From best Hong Kong photography spots for sunrise and Victoria Harbour, to Instagram-worthy places and sights, here’s our brief guide on getting the most out of your Hong Kong Photography trip. To top it off, we have expert advice from acclaimed photographer, Andrew J Loiterton!
Hong Kong Photography Tip #1: Classic Hong Kong atmosphere
Hong Kong’s many temples lend themselves to getting a great shot. As the incense burns, set your exposure for a few seconds to capture the movement in the smoke. We recommend visiting Man Mo Temple, one of Hong Kong’s oldest temples. The fishing villages of Hong Kong’s outlying islands also serve as a reminder that Hong Kong is more than just skyscrapers. Take the time to check out Cheung Chau, where the maritime traditions of the area are still alive and well, or Tai O, where the stilt houses of the Tanka people make for some very satisfying shots.
For me, the Star Ferry and the Trams are two classic Hong Kong icons that any photographer coming to Hong Kong can’t miss. Take a trip on the Star Ferry and make sure you sit on the lower deck and at the front (or back). It is a brilliant opportunity to catch great shots of the ferry stevedores.
Hong Kong Photography Tip #2: Get up High
Hong Kong’s skyline looks great from the water, but for an alternative angle, head up one of its skyscrapers. Some of the city’s rooftop bars offer great vantage points for photography. For the best shots, you’ll need to set up your tripod outside, rather than through glass. Try the bar area on the 27th floor of the Park Lane Hong Kong. The terrace of Eyebar, high above Nathan Road, will also secure you an unobstructed view of Victoria Harbour. The best indoor observation deck is Sky100 at the International Commerce Centre in Kowloon. You’ll be shooting through glass, so you’ll need to work hard to avoid reflections. Find a spot where people aren’t walking behind you, keep the flash off and push your lens right up to the glass.
One of my favourite Hong Kong city view is from the balcony of Sevva restaurant. Here, Hong Kong in the evening looks like something out of Blade Runner…a little fog in Spring also helps. No tripods here and the drinks are expensive!
Hong Kong Photography Tip #3: Grab a Close Up
Markets are fascinating destinations for Hong Kong photography and you are spoilt for choice in Hong Kong. Don’t try to fit everything into one picture, though. Instead, stop and take in your surroundings for a minute. Would the colours and patterns be more artistic if you allow them to take centre stage? Wait before you squeeze that shutter. Which faces are the most interesting? Be patient and try to blend in; some of the best shots are the most candid! This is one occasion when handheld is better than using a tripod.
Try Yau Ma Tai fruit market on Reclamation street, especially early in the morning. A few words of Cantonese will go a long way. Don’t forget these people are trying to make a living, so I always try to engage in a bit of banter before bringing the camera up to my eye. A few dollars spent at the stall also helps!
Hong Kong Photography Tip #4: Sunrise
Without a doubt, some of our most treasured Hong Kong photographs are those which feature a rising sun. Hong Kong’s mountainous setting causes headaches for photographers hoping to capture those first rays. Unless you get up high, the hill blocks the view. If you were thinking of heading up to the viewing platform on The Peak, you’ll be thwarted. On Mondays to Fridays, Sky Terrace doesn’t open until 10am. On Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays, it opens at 8am. This means that the sun will have long woken up! Instead, travel up the hill to our Victoria Peak’s Secret Spot. There, you’ll see the city laid out before you and be able to secure that iconic Hong Kong photography shot.
For both great panoramic sunrise and sunset shots (in fact it’s spectacular at any time on a clear day!), head along the Peak Walk. About 10 mins in from the Peak Lookout, you will be rewarded with the most expansive view of Hong Kong Harbour. It gets busy at sunset, so get there early with your tripod to claim your spot.
Hong Kong Photography Tip #5: Sunset
The best sunset shot requires a bit of effort, though on a clear day, you’ll be amply rewarded. Summer is the best season to come, as the smog that plagues winter is largely absent. Take the Number 25 bus from Central Pier 5 and ride it until the final stop. Thereafter, you’ll have to hike up Braemar Hill. It’s worth the climb, however, as you’ll find out when you reach the top. It’s no secret that the view over Victoria Harbour towards the setting sun is one of the best in the area!
The Tsing Ma Bridge is also a favourite for Hong Kong photography aficionados during the golden hour. The sun sets behind the bridge, framing it perfectly. This iconic sight is also a beauty when lit at night. The waters beneath create picturesque reflections, adding a wow-factor to your shot. Time your visit for when there are enough clouds in the sky to add interest, yet few enough not to block the sun as it slumps into the water. Make your way to Lantau Link View Point and Visitors Centre for the best views. If you’re looking to capture the bridge from an unusual angle, try heading to Lido Beach.
If you’re feeling adventurous, head up Tsing Yi Nature trail which has a fantastic view of the bridge and Lantau Island.
Hong Kong Photography Tip #6: Victoria Harbour
Hong Kong’s iconic harbour is the money shot for most photographers, never more so than after dark, when the city’s illuminated. At 428 metres above sea level, Sky Terrace 428 is the highest viewing platform in Hong Kong. It’s no surprise therefore that so many people are keen to get up there and avail themselves of the 360° panoramas. Sky Terrace 428 is open until 11pm, giving you plenty of time to frame the perfect shot and snap endless selfies. There’s even free WiFi, meaning you can share your favourite snaps while you’re there!
Don’t forget the view towards Hong Kong island from Kowloon side! This iconic view of the Hong Kong Island skyline is best shot at magic hour in the summer. Best location is the upper deck of the Kowloon Public Pier, just near the Star Ferry. But again, be there early as it gets a big crowd nightly. Bring a tripod and shoot the magic hour sky overlaid with the night lights.
Hong Kong Photography Tip #7: Neon Signs
Neon signs are a dying breed in Hong Kong. As LED lights replace more and more of the old fashioned signs, those that remain are a prize worth seeking out. Making neon signs was an art form. Highly skilled craftsmen worked as apprentices for many years until they learnt how to mould glass into shapes and letters. Gas fills the tubes: different gases create different colours. The chemical element neon creates an orange glow, yellow comes from helium and mercury results in blue. Hong Kong’s neon signs are being torn down at an alarmingly fast rate, so for the latest situation, check out Neon Signs HK.
Go to Sham Shui Po (Lai Chi Kok Rd) or Mong Kok (Argyle St) for the best views of the last of the neon signs. Alternatively take a tram ride on Hong Kong Island in the evening. Front seat on the upper deck is perfect for shooting.
Hong Kong Photography Tip #8: Traffic
One of the joys of visiting Hong Kong is to feel the buzz of this energetic city. If you’re hoping to catch the essence of the city in a still image, then you’ll need to lengthen the shutter speed to add some movement to your shot. This will create trails of white and red from the lights, adding a sense of motion. Try out your long exposures where you can safely position a tripod near traffic. We suggest the footbridge on Connaught Road Central or Mong Kok’s Nathan Road. Time your visit for just after sunset when there’s still plenty of blue light to create an ambient shot.
You can also go to the Causeway Bay crossing at Henessy Road / Yee Wo Street – its Hong Kong’s equivalent of NYC’s Time Square.
Hong Kong Photography Tip #9: Something a Little Different
Don’t forget to look for the unusual during your Hong Kong Photography trip! Light and textures can also be used to create appealing and unforgettable shots. This photograph was taken at the Yuen Po Street Bird Market. It’s common to see closely cropped images of the cages, but the clever use of the shadow makes this picture unique. Play around and be creative when you’re exploring Hong Kong with your camera. Look for reflections in your travelling companion’s sunglasses, experiment with depth of field to give prominence to interesting aspects of the street scene or seek out humorous signage that makes you laugh. If you can take anything away from this article, it’s to have fun!
To really see and photograph the real Hong Kong, you need to get away from the tourist haunts. Get out to places like Sham Shui Po and Shau Kei Wan and just wander around for a while…you will be amazed at what you find… and don’t forget to look up! Hong Kong is a vertical city and a lot happens above you.
Biography: Andrew J Loiterton
AJL Photography Limited was set up in 1999 by Andrew J Loiterton and provides professional high-quality photographic services on location and in-studio, to both local and international clients. Andrew has been working as a professional photographer for over 17 years and is based in Hong Kong. His assignments have taken him throughout the Asia Pacific & Greater China Regions, Europe and Australia, shooting a range of subjects from hotels, interiors and architecture to portraiture, fashion and travel features.
Join us on a Big Foot Tour today! From old walled villages to natural landscapes to colourful streets and lively markets, take advantage of our local knowledge and have the best Hong Kong photography day!