How to photograph London without being cliché
Monica Karpinski

How to photograph London without being cliché

Why photography is easier than you think

First published date August 11 2015 Amended date August 11 2015

These days, every man and his dog is a photographer. And when you live in London, it’s only too easy to see why: the city’s alluring nooks, crannies and grand streets seem made perfectly for the lens. Against all this, the only downside is the pointed risk of falling into cliché. 

Between all the grandiose monuments, sprawling parks and hidden hipster caves in the city’s East, there’s endless literature about the best places to point your camera. It may feel at times that no matter what you snap, someone else has done it before.

Part of learning photography is learning how to find the right subjects. London may seem both parts unknowable and overdone, but being able to find a story in even the most banal of settings is a skill that can most definitely be taught. You only need to know how to look.

Armed with our cameras and a keen willingness to learn, the lovemycourse team set out to find something extraordinary in our daily London ordinary. Here’s our top seven places in London that are too commonly overlooked as prime places to stop and take a picture.

1. Inside an empty tube 


Is there a rarer moment in the life of a Londoner than coming across an empty tube? It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s beautiful. Tubes tend to empty when they come to the end of the line, which is also where they emerge from the underground and out into plain air. Capturing the whooshing trees through the windows against the eerie, still silence of the tube’s interior is a take on commuter life that’s seldom voiced.


2. Blackfriars national rail station 


Granted, sunset photos are incredibly overdone. But when shining through the big, long glass windows that surround Blackfriars National Rail station, we couldn’t help but scramble to capture the golden glow that takes over the entire space at sunset. Big, airy and very long, standing at any point in the platform gives you a loose, airy sense of freedom that can’t offer more of a contrast to the stuffy tube spaces underground. And, since both sides of the platform are encased by glass, you’re treated to two different views of the city’s skyline. 


3. Merton Abbey Mills


It may be a little further out, but this gem near the bottom end of the northern line is well worth a look if you’ve got a spare afternoon. Removed from the bustle of the city centre, you’re free to move at your own pace, and explore the space’s old, semi-abandoned fairground feel. There’s also a stream nearby if you’d feel more at home photographing nature. We found this old, bright blue van sitting on its lonesome and couldn’t help but creep in for a closer look.


4. Ridley Road Market, Dalston 


Once the bright stalls and coloured wares have been taken in for the day, Ridley Road feels a bit like the main street of a ghost town. Against bunting hanging over nothing and dulled, cracked walls with nowhere to hide, the place is bursting with character. Our personal favourite is this seemingly abandoned shop for party favours. Looks festive, right?


5. The reflective mirror at Clapham High Street overground station 


Sure, this mirror isn’t unique to Clapham High Street, but shines out in a clever way to mess with our sense of perspective. Whether you’d like to back away or come up close so you can catch the reflection, you can create different effects of depth and shadow that were so engrossing we actually missed our train. Seeing the light given off by the staircase and sensing opportunity, getting inspired to take this photo only proves that you really can find a story in anything.


6. Tawdry advertisements outside off licences


Off licences hardly strike anyone as a good place to stop and take a photo. But sometimes, their run-down exteriors sometimes hold a certain charm. Doubling as a dated tribute to Miley Cyrus, the front of this store gives an otherwise unremarkable street a unique splash of colour. It may be borderline cringe worthy, but it’s that very grittiness that gives it its flavour. The line of the posters also stands out nicely against the receding line of the kerb.We thought it was a nice, refreshing break from street photography of attractive skateboarders against walls covered in graffiti.


7. Wet pigeons on Millennium Bridge


No one ever looks at pigeons twice. Sometimes nicknamed ‘rats of the sky’, these ever-present birds seldom give off an impression other than mild disgust. But when they’re wet, and sat on Millennium Bridge, refusing to move, there’s something about that swagger you’ve just got to admire. We braved the rain and ignored confused looks from onlookers to get this shot and you know what? We don’t regret it one bit.


Whether you dream of one day developing proofs for a fashion house or just want to be able to snap the world as you see it, there’s a photography and photoshop courses out there to teach you how. Feeling inspired? Polish up that lens and get snapping – we promise, you’ll be hooked in no time!

Monica Karpinski

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.