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Is Gangnam the Ultimate Street Photography Location or a Photographer’s Nightmare?

Updated: Feb 19

Group with umbrellas walk during a snowy night.

Last week I wrote a blog post about the best places to shoot in Seoul, and at the bottom of that list, I wrote about how I don't enjoy Gangnam for street photography. It is very busy, and traffic seems to be constant even down the more quiet roads.

With that in mind, and seeing that it was snowing on Monday, I decided to go to Gangnam despite knowing I wouldn't enjoy myself... or would I?

A building in Gangnam Seoul covered with neon lights and signs.

A Change of Scenery

You see for a while now I have been shooting almost exclusively north of Han River. That's because, for the most part, the north of the river has more interesting stuff to see. Lots of old narrow alleys packed with neon lights, ancient palaces, and hidden gems around every corner. South of the river is where you have your glitzy business districts or residential neighbourhoods, and so it's never been somewhere I've enjoyed shooting much.

But I felt like a change, and I felt like a challenge. I decided I would give Gangnam a go once more and see what would happen.

Upon arriving, I felt instantly like I had made a mistake. The snow was rubbish, actually, it was sleet, and it was barely enough to soak the floors. I went around getting architecture shots for a new preset pack I'm building as part of my new initiative of maximising the potential of every shoot (I will write more about this soon, and perhaps come up with a catchier title). By about 5.30 I felt like calling it a day so I went to my bus stop.

A CCTV system in Seoul with an error message on the screen.
I have always enjoyed finding screens around the city with error messages on their system.

That's when it all changed. I was standing at my stop when all of a sudden the snowdrops started to get a bit bigger, and before I knew it the weather had changed instantly. I started to get that rush that street photographers know all too well - there are great photos out there to snap. I left the bus stop and started wandering. Funnily enough, I would return to the bus stop twice that night, but then feel the pull to continue shooting. I was woefully underdressed and freezing cold, torn between getting home or getting bangers, I opted to stay out and keep shooting.

A person in a window next to a large LCD board on the side of a building.

Thoughts on Gangnam Street Photography... updated.

It was still packed, and it was still humming with traffic. So instead of sticking to the main areas, I started to look for quieter streets. These provided better space to shoot and a more enjoyable experience.

The weather also helped immensely, and that's because it was miserable out. A biting cold, a flurry of snow or rubbish sleet (I don't enjoy sleet, I just want the weather to make its mind up) meant that a lot of people were staying off the streets as much as possible.

I also found that Gangnam has some decent points of elevation. There were a few fire escapes I could climb up to give a great view of the action down below, or because of its very hilly nature, I was just above the next street to give more interesting perspectives.

Two blonde women next to a large Japanese lantern entering a restaurant in Gangnam, Seoul.

Overall, I got nearly 600 shots on the night which isn't bad at all. Below I have included some of my favourites but it's not all of them, I ended up editing over 100 in total which is a fantastic haul for one night's work.

So I'm not giving up on Gangnam just yet. It's still not the best, but it does have something to offer, and if the weather can keep a percentage of people off the streets then it can be enjoyable - you can consider it added to the top list of places to shoot in Seoul but with an asterisk.

Until next time!

Just got back from your night photography shoot in Gangnam? Try my preset pack:

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