On a misty November morning, I wander through the alleyways and over the canals of Venice, camera in hand. In any other city, I’d be mortified with the weather, longing for blue skies and sunshine, but Venice is still stunningly beautiful on a grey, foggy day. I’d even go so far as to say it rather suits it, intensifying its air of mystery. I feel as if I’m on a secret island hidden in the mists. A place that, should I leave it, I may never find again.
Down by the waterfront, the city’s famous gondolas bop up and down and, as the fog clears across the water, the beautiful church of San Giorgio Maggiore reappears.
Top 10 Venice photography locations
I thoroughly enjoyed photographing Venice despite, or perhaps because of the weather, and I’d like to share my top tips for getting the most out of your Venice photography trip. But first here’s a roundup of all my favourite photography hotspots in Venice. You’ll find a map at the end of this article.
1. Ponte dell’Accademia
Ponte dell’Accademia is the spot for one of most iconic shots of Venice, looking east towards the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.
2. Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
A closer, temporary bridge (not marked on Google maps) east of Ponte dell’Accademia, is a wonderful location from where to photograph the Basilica itself.
3. Rialto Bridge
One of the cities most photographed bridges. I wasn’t happy with any of my photos of the bridge itself, which I think would have been better taken from the water on a water bus perhaps, although I rather like this shot underneath the bridge.
4. Venice Fish Market
The arches of the covered fish market devoid of stalls made for a moody shot on a foggy Sunday morning. Maybe not iconic but an image I love nevertheless. Come back when the fish market is open to enjoy some more Venice photography capturing scenes of local life.
5. San Marco (St. Mark’s Square)
Visit at sunrise for some stunning shots without the crowds, both here and along the waterfront. In November, I had maybe an hour or two before it got too crowded. Later in the day, the historic Café Florian was an excellent setting for some people watching.
6. Campanile di San Marco
Take the lift to the top of the bell tower for a glorious view across the city (even on a foggy day).
7. Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco
One of the most impressive buildings in St Mark’s Square, the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco, should not be left out of a Venice photography shoot.
8. Palazzo Ducale
The Palazzo Ducale is an elegant architectural gem, also in St Mark’s Square.
9. View of San Giorgio Maggiore
A classic scene of San Giorgio Maggiore with a row of gondolas in the foreground and some spray from the choppy water followed by a shot taken at night from a nearby spot using a tripod and a long exposure.
10. Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs)
The iconic shot of the Bridge of Sighs is from the adjacent bridge to the south. However, I also love the views from the bridges to the north of Ponte dei Sospiri, including the bridge off Calle de la Canonica (tip 5).
11. The view from the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
Bonus location: Climb the San Georgio campanile (bell tower) for a wonderful view looking north over Venice, I’m told. Sadly, I didn’t have time to go here.
Don’t forget your travel adaptor
Top tips for photographing Venice (whatever the weather may throw at you).
The weather may be ever-changing, but the beauty of Venice is not. Here are my tips for photographing this iconic city, come rain, fog or sunshine. You’ll find a map of the most iconic photography locations at the end of this article. I stayed at the Hotel Londra Palace with the specialist tour operator, Citalia, in an excellent position close to St Mark’s Square and the Bridge of Sighs. You can read more about my stay in Venice and this fabulous hotel in my post, An indulgent 48 hours in Venice.
1. When to visit?
The best time of year to visit Venice is in the spring, autumn or even the winter, avoiding the crowds, high temperatures and harsh light of the summer months. Flights and accommodation prices will be cheaper offseason too.
2. Work with the weather
The light in St Mark’s Square, and no doubt many other iconic attractions around the city, must be lovely early on a sunny day. On my second (and last) morning in Venice, I was up at sunrise. The weather report had been promising but proved inaccurate. A thick layer of fog lay over the city. Nevertheless, I headed out before breakfast, as I was sure there would still be some exciting photo opportunities.
As I stepped out of my hotel, the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, which is usually visible across the water, was nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t even see the top of the bell tower in St Mark’s Square.
Back at the Bridge of Sighs, one of Venice’s most photographed bridges, however, the fog added a magical aura to the view. In one of my favourite shots of the weekend, I’ve cropped out the bridge itself and focused on the two gondoliers, sans passengers, heading off into the mist.
After breakfast, the fog had cleared a little, and the buildings across the water started to reappear. The bell tower in the square was now open, so I headed on up.
Usually, you’d be able to see so much further, but even on a foggy day, the view from the top was still fantastic. In my shots over the rooftop of St Mark’s Basilica, I think it almost looks like it’s snowing (6. Campanile di San Marco). Wouldn’t Venice be a pretty sight covered in snow?
And if it is raining, don’t let that stop you either. Take an umbrella with you to protect your camera, making sure not to get any rain spots on the lens. Look out for interesting reflections in the puddles and wet pavements. This is particularly effective as it starts to get dark and lights are turned on, although you may need to use a tripod if your shutter speed drops too low for you to hold your camera by hand.
3. Make the most of the time of day
To avoid the crowds, even in winter, you need to be up early. I found that there were only a few people out and about just after sunrise – a wonderful time to photograph the city’s iconic sights without lots of people getting in the way. It’s always worth experimenting with removing the colour from photographs to give black and white images. You’ll probably find that some images are more striking in black and white, while others work better in colour.
A few hours later it’s a very different scene, but you can still work with crowds in your compositions.
And don’t forget to look up and photograph the details above people’s heads.
If it’s sunny, as well as the hour after sunrise, the hour before sunset will also give some gorgeous golden light and long shadows which can be quite striking in compositions.
I love the light on the clouds in the photograph of the Grand Canal (2. Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute). This was the only time I saw a patch of blue sky during my stay, but the bad weather didn’t impact at all on my enjoyment of the city. A little after sunset, when it’s getting dark, but there is still some light in the sky, is another favourite time of day for photographers (1. Ponte dell’Accademia).
4. Photographing the canals
My photographs of the Grand Canal at dusk were taken from two bridges, Ponte dell’Accademia and one just east of it. Having decided that these would be great locations for photography around sunset, I was very disappointed to discover that they were made of wood rather than stone, and, as such, they both move slightly as people walk across them. And there are always people walking across them. Even though I had my camera on a tripod, I still could not let the shutter speed drop too low, as any slight movement would blur the image. I could have increased the ISO setting on my camera, but that would have resulted in a loss of quality.
Another great way to photograph the canals is from a water bus, but you’ll need to use a fast shutter speed to allow for the movement of the boat.
And of course, it’s well worth exploring along the smaller canals on foot, always on the lookout for interesting compositions and details.
5. Photographing the bridges
There are several iconic bridges in Venice, most notably the Bridge of Sighs and the Rialto Bridge. The best place for the latter is definitely from the water. I wasn’t happy with any of my shots taken from the side of the canal.
The Bridge of Sighs, on the other hand, can be photographed from the bridges on either side of it. The one south of it, by the waterfront, is the iconic view (location 10), but there’s a lovely, lesser seen view from the other side too.
It’s worth waiting for a gondola or two to appear in a pleasing spot. You probably won’t have to wait for long.
Rain, fog, sunshine or snow, Venice is a beautiful city to photograph. And if you’ve time once you finished shooting the main attractions, get lost in the alleyways and see what’s around the next bend.
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