Photographing Cape Town, South Africa
Where can you go to capture beautiful photos of the beach, mountains, and city all in one day? Cape Town, South Africa.
Cape Town is the location of the first European settlement in South Africa and is appropriately referred to as the “Mother City.” The city is nestled right between Table Mountain and Table Bay. From certain views, you can easily capture the mountains, cityscape, and ocean all in one photo. Looking down from the top of Table Mountain, approximately 3,500-feet in the sky, one can peer below them to see fantastic views of the glittering ocean, bright and sandy beaches, botanical gardens, granite boulders, colorful neighborhoods, mountain streams, and sprawling fields of green.
The Seasons in Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town’s summertime is during the months of November through February. The temperature usually ranges between 63 and 84 degrees, making it an excellent time of year to shoot outdoor photos. That being said, summer in Cape Town can get a bit windy, so it’s important to keep that in mind.
March through April is considered to be fall in Cape Town. The temperature drops slightly to between 60 and 80 degrees and windy days are less frequent. Fall in Cape Town is also an excellent time to shoot outdoor photos – especially if it’s a sunset you’re trying to catch.
Wintertime in Cape Town is during the months of May through August. The temperature drops to be between 52 and 72 degrees and rainy days are more common. Although rain might not make for optimal outdoor photography weather, it does mean that there is more lush, green nature throughout the city.
Springtime comes to Cape Town during September and October. The temperature rises a bit to be between 63 and 84 degrees, rainy days are less frequent, and wildflowers are in full bloom. If you are interested in nature photography, springtime would be the time of year to visit Cape Town.
The Best Places for Photoshoots in Cape Town
The best places to take photos in Cape Town will really depend on what you want to capture. Let’s break the city down into three categories: mountains, city, and ocean.
Photographing the Mountains in Cape Town
There are two ways to get to the top of Table Mountain: you can either hike along Platteklip Gorge, the most direct route which takes two- to three-hours, or take the cable car. Both methods of travel will offer their own unique photo opportunities. If you have the desire, you could absolutely do both to capture photos from both perspectives.
There are several other trails that lead to the top of Table Mountain. Skeleton Gorge is a little bit more difficult to traverse than Platteklip Gorge, but is offers views of reservoirs, lakes, and streams that could make for fantastic photos.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is nestled on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and is filled with more than 20,000 native South African plant species.
Photographing the City of Cape Town
Down in the city of Cape Town there is City Hall and the Castle of Good Hope. Cape Town’s City Hall was built in 1905 in the style of Italian Neo-Renaissance and British colonial. The view from the outside is absolutely striking while the inside is decadent with mosaic floors, a marble staircase, and stained-glass windows.
A 5-minute walk will bring you to the Castle of Good Hope, the oldest standing stone building in South Africa, built in the mid- to late- 1600s. the castle was built in the shape of a five-pointed star and now houses fine pieces of art from the 17th to 19th centuries.
Another short walk will bring you to Greenmarket Square, a lively shopping hub that is surrounded by beautiful Art Deco buildings that make for excellent photos.
If you’re interested in brightly colored buildings, you’ll certainly want to stop by the neighborhood of Bo-Kaap. It’s located in the center of the city at the base of Signal Hill and the streets are lined with neon-colored buildings that make for quite cheerful photos.
Photographing the Ocean Surrounding Cape Town
There are over 1,770 miles of coastline in Cape Town, making it an excellent place to capture a variety of photos. One notable spot along the coastline is The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. It stretches around two harbor basins and has many older buildings that have been respectfully restored. These buildings are home to jazz venues, restaurants, hotels, theaters, schools, and museums.
Visitors are welcome to take a ferry from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Tours of the prison are given, and you can see the cell where Nelson Mandela was held.
Back on the waterfront, there is also an aquarium with 300 species of fish from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The aquarium has exhibits such as a touch tank, penguin encounter, predator exhibit, and diving adventures – excellent for the underwater photographer.
Moving along the African coast, Chapman’s Peak Drive is a spectacular road to venture down if you’re looking for incredible views of the Cape Town coastline. The view drive is so incredible that it is the chosen location for many TV car commercials. This is also one of the most popular places to catch panoramic views of the sunset in Cape Town. You might even catch a glimpse of a whale or dolphin!
If you’re interested in capturing some aquatic animals in their natural habitat, you should check out Hermanus, where you can go whale watching, or Boulders Bay which has penguins waddling around on the beaches.
How to Plan a Trip to Cape Town
When planning a photography trip to Cape Town, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Check the weather. Cape Town can be quite hot, windy, or rainy, depending on the season. Be sure to check the weather ahead of time and pack for hot days, chilly nights, and in case of rain.
- Steer clear of peak season. Although it might be tempting to visit Cape Town during their summer months, this is when the city is the busiest. Not only because the weather is nice, but the holidays are during Cape Town’s summertime, too. Avoiding peak season will allow you to also avoid crowds and premium pricing.
- Know that public transportation is limited. If you’re visiting Cape Town for the first time, their public transportation offerings might be a bit difficult for you to navigate. Plan on taking Uber or Taxify rides during your stay.
- Pack for the outdoors. There are plenty of outdoor activities to partake in in Cape Town, so make sure you’re well-prepared. Be sure to pack clothes that are easy to move in, comfortable walking shoes, a hat, sunglasses, a bottle of water and sunscreen.
- You might need a permit. If you plan on filming anything other than a wedding, private celebration, or news story for immediate release, you will need to get a filming permit. This can be done online at The City of Cape Town Film Permit Office.
Shooting Cape Town Separately vs. With a Team
Some photoshoots are better done on your own while others are best done with a team. The best option for you will depend on what your goals are with a particular photography trip.
Because Cape Town has so much natural beauty, it might be best to tackle this location on your own. That way, you don’t have to worry about your team and all of that equipment traveling up and down mountains, around the cobblestone streets of the city, and near the ocean.
Traveling solo to Cape Town is also much more cost-effective. You will be able to see more sights and enjoy a longer stay if you have a budget that is focused on one person instead of a dozen.
If you would like use models in the photos you take in Cape Town, you can always ask locals if they’d like to be featured in your photographs. Please maintain work ethics, and offer a monetary compensation, leave your contact information and make sure to have a model release for the use of images you take.
Cape Town, South Africa is an incredibly beautiful place to visit for some of the most unique photo opportunities. The fact that you can photograph the mountain, city, and ocean all in one day is enough of a reason to visit. Cape Town is rich with history, different styles of architecture, wildlife, and fantastic panoramic views from the top of the mountains and on the edge of the coastline.
For a glimpse into Cape Town and photo inspiration, check out our photo archive.