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’ve published a lot of my own photos too. 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.
The light in the middle of the day is right overhead, and often does not make for much of a dramatic photo.
Rome has a glow, especially in warmer months, but also, it’s most stunning in the morning hours, and late afternoon/evening.
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. You can get even more out of your smartphone pictures with this little gadget: You might also want to try some photo apps. I love these free apps of VSCO (like Photoshop on your phone), and Snapseed (free by Google.) (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.)
Go out in the rain. And after the rain. I’ve taken some of my most beautiful photos of Rome during and after a shower.
Know the rules for taking photographs inside museums and churches in Rome: You cannot take selfie sticks or tripods into most sites or museums in Rome. In most places in Rome you can take photos, but inside churches and museums, you should not use flash. Sometimes, a special exhibit will be in place, with pieces on loan from another museum. In that case, you may notice a no-photo sign in front of THAT piece. Absolutely no photos or video are allowed inside the Sistine Chapel, although you may take all the photos you want inside the rest of the Vatican Museums, and inside Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Know where the sun will be rising/setting from a particular vantage point if you really want a particular 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 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.
The best places to be when Rome’s skies get really dramatic, is along the via dei Fori Imperiali, in St. Peter’s Square, or standing on one of Rome’s bridges. Alternatively, you might try a hotel rooftop bar with views of the city, like the First Hotel.
A wise Instagrammer once advised me, to always try to get shots from a different angle than just standing. For example, get down low and try to include the street or floor, or, take photos of angles or just pieces of things.
When taking food photos, I learned from super Instagrammer Gillian McGuire to stand over the food/drinks and try to include different elements, like a napkin with the name of the bar/restaurant on it. Also consider taking a photo just of the edge of a dish.
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. For example, you can change the viewpoint of the shot, by taking a picture through a gate or doorway.
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