Travel Photography Spots in Shanghai

Electric Dreams III

Similar to other major Asian cities, Shanghai has some great locations for visitors to photograph. Whether you’re looking for modernity, or tradition, Shanghai has something for you.

Lujiazui Skyline

The Bund (along the waterfront of Huangpu River) is a great spot to take photos of Shanghai’s iconic skyline. The skyline is at its best at night with dazzling neon lights and lit cruise ships reflected in the river.

Around Old Town Shanghai

A fun place to visit is Shanghai Old Town. Very touristy, but the traditional buildings and markets combine to make a fun photo walk. (Just to the northeast of the old town is the splendid Yu Garden, whose landscaping and traditional structures offer some more subjects to photograph).

Shanghai Film Park

A unique photo opportunity is a visit to Shanghai Film Park. This is one of China’s largest active outdoor movie studios, with impressively open access. — you can walk around (and shoot) sets of old Shanghai, and if you’re lucky you’ll also see some actual actors scurrying about.

Qibao Ancient Town / Shanghai

If you have time, eighteen kilometers from Shanghai city center you’ll find Qibao, a typical China water town. Qibao is a wonderful place to take photos of ‘old China’. The old town is composed of two canals crossed by three stone bridges. These are surrounded by old stone-paved streets connected with many side lanes.

Many first-time travellers to Asia, particularly those on business, have asked about easily accessible photo opportunities in the cities they visit. This post is part of an ongoing series, each on a different Asian city, introducing a few photo locations for visitors with limited time.

Lang Jingshan – A Pioneer of Chinese Photography

Lang Jingshan
Photo of Lang Jingshan, Chinese photographer

The influence of Lang Jingshan (郎静山) on Chinese photography is indisputable. Lang (his family name) was born in China in 1892, and was first influenced by his military father who had an interest in both art and photography. While attending middle school in Shanghai, Lang received his only formal instruction in photography from his art teacher at age 12.

During the 1920s, Lang became one of China’s first photojournalists, working for newspapers and magazines covering news and events, shooting fashion spreads and advertisements, and publishing art photography and pictorials in magazines.

Yanbo Yaoting (1963)
Yanbo Yaoting – photo by Chinese photographer Lang Jingshan.

When the China Photography Association was founded in 1928, Lang who was one of the first participants, began experimenting with more artistic work including nudes – which was a first in China. “Meditation”, which he shot in 1928, is considered the earliest surviving Chinese artistic nude photograph. This was followed by the publication of the ‘Album of Nude Photographs’ in 1930 – the first of it’s kind in China.

Meditation
Meditation – photo by Chinese photographer Lang Jingshan

After briefly experimenting with a modernist style, Lang developed a style he called “composite photography” (jijin sheying 集锦摄影), whereby he printed different parts of various negatives on the same sheet of paper, resulting in seamless landscapes, still lifes, and portraits following the composition and style of traditional Chinese ink painting.

Left: actress Li Hua; Right: Chiin-san Long. Photos by Lang Jingshan.
Left: actress Li Hua; Right: Chiin-san Long. Photos by Lang Jingshan.

After the communist takeover of mainland China, Lang followed the nationalist government to Taiwan where he continued to create ground-breaking photographic works. He also spent 42 years as the director of the re-established China Photography Association in Taiwan. Throughout the remainder of his life, Lang committed himself to teaching and promoting the idea of a Chinese style of photography until his demise in April 1995.

Chen Man – A Contemporary Chinese Photographer Who is Truly Inspired

Woman on bicycle in China
Fashion shot – woman on bicycle in China (shot by Chinese photographer Chen Man)

One of China’s top fashion photographers, Chen Man was born in 1980 in Beijing. After attending a high school specializing in art, she studied graphic design in Beijing at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, where she graduated in 2005. Prior to graduating, the foundation of Chen Man’s photographic career had already begun to be laid with the 2003 launch of a series of covers she produced for Vision, a Shanghai-based fashion magazine.

Chen Man photos
Self-Portrait & Boombox Model photos by Chinese photographer Chen Man

Between 2003 and 2007, the cover photos that Chen Man created for Vision were received in China as ground-breaking, and even avante garde. Her method of highly-stylized, over-the-top, manipulated images had never been seen before in Chinese magazines. But the nuances of glamour, energy, and freedom of imagination portrayed in her cover photos resonated with China’s emerging youth culture.

Photos by Chen Man
Fashion photos by Chinese photographer Chen Man

As the magazines reached the public, viewers were in awe of Chen Man’s skill in combining a strong aesthetic eye, photographic technique, and mastery of post-processing and 3D rendering. The fact that she was young was a pleasant surprise to Chen Man’s Chinese audience, and there was also an element of national pride that she was a Beijing native. This initial success launched Chen Man’s meteoric rise.

Chinese model in traditional costume, photo by Chen Man
Chinese model in traditional costume, photo by Chen Man

Since gaining recognition for her work for Vision, Chen Man has shot covers for every major Chinese magazine, and has also became a regular contributor to the Chinese editions of Vogue, Elle, Bazaar, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and Esquire. She has also shot for ID, The Times, Wallpaper, Muse, Guess, Adidas, Motorola, Gucci, etc. Additionally, her work has been exhibited in many major galleries and museums.

Fashion shot of Chinese model in veil by Chen Man
Fashion shot of Chinese model in veil by Chen Man

Chen Man’s has created her own style of photography based on a combination of her skill with a camera, and her expertise with a computer.

Fashion photo of two Chinese mdels by Chen Man
Fashion photo of two Chinese mdels by Chen Man

According to Chen Man herself, “My work is complex and it matches the faces of our era; it’s Eastern and Western; it’s neither mainstream nor anti-mainstream; it’s the past, the present, and the future; it’s tacky and elegant. This is all achieved through a combination of ‘hardware’ from ancient Chinese culture and ‘software’ from modern Western culture.”

Fashionable Chinese woman in red dress. photo by Chinese photographer Chen Man
Fashionable Chinese woman in red dress. photo by Chinese photographer Chen Man

Beijing’s Top Photo Spots

Bird's Nest, Beijing
View of the Bird’s Nest at night in Beijing (Photo by Curt Smith / CC-BY)

If you’re visiting Beijing and find you have some free time to go out and take a few photos, the city offers several wonderful locations to choose from.

Forbidden City, Beijing
The Forbidden City in Beijing during the day (Photo by Sam Greenhakgh / CC-BY)

No first time visitor to Beijing should miss the Forbidden City. The scale of the historic buildings and detail of the architecture are incredible, giving photographers a lot to focus on. (Tip: after exiting the north gate of the Forbidden City, turn right to get a great shot of the moat with the northeast turret tower in the background). You’ll want to make sure you have a wide angle lens with you!

Drum & Bell Towers, Beijing
Drum & Bell Towers, Beijing (Photo by spezz / CC-BY)

The Drum & Bell Towers is another great place to take snapshots. Aside from the two towers, the area is great for street photography of locals playing Mahjong, eating & drinking, or just relaxing.

789 Art Space, Beijing
Statue in 789 Art Space, Beijing (Photo by Khalid Albaih / CC-BY)

For something more modern, a visit to 798 Art Space with your camera can be a lot of fun. This district is full of coffee shops, art galleries and indoor and outdoor exhibitions. The outdoor display areas in particular will allow you myriad opportunities to get some interesting shots.

Summer Palace, Beijing
Summer Palace, Beijing (Photo by Jesœs Corrius / CC-BY)

The Summer Palace, China’s largest royal park, is the place to go is you want to shoot beautiful Chinese landscaping and architecture. Make sure you don’t miss the 17-arch bridge on Kunming Lake. (Tip: This is a great location to take some interesting black & white landscape photos).

Great Wall of china
Great Wall of China at Badaling (Photo by Keith Roper / CC-BY)

The Great Wall of China is a fantastic location to capture an iconic photo of your visit to Beijing. There are more than 20 different sections of the Great Wall around Beijing. The most visited section is the Badaling. However, for photos, most photographers agree the Jiankou section is actually the most scenic stretch of Great Wall near Beijing.

Many first-time travellers to Asia, particularly those on business, have asked about easily accessible photo opportunities in the cities they visit. This post is part of an ongoing series, each on a different Asian city, introducing a few photo locations for visitors with limited time.