Insider Tips for Photographing Sydney Opera House

Photographing Sydney Opera House is likely high on your list if you love travel photography. While it’s not particularly hard to get good pictures of the Opera House, it can be harder to get interesting ones. So let’s go hunt down some perfect Instagram shots for your visit to Sydney. 

Let’s start with the classic shots. These are my own, and I am very much an amateur, so I am sure you can do better!

The Opera House from The Royal Botanic Gardens

Wander the footpath that runs around Farm Cove, turning back often to take in the changing view. Start at the Opera House and stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens, shooting different angles as you walk.

Photographing Sydney Opera House from Botanic Gardens with lillies
Find this spot by the Boy with a Thorn statue

About halfway around the path between Mrs Macquarie’s Point and the Opera House, these vibrant red calla lilies make a great foreground. This is a top spot for photographing Sydney Opera House.

The Opera House from Mrs Macquarie’s Point

Two icons in one frame! Arrive here in the late afternoon for the best light.

Photographing Sydney Opera House from Mrs Macquarie's Chair
Head to Mrs Macquarie’s Point for golden hour and keep shooting as the light changes.

The sunset is spectacular from this spot. If you arrive early enough you can walk via the gardens; they close at sunset. However, you can access the point 24 hours a day via Art Gallery Road.

From the deck of a Sydney Harbour ferry

A ride on a ferry should be on the top of your to-do list, and if you can, more than one! Depending on the route you take, you will capture different aspects.

Photo of Sydney Opera House taken from a ferry
You can often catch another ferry in your view as you depart Circular Quay

This is best from Wharf 2 or Wharf 3.

The Opera House view from a west bound ferry

Heading west under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a Darling Harbour, Balmain, or Parramatta ferry will allow you to take a shot of both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

Photographing Sydney Opera House from Milsons Point
This shot is taken from the back of a Balmain bound ferry

This is a good spot to alight for a walk either around Lavender Bay or under the bridge to Mary Booth Reserve (see below).

From an Inner Harbour Ferry

These ferries head to North Sydney, Mosman, Cremorne and Neutral Bay. They allow you to shoot the front of the Opera House almost directly on with the skyline behind. It is hard to get this exact angle from any other Sydney Ferry.

Photographing Sydney Opera House from the Manly Ferry
Afternoon sun on the Opera House

If you do jump on one of these ferries, I highly recommend you do a short harbour walk while you are there. The Cremorne Point to Mosman walk is a relatively easy one. For a longer walk, get off at Taronga Zoo and follow the track to Balmoral.

Photographing Sydney Opera House from The Neutral Bay Ferry
Approaching sunset on the Neutral Bay or North Sydney ferry.

From an Eastern Suburbs or Manly Ferry

Both the Manly or Watson’s Bay ferries glide past the Opera House.

Photographing Sydney Opera House from the water
Ride the Manly or Watson’s Bay ferry for a chance to get a perfect shot from the water

These two ferry routes are great for getting an afternoon shot with the Opera House silhouetted against the sunset. Go late afternoon or early morning for the best light. The harsh midday sun is not optimal, but if that is the only time you have, you can still get some great shots.

Check out our detailed post on using Sydney Harbour ferries to explore the harbour.

Walk around Circular Quay via the Cahill Expressway to the Rocks

There is a walkway that runs the length of the Cahill Expressway and allows a different perspective of the Opera House. 

Photographing Sydney Opera House from the Cahill Expressway
An Opera House view from above – keep walking along to capture palm trees in the foreground.

To get the full view, you need to walk two-thirds of the way across. From here, you can capture the building and the harbour in action. If the wind is kind, you might even get an Australian flag in the frame.

Photographing Sydney Opera House from the expressway
Foundation Park from the Cahill Expressway.

Photos of the Opera House from The Rocks and Dawes Point

There are a couple of key vantage points in The Rocks, the first being the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

Overseas Passenger Terminal

Head to the Campbells Cove end of the Overseas Passenger Terminal; a viewing platform is directly opposite the Opera House. You can access the platform via the escalators at the front of the cruise terminal – you will find it just past the Museum of Contemporary Art.

A photo of the Opera House from the Overseas Passenger Terminal
You can also get a similar view from Cruise Bar

At the southern end of the terminal is Cruise Bar, make your way to the top floor for this view.

Opera House View from Cruise Bar Sydney
Credit: Cruise Bar

The VIVID Festival usually runs each year during May/June for just over three weeks. In 2021 it will be held in August. It is now one of the most popular festivals in Sydney.  Check my tips for enjoying Vivid Sydney.

a photo of the Sydney Opera House during VIVID from overseas passenger terminal
This is an especially good spot during the VIVID Sydney festival

Campbell’s Cove is a great place to shoot the Opera House and a tall ship. When you have finished, continue around the path to the harbour bridge.

Photographing Sydney Opera House from Campbells Cove
There is usually a tall ship or two at Campbell’s Cove

The grassy area under the Harbour Bridge is known as Dawes Point or Tar-Ra in the Gadigal language.

best photos of the Sydney Opera House with a palm tree
Perhaps try to not get a light fitting in the middle of your shot!

This is best in the early morning just after sunrise when the streets are almost deserted.  You can also frame beautiful shots with the iron fence.

Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon.

You don’t need to book a Bridgeclimb to get a birds-eye view. The pylon museum will only set you back $19, and you can bring your camera – a big no-no on Bridgeclimb.

Photographing Sydney Opera House from the Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Pylon Museum is currently only open a few hours a day but longer hours will be in place soon.

Read our review of the Pylon Museum

Walk, train or ferry across to Milson’s Point.

Walk across the Harbour Bridge or get a ferry to Milson’s Point.

Photographing Sydney Opera House from Milsons Point
Sydney Opera House from Milsons Point Wharf

Wander east towards the Opera House to the other side of the bridge. Here you will find a couple of sandstone shelters that allow for some fun framing.

Photographing Sydney Opera House from Kirribilli

After you have captured all the regular postcard views, why not try a few more unusual shots.

Follow the foreshore to Mary Booth Reserve for this angle

Photographing Sydney Opera House from Mary Booth Reserve

You can also continue walking around to Blues Point for more shot looking east that takes in both the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

Getting up close – Walk around and inside

Head to the eastern side of the sails at sunset for some lovely silhouettes

Photographing Sydney Opera House from the East of the sails
The Sydney Opera House at sunset

I like getting up close and looking at the tiles’ texture; try framing shots that do not include the whole building.

Close up view of Sydney Opera House tiles
The pattern made by the two-tone tiles

And don’t forget to get yourself inside – the northern foyer is only available on a guided tour or during a performance interval.

Northern Foyer Sydney Opera House Purple Carpet
You can see the public areas by taking a tour or even booking a performance.

You might also like to read our post on the best spots to photograph on Sydney Harbour.

Take a photography tour or class

Join a professional photography for a class in the Rocks and Circular Quay.

If you are an amateur like me, you might want to hire a pro to join you – they are not as expensive as you think and perfect for a lifetime memory to take home.


First published 3 July 2013, updated 31/12/2021

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23 thoughts on “Insider Tips for Photographing Sydney Opera House”

  1. Hi,

    How much time would you recommend for us to allocated for Sydney Opera House? (just to walk around and take some photo around the building/Opera House precinct)

    Thanks

    Reply
  2. Good information. I am planning a trip in April and would like to ask whether going in the morning to take the Opera House will give me the morning sunlight? I am planning for the sunset as well but want to get the shot in the morning before the harsh light. Also I will try to get the North ferry to get the shot with the skyline. What is the shortest trip I should take.. My only mission is to take that shot you mentioned.

    Reply
    • Hi Reuben, The Neutral Bay or Mosman ferries will get you those shots in about the same time. I would take whichever one is there when you arrive. The sun rises from the east so Opera House shots in morning light are best before 9am.

      Reply
  3. You must be thrilled with the news that racing ads will obscure the night view. I’m an expat Australian. This building is a tourist icon. Tourists are not going to be happy to photograph that building with advertising on it.

    Reply
  4. Such a unique article. Thank you for sharing this, I never thought of trying to shoot the Opera House from different angles. It was the same boring frontside shot every time. My favorites among your recommendations are #5 and #6. Not sure how I can take those angles with #7 but I will definitely try!

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  5. Thanks for the great information. The Opera house “World Heritage Site” is on my “photo list” when we visit this year from Canada.

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  6. I don’t think that there is a bad place to photograph that beauty! Great suggestions. I hope to have an issue of where to take the best picture some day. 😉 Sydney is fabulous!

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  7. Great suggestions! I’ve gotten shots from most of these spots, but I had no idea that you could climb the bridge pylon without doing the walk! I’m definitely going to do that on my next visit to Sydney!

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  8. I loved when we had a drink at the Opera House in the evening and got to sit right under it- such an experience! We were also staying in The Rocks so had a pretty great view the whole time.

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  9. Glimpses of the Opera House sails are great too like from walking in the grounds of NSW Government House during general public visiting hours.

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  10. Pretty much covers all great views……I also like the view from the Royal Botanic Gardens…the giant stairway that takes you to the back of NSW Government House (you can see the glasswork of the shells) and the main stairs….the pathway immediately to your right from Queen Elizabeth gates and takes you up a hill.

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  11. I have not been to Sydney but any city with great architecture is worth taking the time to learn some photo tips. Thanks for sharing this. I’m sure it can be applied anywhere !

    Reply
  12. Haven’t been to Sydney yet in Australia but I so want to see the Opera House and get some great angles of the buildings, so thanks for all the tips 🙂

    Reply

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