Who doesn’t love Venice? And who doesn’t love to photograph Venice? For someone who visits Venice for the first time, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities and risk missing some of the best locations. Over the years, I’ve ended up compiling a list of my favorite locations to which I return again and again to photograph them at different times of day and in different weather conditions.
With this article, I am giving you my list of favorite photo spots in Venice, together with some tips on the best times of the day to visit them, recommended equipment, exact location and directions, where necessary.
I hope this will be useful, if you plan to visit this wonderful city, but remember that all of Venice is beautiful and just by wandering around aimlessly you are bound to find hundreds of photo opportunities.
The Gondolas in St. Mark’s Square
Let’s start with gondolas. You can see those sleek and elegant boats everywhere in Venice, but I have my special spots, where I can find them arranged in rows, bobbing on the water in front of some great scenery. Sometimes I love to take long exposures in these situations. A few seconds are enough to blur the boats just a little, while everything else remains perfectly sharp.
This one is a super classic location, with the island of San Giorgio Maggiore providing a nice background. I recommend photographing there at the blue hour, before sunrise or after sunset. The former is recommended, because there will be fewer people.
During the autumn and winter months, you might encounter fog, which will make San Giorgio invisible, but which will sometimes create a magical atmosphere.
The Gondolas at the Salute
Right in front of the majestic and baroque Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute there is a gondola stop where you can shoot them against the backdrop of the palaces across the Canal Grande. I recommend getting down low and using a wide-angle lense to get the best perspective.
Just off St. Mark’s Square there is a basin, called Bacino Orseolo, where gondolas congregate to pick up tourists. Go there on a sunny afternoon, when the sun hits the yellow building on the eastern side and casts great reflections on the water. Use telephoto lens to abstract details and create strikingly graphical compositions.
A short walk northwest of Bacino Orseolo you will find a narrow covered alley, called Sotoportego de le Colonne. From Bacino Orseolo, you must take Calle Barcaroli and then turn right about halfway through it. At its end, the alley does a left turn before continuing onto a small bridge, whose underside you can see from the alley itself.
Again on a sunny afternoon, sunlight will make the light of the canal glow a bright aquamarine color and dance on the underside of the bridge. Send a friend on top of it to warn you of incoming gondolas and be ready to press the shutter when their bows appear.
Another very iconic view that is on thousands of postcards and jigsaw puzzles. That’s not a reason not to shoot it, though. Favorite times of day are sunset and blue hour and the scenery lends itself very well to doing a stitched panorama. Put down your tripod at the top of the bridge and wait for the right light, but get there early, as it can get very crowded, and watch out for people bumping into your tripod legs.
Ponte degli Scalzi
There are only three bridges that cross the Canal Grande. One is the Accademia bridge (see above), the second is Rialto, which doesn’t need much of an introduction, being so popular. The third is Ponte degli Scalzi (literally Bridge of the Barefoot Monks, with reference to the nearby monastery of the same name). It’s very easy to find, as it’s right in front of the railway station, Santa Lucia.
This one is on the opposite side of the city, with respect to St. Mark’s, so it might be convenient to take some photos from it when arriving or when leaving Venice, if you come my train, car or bus.
Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
Possibly my favorite Venetian church, mostly because it contains what I consider Titian’s masterpiece, the Assunta. There are other superb pieces of art here, including the wooden and marble choir. Pay the 3€ entry ticket and spend some time inside, if you love art.
They probably won’t let you put down a full-size tripod here, but I got away with using my minuscule Manfrotto Pixi on the floor. It’s quite bright inside, brighter then most churches, so if your camera has good high-ISO performance and image stabilization, you can hand-hold it with confidence.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco
Entry ticket for this building is 10€, but it’s totally worth it. The large room on the first floor is decorated with paintings by Tintoretto and his school on all walls and on the ceiling.
Again, tripods are not allowed, but there is a table on the back of the room and you can put your camera on top of it, better if using a table-top tripod like the Manfrotto Pixi. Use a remote or the timer to ensure sharp pictures with no camera shake even at low ISOs.
On the table there are also some mirrors that you can take to wander around and look at the ceiling without bending over backwards. One day I plan to go in there with a model and use the mirrors as a prop.
The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is just behind the Basilica dei Frari mentioned above.
Ca’ Giustinian is an ancient patrician palace that is now one of the seats of the Biennale art institution. Might be worth a visit if you’re into contemporary art, but for me its appeal lies in offering a great, unimpeded view of Basilica della Salute and of San Giorgio Maggiore and in not being very well known and crowded.
You can reach this spot by exiting St. Mark’s Square from its western side, than taking a left turn into a narrow street called Calle del Ridotto. At the end of the street you will find a wooden platform and four piers that you can walk onto and put your tripod down.
There are gondolas here too!
In the early morning you can see the sun rise behind San Giorgio and possibly the full moon also, on an early evening, depending on the season. Use an app like The Photographer’s Ephemeris or PhotoPills to check the exact direction of sunrise or moonrise and bring a long lens.
Are you interested in photographing Venice? If so, I have something for you: a FREE eBook containing this article and others about this magical city in PDF form. You can print it out or upload it to your table for reading when you are traveling or on the bus.