St Paul's, with its world-famous dome, is an iconic feature of the London skyline. Photographing this area and the cathedral itself can prove quite a challenge. As one of London's major tourist attractions, how do you shoot St Paul's in a way that does it justice? Here's a few tips from me...

Wide Lenses

To say that St Paul's cathedral is grand would be an understatement. With the hoards of tourists visiting everyday, it can be near impossible to get a clean shot. Wide angle lenses are amongst my favourite and they're great for architectural photography. They allow you to get lots in your frame without having to be too far away, thus minimising the amount of clutter between you and your subject. Photos taken with a wide angle lens can also be pretty dramatic.

When shooting the iconic landmarks of London (St Paul's, Big Ben etc), I think it's also nice to try to try to find a shot that hasn't been taken thousands of times already. With this in mind, I'd suggest sneaking over to One New Change shopping centre and try shooting from there.

f9     1/320     ISO: 400

I captured  this shot with my Canon 16-35mm f2.8L lens and opted to go really wide (16mm) to include as much of the scene as possible. The dramatic set of leading lines down the sides of the buildings help focus attention on St Paul's.

Using a high f-stop like f9 created a high depth of field, meaning that there would be lots of detail to see. If you're still struggling to understand the effect of aperture on your photos, check out this blog post.

Pro Tip: Clean your lenses and take your camera body for a regular sensor clean/service (once every 6 months is plenty). Splodges of dirt are much more noticeable when shooting with a wide-angle lenses and high f-stop. 

Look for reflections

I like to think of One New Change as an extension of my photo gear when I'm photographing St Paul's. With all the glass there, there are fantastic and surprising reflections everywhere. Peeking closer at the reflections, you can often use the symmetry to heighten the beauty of the cathedral; as well as isolate the distractions from other buildings, people, cars and so on.

f8     1/100    ISO: 160

Consider the time of day

Pick a crisp, bright day. White clouds or blue sky days are good, dull cloudy days are not so good. You want the sky to be bright enough to create a nice bit of contrast otherwise you'll end up with flat, grey images- that's the kind of England no-one likes to be reminded of!

f8     1/400     ISO: 160

Winter is great for long shadows as the sun tends to stay lower and sets earlier in the day. If you plan your day right, you can catch the best light during golden hour (the last hour or so before the sun sets) from the terrace of One New Change centre and then enjoy a well-earned drink from the rooftop bar afterwards!

f8     1/400     ISO: 160

Shooting into the sun can be tricky and, as with the photo above, you might capture a light flare or two. Rather than seeing them as a pesky intrusion, light flares can be fun to play around with.  If you try shooting with your camera at different angles to the light you can make them work to your advantage and add a bit of atmosphere to your images. 


I always think it's interesting that the universe can throw some surprising things in your path when you keep your eyes peeled. Wandering around St Paul's, I was on the hunt for an image that would simply convey the idea that this building really is something special. A storytelling image that would just spell it out for me. Part of the trick with photography is just to look, I mean really LOOK. Explore all the nooks and crannies with your eyes and you'll often capture things that someone else would have missed. Look up, look down, look all around. This was taken outside Boots, of all places!

f 5    1/125     ISO: 125

Invest in a tripod 

I'm really pleased to share this final image with you all as it was created by one of our Shoot Manual LDN community members. It's a great shot because it doesn't try to ignore or crop out London's busyness, but instead uses it to make a better photo. Mark took this photo from the rather wobbly millennium bridge and the movement of the people was captured with a long exposure. 

f10     2 seconds     ISO: 200  +Hoya 10 stop

To create a long exposure, you must adjust your exposure settings to allow for a slower shutter speed (e.g. 1-30 seconds). For long exposures you'll definitely want to consider investing in a tripod. Hand-holding a camera when your shutter speed is anything slower than 1/50 is really tricky and you'll often end up with blurred images. Pop it on a tripod and you can leave it for as long as you like!

Daytime long exposures can be tricky to get right. Armed with just a camera, lens and tripod on a bright and sunny day, it'll likely be impossible to leave your shutter open long enough without over-exposing (and therefore spoiling) your photo. You're more likely to see night-time long exposures for this reason.

Pro tip: If, like Mark, you want to experiment with long exposures during the day, you might also want to invest in an ND filter. Mark used a Hoya 10 stop to darken the scene enough to allow him to slow his shutter speed down for the two seconds he wanted. 

I think Mark should be really happy with this photo. As well as the challenges of getting the exposure just right, this bridge is pretty wobbly but you'd never know it from looking at this photo. He's successfully managed to combine some lovely sharp areas with some great movement- nice work Mark!

 Click here to check out more of Mark's photos

Have you got any photos of St Paul's you'd like to share? Post them in the Shoot Manual LDN community - we'd love to see them!

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