Between its stunning shorelines, sweeping architecture, charming cafés, and abundance of wildlife, Sydney is one of the most beautiful coastal cities in the world. It’s also a photographer’s wonderland, so if you’re looking to visit, be sure to bring your camera along. You won’t want to miss these photogenic locations.
Sydney’s harbor is one of the world’s most spectacular and recognizable. With its clear waters, unique architectural features, and expansive views, this locale is beloved by both resident and local photographers.
To capture the expansive Harbour Bridge and the architecturally eccentric Sydney Opera House, visit either Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair or the Cahill Expressway Lookout — both of which offer different, but equally stunning views of the area. This site is especially beautiful during the early morning and late afternoon, when soft light reflects off of the waves and envelops the harbor. While photographing with a wide-angle lens yields the most iconic shots, use a prime or zoom lens and challenge yourself to capture elements of the area that may be overlooked. If you linger around the harbor into the mid-morning, try your hand at some long-exposure shots and capture the activity that characterizes this typically bustling hotspot.
The Royal Botanic Garden
Visit the Royal Botanic Garden for a departure from the usual chaos of Sydney’s streets. Admission to the garden is free, and the venue is open from 7 a.m. to either 5 or 8 p.m. (depending on the season) every day of the year. Whether you wish to embark on a guided tour or simply meander through the garden’s educational exhibits, you’re sure to experience a multitude of photogenic sights.
As with most destinations, you’ll want to visit when daylight is softest, either first thing in the morning or just before evening — this is when your photos will look dreamiest. Photograph the area with a wide-angle lens to capture sights like the park’s central fountain or its sprawling fields spotted with palms. If you can, also bring along a prime or macro lens to best depict the garden’s beautiful blooms. If you’re up for it, you can even experiment with perspective and depth of field to create more-compelling images — but be sure to focus your lens carefully so that your macro image will be as crisp as possible.
Sydney residents have long been envied for their close proximity to some of the continent’s most beautiful beaches. For sunbathers and surfers, both Manly Beach and Bondi Beach offer superb opportunities for sport and relaxation, and for visitors and photographers, they’re a visual gold mine. While photographing the crystalline coastline is always doable, see if you can capture the unique and fun patterns of umbrellas and towels on the sand from a vantage point above. If you have a drone, this is the perfect time to take it out — you’ll be able to photograph waves breaking on the sand, the patterns of the tides, surfers catching swells, and even a few underwater creatures! But if you don’t have a drone, don’t fear — the Bondi to Coogee Beach Coastal Walk yields gorgeous views of the sprawl below, and North Head lookout is a prime location for lovely shots of Manly. So bring your drone or your wide-angle lens, and be sure to keep your gear out of the water and sand!
Australia’s most populous city is also a coffee mecca. Aussies have surely put their own spin on the caffeinated drink, and there are an abundance of adorable cafés in Sydney that are just begging to be visited and photographed. Grounds of Alexandria certainly fits that description. In fact, it’s possibly Sydney’s most beautiful coffee house. Complete with a garden, a patio, and flowers galore, this location is one of the most delightful — and photogenic — sites in the city.
For more snap-worthy coffee shops, head to Cuckoo Callay, Devon Cafe, or Paramount Coffee Project — all of which are located in the Surry Hills area. To capture your morning coffee and pastry, remember to find a seat next to the window, as adequate natural light is imperative for food shots. Next, open your aperture as much as possible, choosing an f-stop such as f/1.8 or f/2, which will let in the most amount of light and allow for a shallow depth of field. Finally, experiment with composition and decide whether or not you want to take a flat-lay (items on the table as seen from above) or photograph your treats from the side — either of which is compelling!
The Blue Mountains are a hop, skip, and a jump from Sydney proper. But if you do decide to go, be sure to bring your hiking boots as well as your camera. When planning your exploration of Australia’s gorgeous mountain range, pinpoint these locations, as they’re sure to yield some incredible shots.
Lincoln’s Rock (also known as Flat Rock) is the perfect location from which to include a human subject for scale and the sprawl of the beautiful Blue Mountains beyond. Use a wide-angle lens and play around with the different framing opportunities that the location provides. If you can, visit during the early morning or late afternoon so as to catch the area’s dreamiest light — though staying for sunset will guarantee some spectacular shots, as well. If you’re up for the challenge, you might even consider photographing the starry sky from this vantage point at night.
To capture the sunrise, however, head to Govetts Leap Lookout — a platform with a stunning, panoramic view of the Blue Mountains. If you visit early enough, you’ll be able to spot the morning light caught in the dew emitted from the Eucalyptus trees. It’s truly a sight to behold. When photographing the changing sky, be sure to use your light meter to adequately expose the shot — you don’t want to miss any of the lovely colors! Also, if you find that your camera didn’t quite do the sunrise justice, bear in mind that there’s always an opportunity to fix that in post!
The Strand Arcade
You may not be too excited by a Victorian-style shopping arcade, but the Strand is truly a must-see destination for any photographer in Sydney. Climb to the arcade’s second floor balcony, find yourself amidst the bustle of shoppers and vendors, and set up your camera and tripod, pointing toward the end of the building. When doing so, be sure to use a wide-angle lens and position the leading lines within your frame. Additionally, use aperture priority to adequately expose the shot — the image will showcase all of the site’s intricate details (i.e. carved railings, stained glass, vaulted ceilings, and fine woodwork). To add more visual interest, take a long-exposure shot — while on shutter-priority mode, set the timer for 20 seconds and see how you can capture the movement of the crowds below. Experiment until you reach your desired result. It’s sure to be a shot you won’t soon forget!
Header image by Gez Xavier Mansfield