The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe and, in our opinion, the viewing gallery is a must-visit for anyone coming to London - even with the slightly eye-watering admission price of £25.95.

From the upper deck, some 804ft above ground level, you get a truly magnificent view of Britain’s capital, up to 40 miles in any direction.

Expect to see loads of familiar sights - from a very unfamiliar angle - including St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, The Gherkin, London Eye and One Canada Square.

In fact, if you can't see at least three of those landmarks during your visit, due to bad weather, you can revisit The Shard for free.

Understandably, The Shard has become a giant magnet for amateur photographers. But we've heard of many snappers coming away disappointed and frustrated, primarily due to reflections from windows and restrictions on equipment.

So what's the secret to getting great shots? Read on for everything you need to know - whether you're serious about photography or just want some nice pics to show off to family and friends.

People viewing London's skylines from the shard

 

WHEN TO GO

* Opening times vary according to season and private events. Check the official site for details.

* Weekdays are quieter than weekends, as you might expect. During the summer, it can get very busy before sunset.

* We recommend arriving an hour before sunset (the so-called 'golden hour') and staying until it's completely dark (when London looks truly magical) - if you have the time to spare. There's no time limit to your visit.

* If you want to experience different conditions but don't want to hang around, a 'Day & Night Experience' ticket gives you access twice in a single day for an extra £10 (£35.95 adult price; booked in advance).

* Don't visit around the summer solstice in June if you want to shoot night scenes. It's barely dark when the venue shuts at 10pm.

 

CONDITIONS

* London weather is extremely changeable, of course, but that can create some fantastic 'drama' in the skies. Clear blue sky with no clouds is really not that interesting!

* If you're waiting for specific conditions, you can turn up and pay on the day, but it's more expensive (£30.95 for adults) than pre-booking at least one day before (£25.95). You can see a live view on the official site.

* As mentioned above, if you can't see at least three major landmarks (The London Eye, St Paul's Cathedral, The Gherkin, Tower Bridge and One Canada Square) during your visit, you can return within three months for free.

* Rain is not always disastrous. Sometimes raindrops land on just one or two sides of the building. Besides, you can often shoot through light raindrops with a long lens and/or by using a wide aperture.

* Don’t turn up expecting a perfect sunset. You might get lucky, but in our experience sunsets are often ruined by low cloud cover.

* Watch this 24hr time-lapse video of the view to the west (recorded in July 2016) to get an idea of changing conditions:

 

ORIENTATION

* The lower viewing gallery (floor 69) is mostly double-glazed, which creates unavoidable reflections. Photographers should head straight to floor 72.

* The upper level is single-glazed and open to the elements from above. It's refreshingly cool in the summer but can get very, very cold in the winter. You may need gloves.

* You won't get photos of lightning from up here, though - level 72 is closed on safety grounds in extreme weather conditions.

* We've seen many visitors asking, so, for the record, access to The View from The Shard is completely separate to the Shangri-La Hotel and restaurants in the building.

 

CAMERA EQUIPMENT

* You aren't allowed to use a tripod on the viewing levels, and that includes mini-tripods and flexible Gorillapods.

* There's no restriction on size of camera or lens, as such, just as long as you don't cause obstruction to others.

* We've used a Pod beanbag as support, but if you need to keep steady (for long exposures and time lapses) you can simply place your camera directly on the floor. You'll probably need to prop it from behind with a lens cap or strap, so it faces down a bit.

* Smartphones and basic compact cameras can produce great results in bright conditions, but devices with small sensors will struggle to record detail at night.

Photography tips

 

AVOIDING REFLECTIONS AND DIRT

* OUR BIGGEST TIP: We've seen many photographers - including pros - frustrated by reflections. When shooting through any single-pane glass, reflections can easily be eliminated by fitting a rubber lens hood, and shooting against the glass. They cost just a few pounds from Amazon, eBay and elsewhere. Probably the best-value camera accessory you can buy!

* Even better, but pricier, is the Lenskirt (£49) from Speed Graphic. Stick one on the windows (which staff have no problem with) and you have more freedom to place your camera and lens at extreme angles.

* The Lenskirt XL (£59) allowed us to take some super-wide, reflection-free shots which would have otherwise been impossible to get, even with a rubber hood.

* If you're shooting with a small camera or mobile phone, try holding it against the window to avoid reflections. (It doesn't always work, as you need to angle the device to get a decent view)

* Annoyingly, dirt on the outside of the windows is fairly common and unavoidable. Unfortunately, it can kill the sharpness of your photos.

* Watch out for dirt and greasy finger marks on the inside too - at least you can do something about that.

 

TAKING PHOTOS AND POST-PRODUCTION

* Keep in mind that, no matter where you stand and shoot in The Shard, London's landmarks are always going to look the same from a distance, as this clip shows:
 

 

A video posted by Warren Chrismas (@warrenchrismas) on

 

* Hoping to create something different? Try experimenting with long exposures (and/or hope for some interesting weather!). Alternatively, try focusing on some less-famous buildings or features.

* Tower Bridge falls directly beneath the north-east corner of The Shard, where it’s a little tricky to get a straight, unhindered view. If you have a wide lens, try shots from further left (north side) or right (east).

* Shots taken with wide and ultra-wide lenses can look great when they sky is interesting, but some of our favourite photos were actually shot at 70mm, 100mm and longer. If you're using a DSLR or system camera, take a range of lenses.

* When shooting in a manual mode you'll want maximise depth of field (an aperture of f/8 is a good place to start when hand-holding), but don't be afraid to go wider especially when the light begins to fade.

* If you use Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, experiment with post-production techniques. Converting to black and white can improve shots which are not razor sharp, while HDR effects can work wonders on bringing out detail, including night shots.

* Finally, visitors are allowed to create images for personal use only. Any media or commercial photography and filming must be approved in advance. See the official site for more details.