KIDCIRCUS'S LONDON LOCATIONS FOR SHOOTING PORTRAITS
As someone who is primarily a natural light and outdoor location photographer, having a wide choice of places I know to be worth shooting portraits in is hugely important. Finding those places worth photographing was something I did when I was still doing architecture and landscape photography.
In its own way, London is quite the playground when it comes to picking where to shoot - there are tons of potential locations at your fingertips that are a mere tube ride away. Being a big city in this way has its advantages, though for the same reason it can be hard to narrow down locations you can rely on.
The likes of Google Maps and Google Street View have made my job a little bit easier. I cannot always get to an area to scout it, and Street View imagery has made it possible to check out places I might not know so well without having to leave the house to go there in person.
Unfortunately, the main disadvantage of relying on Streetview is the fact that some of its imagery is several years out of date. Wanna pop over to that building in Dalston that had the cool wrought iron staircase? Oh, it’s now a new housing development. Just remembered the stage door of that theatre near Tottenham Court Road? It’s now completely covered in scaffolding.
FINDING AND KEEPING TRACK OF YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES
There’s really no substitute for just going to an area and taking a good walk around the place. Heck, you’ll get some exercise and be able to absolutely certain of those great locations you’ve had your eye on. Get your phone out if necessary so that you can take a few snaps and keep a visual record of the places you’ve discovered.
I’ve always kept some sort of list of locations I would like to get to, from when I was still photographing architecture. However, since the latter part of last year, I’ve taken the recording of locations up a notch. After mentioning “The List” to keep to a friend of mine @thetechcreative he sent me a custom Google map 10 minutes later on which he had started tagging his favourite locations, and, well I haven’t stopped adding to it since.
I still have to refine it, but essentially all the places with pink tags are bars or cafes where I think I could get some good shots (it’s not all about outdoors). The orange tags are more recent, and these are locations I think would be good places to shoot an editorial. You can add pictures, and text to every place you tag, which enables you to build quite a comprehensive map. Anyhoo, it’s helped me out no end, especially if I find I’ve had to switch locations at short notice (a model has a last minute casting and it’s more sensible to shoot nearby so she can get to said there on time) - I can just pull up the map on my phone and see what interesting places are nearby.
So, d’you wanna know my go-to places to the take portraits? Okay, drum roll, please...
I’m not gonna lie. Soho has a special place in my heart, regardless of how much I’ve photographed around the area. When I started going there in the 90s, there were still a good few private members bars you could blag your way into (many are now flats). It’s where I first started doing street photography alongside a bunch of my mates (as mentioned in my previous post here. And you can still see some of the original Soho characters around the place - including one Soho George (believe me, check out the hashtag #sohogeorge on Instagram and you’ll know what I mean).
I should really be sick of shooting here, to be honest. But even now, I still find pockets of the place that are just too good to pass up. Whether it’s being cheeky enough to shoot in that cash n’ carry behind Brick Lane or around the bandstand in Arnold Circus there’s always somewhere worth shooting here.
By Camden, I mean Camden in the broadest sense of the word - the entire borough. Joking, well not quite. You see, I’ve found places worth shooting in that aren’t just in Camden Town. These include the streets around Chalk Farm and Kentish Town, Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill, Regents Canal...I could go on.
This estate is like a little playground of its own. There are numerous bits of it to explore, if you want that real urban, concrete brutalist look. Careful, though; in most cases you should be able to shoot without any bother, though I’ve heard a few stories of photographers being asked by security whether they have arranged permission to shoot there (top tip: do NOT turn up with a large crew of people). Also, the Barbican Conservatory is a joy to shoot in. Although it’s only open on selected Sundays each month and Bank Holidays, it’s free entry. Think a particularly scaled-down version of Kew Gardens minus the £17 entrance fee.
Yeah, I know. It’s beloved of every blogger worth their salt. And yet I’m powerless to resist. Those lovely cobbled mews and stucco white houses, blah blah blah. Yeah, I’m always down to shoot there. So there (don’t hate on me).
This list is in no way meant to be prescriptive - there are plenty more specific locations I could include which would probably run into the hundreds - but snapshot of the areas I’ve been able to rely on if I’m really in a fix for a location to use. Believe me, the more you shoot around a place like London, the higher the chances are you’ll find your own favourite spots.
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