Looking for some photography tips for Rome? Ways to make your Rome photos stand out?
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I love taking pictures of all things Rome - from large monuments, to plates of cheese, to tiny details in churches to people.
And on this site, I publish a lot of my own photos too (almost all the photos on Romewise are taken by me, unless noted.)
Some of my pages have older, badly taken photos, just waiting for me to update them to better ones, which I will do!
I am not a pro, by any means.
But over the years, and after taking thousands of pictures of Rome in all kinds of weather, day and night, month after month, well, I’ve learned a lot about taking pictures in Rome.
My most interesting photos of Rome are the ones I've taken early morning, or late afternoon or sunset.
The light in the middle of the day is right overhead, and often does not make for much of a dramatic photo.
Piazza Navona at 9am
Piazza Navona at 1pm
Piazza Navona at 7pm
Rome has a special glow, especially in warmer months, but it’s most stunning in the morning hours, and late afternoon/evening.
The skies in Rome can be spectacular just before the rain...
And after the rain. I’ve taken some of my most beautiful photos of Rome during and after a shower.
If it's not raining too hard, you can even be out in the rain taking pictures if your camera is protected. But after the rain, you will find beauty all around you!
The best places to be when Rome’s skies get really dramatic, is along the via dei Fori Imperiali...
or standing on one of Rome’s bridges....
also in St. Peter’s Square....
and of course, the top of the Spanish Steps, Trinita dei Monti...
You might also try a hotel rooftop bar with views of the city, like the First Hotel, the newly opened Eitch Borromini in Piazza Navona, or my absolute favorite, the Sofitel.
A wise and seasoned Instagrammer once advised me to always try to get shots from a different angle than just standing and shooting straight ahead.
Shoot from way down low (I often get all the way down, and angle the camera so it includes the ground, if it's interesting...)
And shoot from above too...
With things like stairs, handrails, long tiled floors, you can get a lot more perspective if you shoot from below.
Take photos of angles or just pieces of buildings, giving the impression of just coming upon something beautiful.
Know where the sun will be rising/setting from a particular vantage point if you really want a specific shot.
For example, my favourite time to climb the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is first thing in the morning, because I’m claustrophobic, and it’s easier for me when nobody is in front of or behind me.
But, the basilica was purposefully made to face east, so at that hour, you get a very washed out view of the iconic shot of St. Peter’s Square.
For a better photo of this square, you’ll want to go sometime after 4 or 5, depending on the season. In winter, the basilica closes at 6.30pm, which means entry to the dome is finished at 4:30pm. I go right at that time…and stay until they make me leave. The beauty of this is that the days are short in winter, and the sun goes down around 5pm, so I can get a sunset and even sparkly night shot of the square, at closing time in winter.
In spring and summer, the basilica closes at 7pm, so last entry to the dome is about 5pm…the closer you are to spring, the better chance you get of the sun going down while you are up there.
It's easy to find something amazing to photograph in Rome, if you just walk around. Look into open doorways and courtyards...
The city is, after all, an open-air museum. Vatican, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, you will not run out of things to see, enjoy and photograph. But don't forget to look at details, and look down..
You should also look up, and into places you might not think of.
Then, the possibilities really are endless.
Know the rules for taking photographs inside museums and churches in Rome:
If all you want is to take pictures for Instagram or other social media, you might consider only travelling with, and carrying around with you, a smart phone (the newest iPhones offer a really cool depth feature, which gives your photos a much more professional look.)
If that is the case, you can get even more out of your smartphone pictures with this little gadget, which puts an instant wide-angle or macro lens on it.
A good, lightweight travel tripod can be an excellent accessory (just beware you cannot bring it inside the Vatican or Colosseum.)
(Of course if you are a photographer, like the deeper photos a larger camera can give, and/or want to take a lot of food pictures, then you will want your larger camera too.)
I recently had the pleasure to visit Rome with two professional photographers.
We walked around at the pace they wanted, because, as photographers, they wanted to take their time figuring out the lighting, the best angle, taking many practice shots etc.
They told me to let anyone really into photographing Rome to know, that it’s NOT a good idea to take a guided group tour of the Vatican or Colosseum, if your goal is to photograph.
The tours must move at a certain pace to get the group through all there is to see, usually in a 3-hour time-period. This was painful for the photographers I spent the day with, as they could not get any shots the way they wanted.
So, bottom line, if you want to focus on taking pictures, but you also want to see and get to know the site, you can 1) take the tour and not worry too much about the pictures, but then stay inside, and go back on your own and take your time taking photos, or 2) hire a private guide, so you can set the pace, and inform the guide that your goal is to go slowly and take the photos you want.
Because Rome is literally a massive museum itself, chock-a-block with beautiful ruins, art and architecture, you can often take a photo of something interesting up close, with something else interesting in the background, or vice-versa.
Sometimes I start by aiming at one thing, only to realize the better shot is the whole composition, with the background as the star of the picture.
You can change the viewpoint of the shot, by taking a picture through a gate or doorway.
I hope you've enjoyed my photography tips for Rome. As I said, I am not a pro, but I have definitely learned a lot in my years working on this site and with various cameras, from several iterations of iPhone to my little Sony to my Canon T2 Rebel. If you're looking for more guidance, try these photography tours in Rome:
One of the most fun tours I've ever taken was with Sophort, a company based in Austria, that has created this great new concept in photography tours around the world.
And the Rome version is just fantastic. You go around with a Polaroid camera and take instant shots of things you see in Rome.
I highly recommend this tour for the fun factor, and because it's unique...and you get to keep your Polaroids in the end!
There are a few interesting tours on offer now, that focus on photography. One is a tour that shows you how to use a camera oscura. Another is a tour with a professional photographer, in which you really hone your photography skills. You can view the descriptions, costs and schedules of these tours, along with the Polaroid tour mentioned above, on this page. (That page shows tours in USD. For a photography tour in another currency, visit this page.)
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