Florence Photography Tips
Capturing the essence of Florence, Italy through photography can be a challenge, but taking a few travel tips in mind along with a bit of planning you can come away with beautiful images that capture the culture of Italy. The piece I love most about Florence is the culture. The history of this city is everywhere -- the arts, food, shopping, architecture and nightlife all seems to capture the culture of Italy. If you are looking for photography tips while traveling through Florence, Italy - continue reading.
Where To Visit
One of the first locations to head to when arriving in Florence (besides your hotel) is to Piazzale Michelangelo. There are several ways to get here from the city center - if arriving by car you can simply park in the available lot -- but be warned, this lot is FULL from 11 am - 1 pm daily. During this time the tour buses come pouring through, taking up plenty of room in this small parking lot. Still, during our stay and the 3-4 times we drove here with a little patience we always found a parking spot. When arriving during the morning or afternoon there were plenty of parking spots available. Most cars arrive and leave within 10 minutes, so be patient.
From Piazzale Michelangelo you get a panoramic view of Florence. Ideally you want to shoot this scene at sunrise or the late afternoon for dramatic light. I shot this scene in the late afternoon, and edited for black and white because of the classic feel of the image. I am always partial to black and white photos.
You can also arrive to Piazzale Michelangelo by bus (extremely easy and short route - about 10-15 minutes from the city center) or by walking up the hundreds of steps. The steps take a bit longer, but obviously are free.
While traveling through Florence, the next must see stop is to head to the city center and visit the Duomo. This is an obvious must see while in Florence, it is truly the icon of the historic city. You can opt for a few views of the Duomo: (1) overlooking the entire city from Piazzale Michelangelo, (2) pay to walk the steps and get an up close view of the Duomo roof, and (3) browse the Duomo around the outside (take in the beautiful architecture) and view the different angles of this beautiful structure.
If you choose to walk the steps and climb the Duomo - my tip is to get there EARLY. We arrived first thing in the morning 30 minutes before opening and found a line already wrapping around the corner. Also be sure to do a little research the day before to find the correct spot to get tickets. There are multiple lines, some are for just going inside while others are to actually climb to the top. The best photography time would be the late afternoon to get the golden light, but take into consideration the crowds and the closing time during the season you are there.
And finally, another must stop on your list for Florence is to visit several of the major shopping markets that line the streets. This gives ample street photography opportunities through Florence. You will find streams of people, colors, vendors and architecture. Get your camera out and don't be afraid to explore.
Of course Florence offers multiple paths to explore, at night you can wander into several displays of talent (singing, bands, etc.) and find the crowds never quite dissipate until late into the night.
Where to Stay
One of the best recommendations I can give for Florence is to stay as close to the city center as possible. It makes it difficult if you are driving, you will have to park outside the city limits and take the bus in (or risk a parking garage and exuberant fines from the city). I found a great deal using TripAdvisor to stay in a small bed and breakfast. Florence can be an expensive city - but to get the most out of it I recommend staying within 2-3 blocks of the Duomo. This area of the city offers an excellent location close to food, sites, markets, and bus stops.
When heading to Florence you should take into consideration what types of photography and pictures you are looking for. Are you more of a street photographer? Are you looking for anything specific? How many nights are you staying?
All of these need to be considered to get the most out of your stay while maximizing your photography opportunities. Florence is a city best photographed in the late afternoon. From either Piazzale Michelangelo or the Duomo, the city looks best with the late afternoon golden light hitting the Duomo and bringing out the colors of the historic buildings. You should plan for at least two nights, one sunset in each major location to capture different views of the city.
You will need a good tripod when photographing from Piazzale Michelangelo. Going against my own advice in previous articles, you can photograph the Duomo both from below and from the rooftop handheld. While photographing the street markets and vendors you should only shoot handheld, the crowds are too thick to stop and setup a tripod. Any good street photographer moves on the fly and shoots without a tripod to catch the truest images.