How to photograph Venice

It has been a privilege to photograph Venice over the years, for love & money it is one of my favourite locations in the world.

Starting in 1984 ( I was very young) I found myself at the end of a gruelling automotive shoot - photographing for Bentley Motors for the launch of the new Turbo Model, we took the road following the route of the Orient Express to Venice and with a crew of 4 .

We ended up with a spare day to visit the city of Venice as the Bentley went back to the UK with some Auto journalists.

My first sight of the city was after a very early alarm and traveling from the mainland hotel via vaporetto.

I disembarked at San Marco and walked along the side of the Grand canal heading towards Arsenal . I saw an enormous bunch of flowers following me and although I did have a few glasses of wine the night before I thought I was seeing things, it was in fact a man delivering a massive bunch of red Gladioli naturally I took many pictures , but thought that if I could get side on to the man and his flowers, I would get a better shot, I did manage to get the shot and the image went on to be my most financially successful image as it became one of Gettys best sellers worldwide, from British Airways to Johnnie Walker whiskey poster.

I went on to photograph Honda cars and Airmiles campaign in the city as well as property and stock images. I also love to visit the Bienalle as often as I can so I feel I am reasonably well qualified to advise people who want to photograph this beautiful romantic city.

What to photograph?

Everything, is the short answer, a city as unique as Venice is endlessly interesting , however I would suggest a few tips and guidelines.

1: Wear comfortable shoes - seriously as there are no cars around, you walk everywhere unless you use the water transport, that is inevitable, but along with comfortable appropriate clothing, Happy feet makes better images.

2: Backpack or camera case? You may just have one camera or just a smart-phone, but if you are carrying a camera and a few lens, I suggest a backpack is the best option, but please note you should take it off and hold it by your side when traveling on the Vaporetto - it's the law & you can be fined if you don't comply .

3: Get up early , it's common knowledge that the early light and late light is the best, the so called golden hours, but with Venice it is essential to see the sunrise over the Grand canal as Turner and hundreds of artists would have done for centuries. Now more than ever it is important as many image will be spoilt as the crowds descend later in the day.

4: Set yourself a brief. It is a guideline I suggest to my students that is a way to get some cohesion to the images you take, who would you like the images to be seen by and what are they saying? It maybe that you just want timeless landscapes that would look great as a postcard, or an Instagram post, but if you just use one lens, or look for shadows or reflections, then you can concentrate on producing a body of images. You may want to just photograph umbrellas of Venice, this could be a wonderful little book that is unique and a great theme. You shall shoot loads more -anything that catches your eye, but at least you start with some direction, its an important way of delivering images that are exceptional.

5: Photograph alone, this suggestion is not going to go down to well if you are with your loved one in the worlds most romantic city, but if you are serious about taking great images, it is not fair on someone else to wait till you have the perfect image when there is so many sites to see and things to do, Even if you have the best relationship in the world, I suggest you negotiate a few hours just for photography and concentrate on getting great images, rather than be concerned about what your partner or friend is doing, arrange to meet later at a realistic time and place, unless you are working as on a commission with a client or Art Director who is going to contribute or direct, I certainly recommend this approach.

6: Respect: Venetians are used to photographers, but would you like a camera pointed at you everyday? I am aware how a local feels about this as I have lived in Stratford upon Avon & London for most of my life and tourists with cameras are like a new plague, if you want to shoot a local I suggest you try and gain permission with a smile and a gesture and when they state No Photography, like some traders do -respect their wishes or negotiate a fee.

7 Professional Photography : If you are lucky to have a commission and are using Venice as a location,I seriously recommend using a local producer to help , as with many locations there is a temptation to 'wing it' but with Venice and London it is important to gain the correct permits and have PL (Public Liability) insurance in place, there are times when just a background is required and no crew, but if you are using models or props, do it properly or find yourself breaking the law and a lot of production money can be lost to rectify.

8 Put the camera away, some of the time, you need to just be in the moment and take in the location and its history, try and just enjoy a view & a break without the camera, resting from a shoot is especially appreciated by those you are with, seeing and experiencing Venice is something you can only do in that moment, the images are never going to feel as wonderful as that feeling of a perfect time in the world's most beautiful city, especially if you are sharing the experience.

There is a Folio dedicated to venice on my main website - please view if you wish to see more venice images, many available for stock and limited edition print .Venice

I have a website devoted to Venice, originally developed when I was planning to deliver workshops and spend much more time there, however I shall always visit and return for commissions & ongoing projects, please check it out if you are interested.

  • Venice


a few images from trips and shoots in the world's most beautiful city - Day 1 June 1984.

By the Fish Market

Grand Canal

In the lagoon from the island of Burano

Venice Lagoon with storm over the city


Detail of a Gondola