Top ten photography locations in Bristol
Havelock Photography is, if you haven't already guessed it from the rest of our website, a commercial photography company based in the wonderful city of Bristol.
We are a proud independent Bristol company - proud of many things that Bristol stands for and certainly proud of the range of extraordinary photography backdrops that it offers. We thought you we'd give you our top 10 favourite commercial photography locations in Bristol!
If you’re thinking of having some photography done for your company, then hopefully this might offer some inspiration. All of these locations are places we have conducted photoshoots before and have worked with the owners or the council to arrange the shoots. So if you want a marketing photography shoot, a brand photography shoot or a social media shoot in any of these locations, we can help! Give us a call.
Ok, here we go… Not really in order of preference, because they all offer something different, just our ten favourite locations to shoot in Bristol…
1. Clifton suspension Bridge.
Ahh, the bridge. Stereotypically Bristol… Or, put another way, the ultimate Bristol cliché.
Both phrases have been used to describe Clifton Suspension Bridge to us, and being completely honest, we agree with both. It is a cliché, but it also is stereotypically and recognisably Bristol.
We have photographed with the bridge as a backdrop on several occasions. Most often we are creating business portraits or brand photography for Bristol-based companies who want themselves in the foreground and the bridge in the background, as an acknowledgement of the fact that they are based in Bristol.
For these purposes, as I've explained to more than one person, a cliché is not necessarily something to shy away from.
Let's think of an example of where a photo like this might be used… The photo above was taken for the owners of the New Bristol Brewery, an independent beer producer based in the St Paul's area of Bristol. They wanted an eye-catching portrait photograph of the two owners (and their brewery dog) for use on their website and to accompany press releases and publicity.
For this purpose a cliché really is a very useful tool. Anything even slightly cryptic just isn't going to deliver the message as quickly as it needs to.
If you were to ask me for an image that shows Bristol in all its glory then I completely agree a photo of Clifton suspension Bridge is a cliché. It’s well used and well known, and repeating such a well-trodden path does nothing to highlight the other things that Bristol has to offer.
But as a backdrop for a portrait the bridge allows me, as portrait photographer, to quickly and easily implant the word ‘Bristol’ in the minds of the viewer.
I want this portrait to be about the people, that is what a portrait is. Therefore I want the background to say Bristol as quickly as possible and with little fuss. I want the viewer to see the background, think Bristol, and then concentrate on the foreground. And I think we achieve this.
So, Clifton suspension Bridge very much has its uses. And cliché or not, you can't deny… it is a beautiful bridge.
Yes, we know, there isn't a place in Bristol called graffiti. However, Bristol does have a lot of graffiti. Some of it is beautifully crafted, stunningly presented, and iconic. And some of it is rough and ready, scruffy, and atmospheric.
Whatever sort of graffiti you want to use as your background, you'll find it in Bristol. Bristol has so much graffiti that there are several companies that offer graffiti tours of Bristol! And it is, of course, the home of the ubiquitous Banksy. Graffiti heaven!
(It is always worth noting, if you want to use graffiti in your commercial photography, every piece of graffiti, in theory, has a copyright owner. This isn’t an issue that comes up in personal photography, and you can get away with it on blogs like this, but for the purposes of advertising photography or commercial photography intended for widespread distribution, it has to be considered. But we can advise on this, get in touch and tell us what you’re thinking of!)
3. The Harbourside
Bristol's waterfront is arguably one of the most beautiful in the country, with its waterside bars and restaurants on one shore and the iconic SS Great Britain on the other.
The wide-open nature of Bristol's Harbourside allows plenty of opportunity to make sure you catch the sun at the right angle. There are also many, many places where you can get down get right down to the water’s edge, if you're looking for that acute angle on the reflections on a glassy calm day.
Head down to the Harbourside at the crack of dawn and you’ll find few people around, and for most of the summer, you'll be rewareded with some breath-taking sunrises.
4. The M Shed
Slightly less of a cliché, but no less iconic, are the spectacular cranes next to the M Shed in Bristol's Wapping Wharf district.
Once again, another spectacular backdrop, and just like the Harbourside if you can get your timing right you can place the sun in front of or behind these magnificent structures, creating some dazzling geometric patterns and stark shadows.
Landscape and architectural photography down here is easy to come by, but we've also shot commercial portraits, marketing images, and advertising photography in this part of Bristol.
5. The underpasses
Once again, not technically a specific part of Bristol, more a general concept that is apparent in several places around Bristol. We will get into details of exactly where to find the best underpasses, first let me just explain what's so exciting about an underpass!
Firstly, for some reason Bristol's underpasses seem much more open and lighter than many. We are more than happy to accept that this may well be an illusion and a product of our skewed view of Bristol’s beauty, but it certainly seems like they are very easy to photograph!
One great set of underpasses and bridges is over towards Ashton Gate Stadium. Here the A370 snakes round over the Floating Harbour and Spike Island towards the South West. Turnoffs to take you to Ashton Gate Stadium and into Bedminster both pass under the main road and offer pedestrian access with some beautiful geometry (I seem to be obsessed with geometry don’t I? Maybe I should get that seen to).
Once again graffiti is ever present here (see above) and these make for colourful, light and sometimes eerie and menacing scenes.
Cross over the floating Harbour and Spike Island to Hotwells and there is another set of underpasses, pillars, flyovers and bridges once again offering a great many opportunities for creating shapes and generating depth within your image. Forgive the phrasing, but we've taken many a client down into the underpasses… for some moody, dramatic marketing photography.
6. Kings Weston House
A less well-known one this one, and not readily available to the general public. If you want to carry out any kind of commercial photography here, you'll have to pay the owners. But, if you have the budget, Kings Weston House is an extraordinary building, with lots to offer.
Their main business is now weddings I think, and I believe they're booked up most weekends through the summer. Because of that each of the rooms is laid out slightly differently, and with different colours adorning the walls.
There's something for everyone here, including a hall of mirrors, a beautiful winding mahogany staircase and a copper topped bar.
Kings Weston House also has spectacular grounds. Depending on what sort of feel it is you're trying to achieve this could be a great location for you.
We've used Kings Weston House twice now, both times for fashion-based shoots. Especially if you're shooting female fashion photography, or any kind of wedding marketing photography, Kings Weston House could be a great option - that main function as a wedding venue means that creating the feel of a wedding comes easily to the setting.
The exterior of the building is everything you could want from an 18thcentury English Baroque mansion, the manicured grounds offer an opportunity for spectacular foreground against which the house provides a majestic backdrop.
7. Easter Compton Farm
This is a bit of a hidden treasure. Not available to the general public, no access without prior permission and a deal being struck with the manager!
We found this beautiful location by literally driving around knocking on doors. We had a shoot for a rapidly growing YouTube channel - two guys doing reviews of affordable, second-hand cars. I wanted to create a showbiz, Top Gear style bright lights and shiny floors feel.
One option was to hire a studio. That would of course have been the obvious choice. In order to create a studio film, the easiest thing to do would be higher a studio.But we didn't have that kind of money to play with. So, I needed to find the elements of the studio somewhere else.
Lights we can do… but I needed space, I needed darkness, and ideally I needed a building which would look the part if I wasn't going to be able to darken the whole scene. I landed on the idea of a barn. Havelock Photography is actually based just outside Bristol on the edge of the countryside, so there were a few options quite close by.
I got in the car and started driving… I probably knocked on six or seven doors, scared the life out of a few farmers, and got some very strange looks. But eventually I arrived at Easter Compton Farm, found the owner and was led to an enormous open barn.
I don't remember the exact story of Easter Compton Farm, and why they have this enormous empty barn, but I do know now that they don't seem to use it for farming a great deal. They host events there - weddings, auctions etc. and the occasional photographer.
As with most of the locations that we use, I couldn’t pay top dollar. So I got chatting with the owner, discussed when were busy times, when were quiet times and when the barn was almost certainly going to be empty.
I arranged to shoot for a fairly difficult time of day and put cash straight in the man's hand… And the rest is history! Hands down this has to be one of my favourite locations of all time. The roof lighting creates great depth, perspective and highlight details which a completely dark room would not have afforded us.
If I had a complaint, the only thing I could think of would be that it is not possible to completely close the barn at either end. As you'll be able to see in some of the images from that shoot, the barn door at the far end was left open meaning there is a square of light behind the heads of the subject, just where you are not expecting it.
Easter Compton farm, as some of you will already know, is soon to be, or in the process of becoming, the location for a new inland surf lake called Wave I believe.
8. The Bond Warehouses
Anyone who has driven around Bristol will know these buildings. But, you may not know exactly what they are, what they're called, or their history. These are the tobacco bond warehouses. Still known as A Bond, B Bond, and C Bond.
As with Easter Compton farm, these are not open to the general public, and require some planning and organisation to secure access and permission to shoot there.
The buildings are not all entirely available to carry out shoots in either. I believe C Bond and B Bond are almost completely full, and not available. C Bond I think is a self storage site, B Bond is mostly offices, including Bristol Council.
A Bond however, whilst almost completely in use as a storage facility for the council, does have two or three available floors right up at the top.
Once again, this was another result of one of my trips wandering around Bristol knocking on doors. We had a shoot coming up with New Bristol Brewery where the brief was dramatic, moody, edgy and ideally with something about Bristol in the image.
I was actually on the hunt for locations with great graffiti (see section 2), and this building does have some amazing graffiti outside. But as I was passing I saw a door slightly ajar and heard voices coming from inside.
So I climbed the steps knocked on the door shouted… And after a few minutes a very friendly security guard popped his head out and we got talking. The next day, after a conversation with the council, I returned to A Bond warehouse and the same security guard took me on a tour of the top two floors which were, at that time, available for hire.
With a bit of wrangling, some negotiation on dates and fees, a couple of weeks later we were in setting up ready for the shoot.
It is not immediately obvious as a Bristol location, (see section 3 above) but it looks amazing… And has a great story.
So the owners of New Bristol Brewery are able to show off this image and whilst it may not be immediately recognisable as Bristol (not being one of the aforementioned supposedly abhorrent clichés) but as soon of anybody looks at the image, the owners of New Bristol Brewery are able to tell an interesting story.
9. The Quadrant in Clifton
Again, the results of a door knocking trip (I knock on a lot of doors). We were looking for a bar/pub location in that part of town with a specific look.
But… this was specifically a social media photoshoot and from our social media shoots the intention is to get hundreds of photos from a single location in a very short space of time.
So, it is all very well finding great looking pubs, but if I was to continually have to reset strobes as we moved around the location, it would seriously hamper my ability to churn out the required quantity of images.
Therefore the requirement for the location was actually quite specific - what I needed was a pub with a bar that looks right, but also had great natural light. And as anyone who has ever been to a pub and assessed the lighting will know, pubs are dark!
The quadrant was perhaps the fourth or fifth place I looked at and before I even went in, it was obvious that this was likely to be the best choice. It is only small, tiny by normal pub standards. There is only space and seating for perhaps 15 to 20 people.
But what it lacks in seating, it makes up for in light.
If you imagine that the main bar upstairs is a rectangular room, where two of the walls are floor-to-ceiling windows, you wouldn't be far wrong.
When the shoot day came and we set up in the Quadrant we did set up four or five constant lights, LED lights, to boost what light was already there. We were then able to set about photographing all across the bar and adjoining tables and chairs, and rattle off maybe 300 to 400 images (edited down to c. 100 delivered) without moving the lighting once.
As with the other locations, this one is not immediately available to anyone who fancies doing a photo shoot. I am not sure the manager had ever done a photo shoot here before, but if you do want to set something up at the Quadrant, then I have paved the way for you!
10. Blaise Castle
A fairly obvious one on the list of most Bristol photographers, the Blaise Castle estate is a mix of beautiful, historic buildings, open spaces, and dense woodland complete with beautiful flowing streams.
There is an array of potential locations within the Blaise Castle estate including the iconic but well-hidden folly that stands on the top of the hill.
As with all of these locations, to run a commercial, money-making photo shoot on Blaise Castle grounds requires permission in advance and possibly payment of a fee, depending on the size of your production.
Well that completes our top 10 of Bristol photography locations!
To pick 10 locations from a city as large and picturesque as Bristol seems almost silly, but you have to have some favourites don't you!
Before I close this, I just like to say one word about the Bristol Council Film Office who are wonderful people, easy to deal with, always ready to facilitate your shoot no matter how big or small, and flexible and open-minded to the needs of small-time photographers.
Unlike many council film offices that I have worked with in the past, you always get the sense from the Bristol Council Film Office that they want your project to work as much as you do! So, to the Bristol city council film office - a big thanks from Havelock photography.
If you would like to use any of these locations, or choose from the hundreds of other locations that we have on our books, call or email Havelock photography today, let's start a conversation.
Want your brand photography to look as awesome as the photos in this blog post? Get in touch with us today by phone or email. Visit our contact page by clicking HERE.