While I was trying to take pictures, I had at least five unleashed dogs come up to say hello, which is really the opposite of a problem.

Primrose Hill is free and provides some pretty amazing views of a public park. The main skyline buildings are pretty far away, but I was able to get fairly close without a problem using my 75-300mm lens.

The hike is pretty steep, but I did it without stopping while I had bronchitis, so it really is not unmanageable. There are also benches to stop at along the way if you get tired. As I travel nearly exclusively by Tube in London, it was a little out of the way and inconvenient to get to, but it was clearly marked from Chalk Farm, which was beautiful and picturesque by itself.



28th February 2018 at 9:00 am